There was a spontaneous chant of ‘Boris!’ before he even entered the conference hall.
Moments earlier, there was even a vaguely Trumpian ovation to his father, Stanley - confirming he is the most colourful Johnson in a red corduroy jacket - and the is-she-isn’t-she first Lady of the UK, Carrie Symonds. And in a speech without a single policy announcement, the big reveal was to do with the only Johnson we haven’t heard from: his mother. “She voted Leave!” the Prime Minister bellowed.
This conference has been all about Boris Johnson, and the only thing Boris Johnson has to say: get Brexit done. Even that simple three-word mantra has struggled to be heard at times, what with the talk of spaffing, thigh-grabbing and lunchtime ‘technology lessons’ with friends. At the final before the Prime Minister’s speech, on getting more women elected, the comment from MP Gillian Keegan that “politics is a contact sport” felt risky.
Johnson’s cult of personality has taken over this party, and the only one putting up a fight was MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown. A member of the Conservative board being thrown out of his own conference 45 minutes before the Home Secretary declared they were the party of law and order sums up how impossible it has been for Tories to get away from their own dysfunction.
Wandering around Manchester were Brexit outriders you could never have imagined at a Tory conference under David Cameron - to be fair, though, their leader Dominic Cummings, a man with an actual hatred of the Conservative Party, is running the country. In contrast, this year’s Conservative conference resembled recent Labour gatherings in that the party’s own MPs didn’t really want to be there. One of the few who turned up, Andrew Bowie, was surgically attached to a microphone to do every broadcast hit for three days.
Exactly a year ago, senior Scottish Tories were briefing that ‘Operation Arse’ would work in the shadows to block Johnson from walking into Downing Street. The story was illustrated on the front of the Scotsman with a picture of a smiling Ruth Davidson striding across the conference stage. She’s gone, her stand against a no-deal Brexit has been demolished, and under Johnson, her party is unrecognisable. “We will honour your legacy,” the Prime Minister said in his speech. He must mean laying flowers on its grave.