In its main leader the Times notes that at the CBI conference “Anxious business leaders deserved a serious speech for serious times.” It goes on:
They certainly got such a speech today but it was not delivered by Mr Johnson. The prime minister’s dismal effort had all the hallmarks of something cobbled together on the train to Tyneside. Parts of it appeared to be made up as he went along. Nearly a quarter of his 25-minute speech was taken up with a bizarre riff on Peppa Pig World, a theme park in Hampshire that Mr Johnson had visited the day before and which he recommended as “his kind of place”. …In contrast Sir Keir Starmer gave an impressive speech that addressed directly many of the issues facing British business. The Labour leader rightly identified Britain’s long-standing productivity problem as the core economic challenge for the country and called for a post-pandemic, post-Brexit “national reset” to address it, focusing on infrastructure and digital skills. He pledged to complete the two high-speed rail lines, the HS2 Eastern extension and the trans-Pennine Northern Powerhouse Rail, ill-advisedly scaled back by the government last week. And while ruling out rejoining the EU, he set out how he would seek to “make Brexit work”, starting with a new veterinary agreement to limit the number of border checks and pledging an end to “pantomime disputes”.
Of course the number of voters who read the main leaders in the Times is not that great but the paper can have a big impact on MPs and other parts of the media. The paper’s attack on the lack of seriousness from the PM should be taken seriously but will it?
All this comes after a bruising few weeks for the governing party during which it has lost its polling lead and seen its parliamentary agenda knocked off course by the mishandling of the Owen Patterson taffair.
Johnson’s big appeal is that he’s an election winner. But I would argue a lot of that reputation has been built on facing discredited Labour opponents – Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn.