There was so much going on in and around this speech, so much pressure hanging over it from last year’s debacle and the previous day’s Boris sideshow. Let’s start with what didn’t happen.
The slogan behind Theresa May didn’t fall down, but if the first six letters spelling out ‘Opportunity’ had given way, it would have left ‘unity’, which was the message the Prime Minister conveyed with some humour and charm. No really – charm.
Her warm-up act was Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, selected purely for his incredible voice, which he used to quote Milton and remind disloyal MPs what a “puissant nation” Britain would be if they would just get behind Brexit. Think Brian Blessed, Pub Landlord.
It got the crowd to their feet, but had he done a bit too well? Could the Prime Minister top this?
She came out dancing to Abba, so yes.
“You’ll have to excuse me if I cough during this speech,” she began: “I’ve been up all night supergluing the backdrop.” When you’ve got Brussels and Boris on your case and everyone thinks you’re a robot, the answer is self deprecation – and smut. Politics isn’t glamorous, she said, adding: “I’ve seen the trailers for ‘Bodyguard’ and let me tell you – it wasn’t like that in my day.”
And she jabbed Boris without naming him, making light of his “f*** business” response to Brexit fears.
May reassured business leaders, saying: “There is a four-letter word to describe what we Conservatives want to do to you. It has a single syllable, it is of Anglo-Saxon derivation, it ends in the letter K ... back businesses.” The Prime Minister didn’t solve any of her Brexit problems and she promised a splurge of public spending she probably can’t deliver. But at least she lightened things up a little.