politics

Boris Johnson praises Peppa Pig and loses place in rambling speech


Boris Johnson criticised the creativity of civil servants for not conceiving of the children’s cartoon character Peppa Pig, as he gave a rambling speech to business leaders in north-east England in which he also compared himself to Moses and imitated the noise of an accelerating car.

Speaking at the annual Confederation for British Industry conference, the prime minister meandered through a variety of topics – confirming the announcement trailed overnight by Downing Street that new regulations for developers will force them to install electric vehicle charging points and heralding the start of a new green industrial revolution.

However, he also became distracted at points, asking business executives to raise their hand if they had been to Peppa Pig World in Hampshire, where he reportedly took his son, Wilf, with wife Carrie over the weekend.

“The government cannot fix everything, and government sometimes should get out of your hair,” Johnson insisted, claiming that “the true driver of growth is not the government” but in fact the private sector, whose energy and originality he praised.

To illustrate this, Johnson explained: “Yesterday I went, as we all must, to Peppa Pig World. Hands up if you’ve been to Peppa Pig World!

“I loved it. Peppa Pig World is very much my kind of place. It has very safe streets, discipline in schools, heavy emphasis on new mass transit systems. Even if they’re a bit stereotypical about about Daddy Pig.”

The “shambolic” speech was criticised by Labour’s shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves. She said it showed “how unseriously he takes British business” and the lack of a government plan for growth, adding: “No one was laughing, because the joke’s not funny anymore. Labour is the true party of business.”

Turning his fire on the BBC and Whitehall, Johnson continued: “But the real lesson for me was about the power of UK creativity. Who would have believed that a pig that looks like a hairdryer or possibly a Picasso-like hairdryer, a pig that was rejected by the BBC and has now been exported to 180 countries with theme parks both in America and China as well as as well as in the New Forest – is a business that’s worth at least £6bn to this country – and counting.

“Now I think that is pure genius don’t you? No government in the world, no Whitehall civil servant, would conceivably have come up with Peppa.”

Johnson also talked about his first experience of electric vehicles, which he said he tested as motoring correspondent for GQ magazine, at which point he imitated the sound of an accelerating car.

The prime minister recalled one looked like a “wheeled rabbit hutch”, while the other was the first Tesla for sale in the UK – though he said they both looked “unused outdoor gym equipment”. However Johnson heralded the emergence of electric vehicles, proclaiming: “The tipping point has come.”

At one point, he lost his place during the speech and spent 20 seconds repeating “forgive me” as he shuffled the printed pages on his podium into some semblance of order.

Johnson also compared himself to Moses, for coming up with a “10-point plan” for helping businesses invest in tackling climate change. He described it as “a new decalogue that I produced exactly a year ago” – and added: “When I came down from signing it, I said to my officials, the new 10 commandments were that “thou shalt develop” industries like offshore wind, hydrogen, nuclear power and carbon capture.

Pressed on the serious issues of apparent backtracks on social care reform and rail investment, Johnson was deeply defensive.

Despite being accused of “betraying” voters in northern England who helped him into Downing Street, Johnson insisted critics of the plan to scrap the eastern leg of HS2 and build no new line allowing trains to travel through Bradford between Manchester and Leeds were “missing the point”.

He said the government did not want to “just endlessly cast your way through virgin countryside” and instead he favoured using existing tracks and bring them back into service, adding: “We are doing the Beeching reversal.”

He said the £96bn investment was “colossal” and added: “It’s not rowing back, it’s better.”



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