PM ditches auto-cue as he reads Tory conference speech off a script

Boris Johnson ditches the auto-cue for his keynote speech after Tory conference is hit by days of technical glitches and Rishi Sunak was accused of being ‘awkward’

  • The PM ditched his auto-cue as he set out his vision for post-coronavirus Britain 
  • The Tory party has been bogged by a series of technical glitches in recent days 
  • Feed went dead as Rishi Sunak addressed the virtual Tory conference yesterday 
  • On Saturday, exhibitors were temporarily unable to log into the virtual event  
  • Comes after Covid tests last week went unreported because of ‘computer glitch’ 

Having been bogged by a series of technical glitches of late, Boris Johnson today ditched his auto-cue as he set out his vision for post-coronavirus Britain.

The PM eschewed technology in favour of traditional pen and paper as he delivered his address to the ‘virtual’ Tory conference this morning.

The premier may have shunned the auto-cue in light of a series of embarrassing technical issues in recent days. 

As Rishi Sunak addressed the Conservative conference for the first time as Chancellor yesterday, the transmission went dead and he was left speaking into an empty vacuum. 

His wasn’t the only speech to be hampered by tech problems, with Home Secretary Priti Patel also struggling to read from a teleprompter and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab facing away from the camera during his address. 

There were fears among senior Tories that the issues could affect Boris Johnson’s address today. 

‘It’s not that hard to get the auto-cue just below camera eye level,’ one said. ‘Let’s hope it’s sorted for the PM tomorrow.’ 

Mr Johnson’s speech was not blighted by the mis-positioned autocue that had affected other senior ministers – including Rishi Sunak yesterday 

The premier may have shunned the auto-cue in light of a series of embarrassing technical issues in recent days

Boris Johnson’s speech, the key points: 

  • Said he had had ‘more than enough of this disease that attacks not only human beings but so many of the greatest things about our country’.
  • Pledged to ‘repel this virus and we will succeed, just as this country has seen off every alien invader for the last 1,000 years’.
  • Blasted claims that his own illness had robbed him of his ‘mojo’ as ‘seditious propaganda’ and ‘drivel’
  • Offered to take on his critics at ‘arm wrestling, leg wrestling, Cumberland wrestling, sprint-off, you name it’ – but admitted he was too fat and has since lost 26lb.
  • Likened his illness to the UK economy as superficially healthy but with underlying problems. 
  • Warned UK could not to back to how it was before as ‘we have lost too much, we have mourned too many … we have been through too much frustration and hardship just to settle for the status quo ante to think that life can go on as before the plague and we will not’. 
  • Pledged to ‘fix the injustice of care home funding’ and ‘care for the carers as they care for us’. 
  • Vowed to ‘reform our system of government, to renew our infrastructure, to spread opportunity more widely and fairly, and create the conditions for a dynamic recovery that is led not by the state but by free enterprise’. 
  • Distanced himself from years of austerity saying: ‘After 12 years of relative anaemia, we need to lift the trend rate of growth. We need to lift people’s incomes, not just go back to where we were’. 
  • Praised Rishi Sunak for doing things ‘that no Conservative chancellor would have wanted to do except in times of war or disaster’. 
  • Defended his lockdown measures, saying: ‘This Government has been forced by the pandemic into erosions of liberty that we deeply regret and to an expansion in the role of the state from lockdown enforcement to the many bailouts and subsidies that go against our instincts. But we accept them because there is simply no reasonable alternative.’

 

Business leaders waiting for a virtual question and answer with Boris Johnson and Mr Sunak faced a buffering screen for almost an hour yesterday.

The session was delayed by around 50 minutes, according to the Times, with one business owner telling the paper: ‘It’s been a complete shambles to be honest.’

Yesterday, Rishi Sunak came under fire for an awkward party conference speech beset by technical problems, with his eyes ‘darting back and forth’ as he tried to read the auto-cue.

The Chancellor’s speech cut out shortly after it began and he struggled to read off a teleprompter that appeared to have been put in the wrong place, with the camera angle changing several times.

Baffled viewers also said he sounded like he was ‘accepting an Oscar’, hitting out at his ‘victorious-sounding’ speech despite dire warnings of tax raises and economic hardship to come.  

Allies of the Chancellor yesterday blamed the way Conservative HQ had set up the auto-cue and podium for the awkward imagery. 

Just two days earlier, exhibitors were temporarily unable to log into the virtual conference as Michael Gove participated in a ‘fireside chat’.  

And it comes in the wake of the test and trace shambles, with the news that 16,000 people who tested Covid-positive last week went unreported because of a ‘computer glitch’.

Today, the PM admitted 2020 ‘has not been the year we imagined’ but insisted the devastating effects of the pandemic would not prevent the government pushing its ‘levelling up’ agenda after Brexit. 

Mr Johnson – deprived of his usual interaction with a live audience – he said he was ‘working for the day when life is back to normal’.

But he said returning to the same way of doing things would not be enough, and the government was determined to ‘build back better’. 

It was ‘in crises like this’ that real change could be made, and he would seize the moment to do so.

He nodded to the rising Conservative anger about infringement of civil liberties and strangling the economy, he said he ‘deeply regretted’ the restrictions the government was imposing.

The premier also delivered an angry response to claims that he has ‘lost his mojo’ and not fully recovered from his own brush with coronavirus, offering to ‘arm wrestle or leg wrestle’ to prove them wrong. 

Acknowledging the weariness of the public with the battle against coronavirus, Mr Johnson said: ‘The fact is we are not in Birmingham… there is no-one to clap and heckle…’

As Rishi Sunak addressed the Conservative conference for the first time as Chancellor yesterday, the transmission went dead and he was left speaking into an empty vacuum

‘I don’t know about you, but I have had more than enough of this disease that attacks not only human beings but so many of the greatest things about our country – our pubs, our clubs, our football, our theatre and all the gossipy gregariousness and love of human contact that drives the creativity of our economy.’ 

He also praised the Chancellor as he sought to dispel speculation about a rift between the two over the response to the crisis.

‘Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, has come up with some brilliant expedients to help business, to protect jobs and livelihoods but, let’s face it, he has done things that no Conservative chancellor would have wanted to do except in times of war or disaster.’

The Prime Minister said the UK economy went into the pandemic with ‘chronic underlying problems’ which he vowed to address.

‘Long-term failure to tackle the deficit in skills, inadequate transport infrastructure, not enough homes people could afford to buy, especially young people.

‘And far too many people across the whole country who felt ignored and left out, that the Government was not on their side.

‘And so we can’t now define the mission of this country as merely to restore normality, that isn’t good enough.

‘In the depths of the Second World War, when just about everything had gone wrong, the government sketched out a vision of the post-war new Jerusalem that they wanted to build, and that is what we’re doing now, in the teeth of this pandemic.’

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