It was the launch event everyone was waiting for. After weeks of keeping a low profile – a submarine campaign according to critics – with just one newspaper interview, the leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson emerged this morning to officially kickstart his campaign. However, rather than opt for a circus tent, waffle freebies and thinly-veiled attacks at colleagues like some of his rivals, Johnson’s event at Carlton Gardens proved rather tame.
The former mayor of London was introduced by a new Cabinet supporter – Geoffrey Cox. Part of a carefully choreographed strategy to show Johnson has support from across the party, Cox took to the lectern (as he did for Theresa May at the last party conference) to explain why he thought Johnson was the best person to lead the country. Given that one rival leadership campaign this week believed Cox might endorse them, it was a smart move.
However, other than Cox’s endorsement there was little in the way of surprises at the event. The audience – made up of a mix of hacks and MPs backing Johnson – reflected the campaign team’s desire to show the broad spectrum from which Johnson had attracted support. Brexiteers including Jacob Rees-Mogg, Bill Cash, Bernard Jenkin and Mark Francois sat alongside the likes of James Brokenshire, Lucy Frazer, Liz Truss and Therese Coffey. The crowd loudly cheered Johnson as he emerged to speak.
As for the substance of the speech there was little that he hadn’t said before. Johnson used the platform to reinforce his promise to take the UK out of the EU by the end of October – deal or no deal. He insisted that he did not see a no deal Brexit as the ideal scenario or the likely one – but preparing for it was both responsible and necessary.