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Conservative Party Conference 2014: May vs Johnson – who won?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


The Conservative Party conference today saw two of its 'big hitters' and potential leadership contenders give speeches to the party faithful. Boris Johnson and Theresa May two darlings of the party – so how did they do?

Boris Johnson - Mayor of London

The Mayor of London and the party's newest parliamentary candidate gave his usual court jester performance covering all the main areas of policy and concern such the economy, the role of London, the UKIP threat and of course lots of Labour bashing as well. Boris Johnson Mayor of London

He made several gags that got the delegates roaring with laughter and used the old British house brick to wave around the make a point about manufacturing and exports and even used waiting at a bus stop after a night out on the razzle in Las Vegas to illustrate his points.

A standing ovation, well of course there was, people stand up for a lot less at a party conference, but is he really a serious politician? Is someone who seems incapable of making a serious speech with tone and substance to match ever likely to become Prime Minister? Well, time will tell, but there is a big difference from being a likeable, cheeky chappy, party favourite and being Prime Minister in the sometimes scary world in which we all have to live in.

Boris did his job well, to cheer up the party as they face the challenges of UKIP, divisions on Europe and the forthcoming general election. I guess if he’d been too serious (if this is indeed possible) and out of character then it would have roused suspicions - but if you ever want to hear a speech of clearly defined policy and substance, Boris is not your man.

Theresa May - Home Secretary

Theresa May on the other hand was serious personified. Not that a Home Secretary of any party is known for taking to the conference stage and doing a comedy set worthy of Michael McIntyre.

Theresa May Home Secretary

She made a number of serious points and announcements on counter-terrorism measures and the importance of defeating extremists of all kinds and of ensuring a universal 

But on that very serious point, is it possible after 50 years of being established in Britain can minority such as communities from the Indian sub-continent actually assimilate and integrate fully into mainstream British society when at the heart of their community and their being is a religion (Islam) many tenents of which are incompatible with British values. 

Will Theresa May for instance consider making the separation of girls and women in schools and at events such as attending mosque, weddings, religious festivals and the deliberate covering up of women in Islamic dress in public illegal? Acceptance of British values such as freedom, democracy, the rule of law, free speech, equality and tolerance. The Home Secretary demanded that Muslim communities in particular start to integrate more into society and that they embrace British values to the full.

Should she do such a thing in the first place? Some would argue that if she is going to begin the process of defeating Islamic ideology and cultural practices that conflict with British values, including that of equality and respect for each individual, then she will have to. Not so easy to do I fear.

Theresa May took a real swipe at Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats for blocking legislation that would give the police and security services more powers to access communications data. Boris Johnson also had a go at their partners in yellow claiming he didn’t really know what Clegg did, but May’s criticism was grounded in policy.

Victory for May, for now...

So the clear winner in terms of substance, policy and depth was Theresa May. If she can put some tangible action alongside her tough rhetoric then she’ll be well placed to follow in Margaret Thatcher's footsteps as a strong female leader. Boris Johnson, on the other hand, may need to tone down the very thing that makes him successful and well known if he is to rise to the top job.

Johnson Image By johnhemming (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

May Image by ukhomeoffice [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


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