Addressing business leaders at the Confederation of British Industry conference, British prime minister Boris Johnson went off track — comparing himself to Moses, quoting Lenin and talking about Peppa Pig, the cartoon character
British prime minister Boris Johnson is really the king of gaffes and his latest blunder has raised questions on his leadership capabilities. The incident took place on Monday when Johnson was addressing business leaders at the Confederation of British Industry conference.
The speech, which was later described as shambolic, saw the British prime minister awkwardly rifling through his notes after appearing to lose his way mid-speech, comparing himself to Moses, quoting Lenin and going off on a tangent about the virtues of Peppa Pig World. If that wasn’t bad enough, he went on to imitate the sound of a petrol engine while speaking about electric vehicles.
In his speech, Johnson compared his 10-point plan for the economy to the 10 commandments of Moses calling it a “new Decalogue that I produced exactly a year ago when I came down from Sinai” and “the new 10 commandments are ‘thou shalt develop industries like offshore wind, hydrogen, nuclear power and carbon capture’.”
Following his Moses comparison, he then delved into narrating his visit to Peppa Pig World amusement park.
“Hands up if anybody has been to Peppa Pig World,” he told the business leaders.
Apparently, no hands went up.
He then said, “I was a bit hazy about what I would find at Peppa Pig World, but I loved it.”
“Peppa Pig World is very much my kind of place. It had very safe streets. Discipline in schools. Heavy emphasis on new mass transit systems, I noticed. Even if they are a bit stereotypical about Daddy Pig.”
Johnson said Peppa Pig was a symbol of “the power of UK creativity.”
“Who would have believed that a pig that looks like a hairdryer, or possibly a sort of Picasso-like hairdryer, a pig that was rejected by the BBC, would now be exported to 180 countries, with theme parks both in America and in China as well as in the New Forest,” he said.
“I think that is pure genius.”
The British prime minister, a member of the right-wing Conservative Party, also quoted Vladimir Lenin.
“Lenin once said that the communist revolution was Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country,” Johnson said. “Well, I hesitate to quote Lenin, Tony, before the CBI, but the coming industrial revolution is green power plus the electrification of the whole country.”
According to The Guardian, Johnson made “arum arum aaaaaaaaag” noises while saying that electric vehicles “have so much torque that they move off the lights faster than a Ferrari”.
Reactions to Johnson
The speech, as expected, didn’t go down well with other politicians and journalists with many questioning Johnson’s leadership.
A senior unnamed Downing Street source told the BBC that “business was really looking for leadership today and it was shambolic”.
The source said there was “a lot of concern inside the building” about Johnson.
“Cabinet needs to wake up and demand serious changes otherwise it’ll keep getting worse. If they don’t insist, he just won’t do anything about it,” they said.
The Labour Party called it “shambolic” and proof of how unseriously Johnson takes business.
Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, was quoted by The Guardian as saying that businesses needed clarity, but all they got was “rambling” from Johnson. He added: “The prime minister famously said he was going to ‘F’ business – the least he could do is to deliver a decent F-ing speech.”
Johnson defended himself after his speech. When asked if he was OK by a journalist, Johnson replied: “I think that people got the vast majority of the points I wanted to make, and I thought it went over well.”
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab also stood by Johnson, saying he was on ‘great form’ and the speech did not raise any concerns.
Speaking to BBC on the issue, Raab was quoted as saying, “In relation to Peppa Pig, it is a fantastic British export around the world, and I think that was the point the prime minister was making.”
This isn’t the first time the British PM has made a reference to a cartoon character in his speech.
In September 2021, he referred to Kermit the Frog, a green-coloured muppet, while giving a speech on climate change at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
And who could forget Johnson dangling from a zip wire during the 2012 London Olympics.
With inputs from agencies