On Tuesday morning at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, I had the honour of introducing Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, onto the stage to deliver his keynote address.
It was interesting experience. I've spoken at Conference before but the hall was never this full and before I've been called up from the floor - this time I was backstage with the VIPs. The most amusing aspect was make-up.
Make up lady: "Have you ever been air-brushed?"
Make up lady: "Are you wearing anything?"
Me: "What do you mean?"
Make up lady: "Any make up?"
Me: "Er, no." Pause. "Do some people answer that question 'Yes'?"
And speaking in front of several thousand people in the hall and who knows how many on tv? I was nervous at first but it was strangely addictive...
Anyway, here is what I said:
According to that most reliable source of information, Wikipedia, our next speaker “is known for his unkempt appearance, effective use of humour, and eccentric approach to public life”.
That doyen of political commentators, Jeremy Clarkson, said of him:
“Most politicians, as far as I can work out, are pretty incompetent, and then have a veneer of competence. You... seem to do it the other way around”.
He is one of only a handful of politicians known by their first names and the only one to have had a transport system named after him and to have turned getting stuck on a zip wire into a PR triumph.
He’s the man who this May ended the political career of tax-dodging Ken Livingstone, showing that Conservatives can win even in a time of austerity in natural Labour territory.
Last week in Manchester, Ed Miliband claimed to be a One Nation politician. He said “you can’t be One Nation... if all you do is seek to divide”. He might want to explain to Londoners why he backed Ken Livingstone, whose whole campaign was about dividing Londoners against each other.
Our next speaker isn’t just the scourge of the London Labour Party though. He had this to say about our Coalition partners:
“The Lib Dems are not just empty. They are a void within a vacuum surrounded by a vast inanition”.
And he doesn’t have to work with them!
But he didn’t win in May just because he is likeable and entertaining.
He won because of his record.
He’s on the side of hard-working Londoners, having cut Council Tax in cash terms in his first four years.
He’s made London a safer city, putting 1,000 more police officers on our streets and reducing crime by over 10%; a greener city with 10,000 more trees on our streets.
He’s delivered 55,000 affordable homes that London desperately needs.
And he’s transforming our transport system. The Tube is being upgraded, Boris bikes have been delivered, bendy buses have gone, work on Crossrail and Thameslink is underway.
But he also won because in hard times he is an optimist. On losing a previous job, he is the man who famously declared:
“My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters”.
He is the man who routed the doubters and scattered the gloomsters when it came to the London 2012 games, an Olympic games that showed that when we put our minds to it, when we come together, Britain can deliver.
Enough from me - I can see from your faces that the Geiger counter of Boris-mania is ready to go zoink off the scale. Ladies and gentlemen without further ado please welcome the one and only Mayor of London – Mr Boris Johnson.