The speech began without incident but ended as a comms disaster when Boris Johnson managed to refer to himself in the third person, compare himself to Moses and impersonate a sports car.
Things went from bad to worse when he lost his way completely; saying “blast it" before repeatedly muttering "forgive me" as he rifled through the pages of his speech.
But the nadir came when he extolled the virtues of Peppa Pig World to his audience of business leaders.
A concerned TV reporter asked Johnson afterwards: “Is everything OK?" to which Johnson responded by claiming his speech “went over well”.
Today’s Sun newspaper openly mocked the Prime Minister, in a piece written by his wife’s ex-boyfriend, Harry Cole, condemning Johnson’s “bumbling performance”. The Mirror went further, in an editorial accusing Johnson of “losing the plot” and being a “joke”.
Henry Deedes, in today’s Daily Mail, compared him to a “gin-soaked croupier” while John Crace at The Guardian speculated that the Prime Minister “was out of his head on Mandrax”.
Earlier today former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told Sky News: “We all have bad moments and yesterday was not a great one for the Prime Minister."
Meanwhile, a senior Downing Street source has told the BBC: “There is a lot of concern inside the building about the PM.”
One minister told The Times: “He looked dreadful today. I think it's indicative of the chaotic way the Government is drifting.”
Now, three public affairs experts give their own verdict:
Peter Bingle, director, Terrapin Group
“The PM publicly imploded while addressing the CBI. He was a shambolic and embarrassing wreck. Does he really want his legacy to be Peppa Pig World?
Boris is clearly missing the wise counsel of Eddie Lister. Since he left Number 10, pushed out by political opponents surrounding the PM, it has all gone horribly wrong. It is a political car crash in slow motion and nobody at Number 10 seems to be on the PM’s side.
Senior Tories need to intervene and sort matters ASAP or disaster looms. The PM really can’t afford another Peppa Pig moment. A trusted adviser needs to be appointed and quickly.
Number 10 is clearly a total disaster. The court of Carrie needs to be cleared out and replaced with skilled professionals who understand messaging, strategy and communications.
At the moment Number 10 reminds me of one of the less funny Carry On movies. Things need to change quickly or disaster awaits the Tory party.”
Sonia Khan, associate director, Cicero/AMO
“Bring back the autocue is my message to Johnson’s team. The paper shuffling and disorganisation has gone on too long. This might be the Prime Minister’s preference, but someone needs to grip his speeches.
The CBI speech is usually a milestone moment but where was the pre-briefing? What policies is he implementing and what’s his narrative for the business community? These are the basic tenets of communication but they’re not happening. Why? Because no one’s clear who is charge.
There are talented people in this Number 10 with experience but either they’re not being heard or they’re not speaking up. Now’s the time to instil some proper hierarchy or risk being eclipsed by the slick team at Number 11.
The Prime Minister has the chance for a reset post-COVID-19, a new ‘first 100 days’; he needs to decide his priorities for 2022 and have a plan for implementation or risk allowing his enemies in both parties to overtake him.”
Marc Woolfson, head of public affairs, WA Communications
“Boris Johnson isn’t the first Prime Minister to fluff a set-piece speech, but this was particularly memorable and poorly timed, following other unforced errors (Owen Paterson and sleaze, northern rail investment).
It left a critical audience of business leaders dismayed and shocked at his lack of preparation and reinforced concerns among his parliamentary colleagues that he is losing his grip.
But there is scope for him to turn things around if he stops this run of self-inflicted blunders. Get ahead of the sleaze story, no more over-promising and under-delivering. He must go back to the script on levelling up, with well briefed announcements on investment across the country – and specifically in his target marginals.
Finally, the PM needs stronger, more experienced voices around his top table, able to stand up to him and impose discipline. Well written, sense-checked speeches with clear and accurate delivery are the minimum expectation.”
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