Boris Johnson appeared flustered delivering his speech to the CBI’s annual conference this morning, as he lost his place in the speech and spent 20 seconds rifling through papers before he resumed speaking.
Speaking about Covid vaccines, electric vehicles and Peppa Pig, the Prime Minister said the world is “on the brink of another industrial revolution”, in the form of climate change.
He announced that all new homes and buildings will require EV charging points as standard, with another 145,000 charging points to be installed as a result of these new regulations.
But the 20-minute speech was full of pauses and Mr Johnson was constantly looking down to the podium to read from scripts.
At one point he paused, repeatedly saying “forgive me, forgive me” as he tried to find his place in the speech.
People were quick to criticise the blundering speech, with LBC radio host Iain Dale writing on Twitter: “I’ve heard some shockingly awfully delivered speeches in my time, but this one by Boris at the CBI takes some beating. All over the place.”
Financial times journalist Jim Pickard wrote: Boris Johnson is making a speech to the CBI: So far he has impersonated an accelerating car, praised Peppa Pig World, compared his 10-point green plan to a “new Decalogue…from Mount Sinai”, and lost his thread for what felt like a minute but was probably only 10 seconds”
The Labour Party also poked fun at the speech by responding to Mr Pickard’s Tweet with: “The joke’s not funny anymore.”
He started the speech by paying tribute to the firms who developed the Covid vaccines before reaffirming his commitment to levelling up.
The Prime Minister said achieving his goal would help the UK become a bigger economy than Germany.
“It is a moral mission and as you get older I find the funny thing is you get more idealistic and less cynical,” he said.
“It’s a moral thing but it’s also an economic imperative.
“Because if this country could achieve the same kind of geographical balance and dispersion of growth and wealth that you find in most of our most successful economic comparators, and if all our businesses could reach more balance in their levels of productivity, then there would be absolutely no stopping us and we would achieve – what I believe we can – and become the biggest and most successful economy in Europe.”
But he said “fate has handed us an opportunity” to reshape the economy and went on to hail the future of EVs as the key to the new “green” industrial revolution.
He said EVs are now “getting ever more affordable” and claimed they can accelerate faster than a Ferrari, as he committed to electrifying transport.
Mr Johnson also said he was confident that people would return to the office, after months of home working due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I know there are some people who think that working habits have been remade by the pandemic and that everyone will be working only on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in an acronym I won’t repeat,” he said.
“I don’t want to be dogmatic about this but I have my doubts. There are sound evolutionary reasons why mother nature does not like working from home. I prophesy people will come back to the office and they will come back on the roads and the rail.”
The Prime Minister concluded the speech by discussing the popular children’s cartoon Peppa Pig.
He told the CBI conference he went to Peppa Pig World yesterday, which is “very much my kind of place” and noted it has “very safe streets” and “discipline in schools”, although he said he is unconvinced about some of the gender stereotyping around Daddy Pig.
But he said he likes the brand most as a tribute to UK creativity.
Who would have thought that a pig looking like a hairdryer could become a global brand, he said.
Tony Danker, CBI Director-General, responded to the speech and praised the announcement of an increase to EV charging points.
He said: “If we are serious about going for growth, then 2022 has to be a year of detail and delivery.
“The UK has an opportunity to lead the world in the race to net zero. By making decarbonisation one of our economy’s big bets for growth, we can create the high value sectors, firms, skills and investment needed to level-up the economy.
“Iwas delighted to hear that the Prime Minister believes business investment is a priority and is willing to consider what more beyond the super deduction is needed to incentivise firms.
“What the Prime Minister set out today on EV charging is exactly the kind of detail we need to drive the necessary investment for a high-growth economy. That mix of high of ambition and focused detail can provide a blueprint for how government and business can work together to turn political aspiration into boardroom action.
“Business leaders will be heartened to hear the Prime Minister talk passionately about the role of the private sector working in partnership with the government to achieve our shared ambitions for a high wage, high skill, high investment economy.
“With many business leaders in the North still feeling bruised by last week’s decision on HS2, that spirit of partnership must kick in.”