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By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

Will the real Boris Johnson please stand up

Frank McKenna reflects on the Tory Party conference and the Prime Ministers performance in Manchester, whilst sharing some sage advice – “You can’t fund slap & tickle on the rates”.

[vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom”][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” column_border_radius=”none” width=”2/3″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]So, the Tory conference is over, the governments Brexit proposal is out there, and Boris Johnson has outlined an agenda that embraces enterprise and capitalism alongside ‘One Nation’ Conservatism.

As party conferences go, the gathering in Manchester this week felt a bit flat. Maybe it was the age profile of the delegates. Perhaps it was some of the turgid and insipid speeches from the platform from Boris’ support acts. Or, maybe, the Boris Bandwagon is not as enthralling to activists as many of us had assumed.

Don’t get me wrong, Johnson was given a warm welcome by his party faithful. But as his first conference as leader his reception was nowhere near as fervent as the one Tony Blair enjoyed at Labour conferences in his early years. And he is way off enjoying the adoration afforded to Maggie.

Brexit aside, where is the commonality between Johnson and his Tory membership base? On social issue such as gay marriage, a woman’s right to choose and diversity, Johnson is a liberal. When he talks enthusiastically about investing in public services, more devolved powers and budgets for our regions and abandoning immigration targets, I can’t imagine the swivel eyed, ERG supporting gang being more than lukewarm in their support for him. Indeed, as one right wing hack put it to me, his domestic agenda is about as welcome to Rees Mogg & co as a hedgehog in a nudist colony.

What the right of the Conservative Party see in Johnson is a guy who may be able to get Brexit done; and a man who gives them their best hope of winning a General Election.

Johnson’s challenge, should he deliver a parliamentary majority, will be delivering a liberal programme, as he has abandoned his genuine political allies on the alter of Brexit. He has become a prisoner of the ERG much the same way as Theresa May became – and we know how that ends.

We then come to a more immediate problem for the Prime Minister and his liberal approach to his personal life and behaviour.

Accusations of him groping female colleagues twenty-years ago will not bring his premiership to an end. His serial adultery may be shocking to some but is no longer seen as a make-or-break deal for our leaders. Even his admission that he visited an American model at her apartment for ‘Technology lessons’ whilst he was mayor of London would not constitute a resignation matter in today’s political climate.

However, if it is proven that he was involved in supporting Jennifer Arcuri’s £100,000 plus business grant; or indeed she joined him on foreign delegations for no other reason than being the mayors’ ‘mate’, then he is in serious trouble.

Immoral behaviour and a shameless attitude towards woman and relationships; having “sexual relations with that woman”, will not be giving Boris any sleepless nights.

But, the misuse of public funds is a criminal offence. He will be tossing and turning over that.

As an old sage put it to me yesterday “You can’t fund your slap and tickle on the rates.”

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