Boris Johnson has been criticized by senior business executives and Conservative MPs for a vociferous speech to industry figures who saw him widely praising Peppa Pig World, comparing himself to Moses and imitating the noise of a speeding car.
The Prime Minister’s extensive speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) was accused of lack of seriousness and professionalism. Johnson lost his seat during the speech and spent 20 seconds repeating excuse me as he shuffled the printed pages on his podium.
Some hoped the speech would be a chance for Johnson to announce the right policy in pursuing his leveling agenda. However, the speech at the Port of Tyne near South Shields contained only one notice regarding the change in building regulations to ensure that all new homes and buildings in England have electric vehicle charging points installed from next year.
One of Johnson’s longest tangents was about his recent trip to Hampshires Bota Peppa Pig an amusement park dedicated to a children’s cartoon character, about which he expressed in a visible dig to civil servants and the BBC.
He said that the real driver of growth is not the government, but the private sector, whose energy and originality the prime minister praised. To illustrate this, he explained: Yesterday I went, as everyone should, to Peppa Pig World. Hands up if you were in Peppa Pig World!
I loved it. Peppa Pig World is very much my place. There are very safe roads, discipline in schools, great emphasis on new mass transit systems. Even if they are a bit stereotypical about Daddy Pig.
Johnson explained that the real lesson he learned during the visit was that the popularity of the main character, whom he said resembled a Picasso-like hair dryer, was a testament to the power of creativity in the UK. Johnson said the TV show was rejected by the BBC and has now been exported to 180 countries and is now worth $ 6 billion. I think he’s a pure genius, right? No government in the world, no Whitehall civil servant would have come out with Peppa.
Johnson also mimicked the sound of a noisy accelerator car that the official Downing Street publication transcribed as arum arum aaaaaaaaaag. He also compared himself to Moses for his plan to help businesses invest in tackling climate change. The Prime Minister said: I told my officials that the 10 new commandments were that you would develop industries like offshore wind, hydrogen, nuclear power and carbon capture.
However, senior business figures and some Conservative MPs were not deeply impressed. One senior supporter said it was a mess, while another told the Guardian: I thought today’s performance was more embarrassing by a conservative prime minister than the PMQs of past weeks. Someone has to take a check. He is losing the trust of the party.
Juergen Maier, vice president of North Powerhouse Partnership and a former Siemens chief executive, told the Guardian it was a failed speech. He said the speech was a massive opportunity after the lack of details about the level increase in recent months.
But he said: It was a failure. It was a lap. There were many separate initiatives, some of which obviously did not matter at all As a businessman passionate about the reindustrialization of the north, it was simply a great disappointment.
Kitty Ussher, from the group of business leaders, the Institute of Directors, said Johnsons’ speech offered little to inspire confidence and was inappropriate in places. What business leaders want more than anything else is a calm and soothing macroeconomic environment that gives them the confidence to invest for the future. We have not seen much of this in reporting on the speech of the prime ministers.
Two other business figures who attended the speech said they were surprised by Johnsons promotion of Peppa Pig World, which is located more than 300 miles from Johnsons home.
It was interesting that he asked a group of business leaders in the Northeast if they had traveled six hours on the road to Peppa Pig World and then talked about raising the bar, said Michael Stirrup, chief executive of IT Waterstons consulting. I think it shows a bit of a lack of understanding.
I was not expecting a Peppa Pig reference, said Neil Whittaker, director of marketing and communications at national training firm Learning Curve Group. He seemed to have lost his way a lot.
The GMB union described the speech as shameful.
Labor called it iconic and evidence of how frivolous Johnson takes the business. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves commented: No one was laughing because jokes are no longer funny.
Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said businesses needed clarity, but all they got was the mess from Johnson. He added: The Prime Minister said famously that he would go to the F business the least he could do is deliver a speech worthy of F-ing.
The prime minister was reported in 2018 to have said heck business when asked about sector concerns about a Brexit without agreement.
After the speech, Johnson was asked if he was okay by a reporter. The Prime Minister defended his performance by saying: I think people got the vast majority of the points I wanted to emphasize and I thought it went well.
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