Boris Johnson – 2019 Speech at the Manchester Science and Industry Museum

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, on 27 July 2019.

Good morning everyone and thank you for joining me here in Manchester – in the heart of the world’s first industrial city.

A city whose confidence and whose extraordinary future we can see in the changing fabric of the urban landscape, the mighty towers of Deansgate Square, last week’s extraordinary International Festival in Manchester.

We can see it in the Christie, the hospital where the future of cancer treatment will be written at the vast new Paterson building, with new therapies saving the lives of people around the world for generations to come.

This is not and has never been a city for negativity or navel-gazing.

Indeed when the University of Manchester’s Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov said they were planning to extract a single-atom-thick crystallites from bulk graphite – I hope I’ve got that right – to give us the super-light super-strong wonder that is Graphene…

I imagine that there were people who had no idea what difference it could make to their lives – and frankly people in this audience who have no idea,

Yet today, we stand on the cusp of the Graphene age, with applications in everything from de-icing of aircraft wings to life-saving medicine.

Their story of those pioneers is told here at the Science and Industry Museum, and it is one of the countless tales of Mancunian pioneers.

Because time and again, when the cynics say something cannot be done – Mancunians find a way to get on and do it.

And the centre of Manchester – like the centre of London – is a wonder of the world.

But just a few miles away from here the story is very different.

Towns with famous names, proud histories, fine civic buildings where unfortunately the stereotypical story of the last few decades has been long term decline.

Endemic health problems. Generational unemployment. Down-at-heel high streets.

The story has been, for young people growing up there of hopelessness, or the hope that one day they’ll get out and never come back.

And in so far as that story is true and sometimes it is, the crucial point is it isn’t really the fault of the places and it certainly isn’t the fault of the people growing up there – they haven’t failed.

No, it is we, us the politicians, the politics, that has failed.

Time and again they have voted for change, but for too long politicians have failed to deliver on what is needed.

Our plan now, this new Government I am leading, is to unite our country and level up.

And I want to explain now what I mean by that.

Now I am absolutely not here to tell you, Mr Mayor, that London has all the answers.

Or that everywhere should be like London, or indeed like Manchester.

Each place in our country has a unique heritage, a unique character, and a unique future.

And indeed I recognise that when the British people voted to leave the European Union, they were not just voting against Brussels – they were voting against London too, and against all concentrations of power in remote centres.

So I’m not here to say that Manchester or London are the template for other places.

But I do believe there are lessons to be learnt from the success of cities like these.

I remember London in the 1970s – how it was stuck in post-war gloom and doom.

Between 1951 and 1981 the population actually declined – it went down 20 per cent it was so miserable.

Yet, over the last twenty years, the capital of our country has been utterly transformed.

London is today one of the world’s leading global cities (second only to Manchester!) – with the largest concentration of tech companies, artists, financial services, top class restaurants and all the rest of it.

We can see the same thing happening now in this incredible city.

So today I want to set out what I think are the basic ingredients of success for the UK, and for the places we call home: our cities or our towns, our coastal communities and rural areas.

There are four things I think we need to get right.

First is basic liveability. The streets need to be safe. There need to be enough affordable homes. There need to be jobs that pay good wages. There need to be great public services supporting families and helping the most vulnerable.

Second thing – connections. That means great broadband everywhere, and it means transport. Inspiration and innovation, cross fertilisation between people, literally and figuratively, cannot take place unless people can bump into each other, compete collaborate invent and innovate.

We need to literally and spiritually unite Britain, and that means boosting growth and bringing our regions together.

The third thing that places need is culture. People love Manchester because of the fantastic arts and entertainment here, the football and music, the heritage and the creative industries that make it such a lively, wonderful place to live and work.

We need to help places everywhere to strengthen their cultural and creative infrastructure, the gathering places that give a community its life.

And finally, the fourth thing – places need power and a sense of responsibility, accountability.

Taking back control doesn’t just apply to Westminster regaining sovereignty from the EU. It means our cities and counties and towns becoming more self-governing.

It means people taking more responsibility for their own communities. London and Manchester have boomed partly because they have had Mayors – some better than others, I would say, but all with the power to speak for their cities, to bang heads together, to get things done.

These are the lessons from London and Manchester. Liveability. Connectivity. Culture. And power.

And the first condition of liveability is of course making our streets safer.

Because recorded crime here in the North West is up 42 per cent. I think it’s time we got that down, and we will.

Yesterday I met twenty new officers in Birmingham who are graduating after 15 weeks training. They will now join our brave and formidable police men and women who will be putting their lives on the line for our safety.

But you want more of these policemen and women on our streets – and so do I.

That is why I have committed to an extra 20,000 police officers over the next three years.

Their recruitment will begin in earnest within weeks.

And a new national policing board chaired by our dynamic new Home Secretary will hold the police to account for meeting this target.

We will also give the police greater ability to use stop and search in order to drive a reduction in the violent crime that plagues our communities.

But there is no point in arresting, charging and convicting criminals if we do not then give them the sentences they deserve.

In fact the number of offenders with more than 50 previous convictions who were convicted but spared jail rose from 1,299 in 2007 to 3,196 in 2018.

So we need to restore the public’s faith in our criminal justice system, by ensuring that people who repeatedly commit crimes are punished properly,

and that means those that are guilty of the most serious violent and sexual offences are required to serve a custodial sentence that reflects the severity of their offence.

And it is only by making the streets safer than you can create the neighbourhoods that people want to live.

One of the biggest divides in our country is between those who can afford their own home and those who cannot.

This is a long-term problem which all governments have failed to fix.

So we will review everything – including planning regulations, stamp duty, housing zones, as well as the efficacy of existing Government initiatives.

And, we will also emphasise the need, the duty, to build beautiful homes that people actually want to live in, and being sensitive to local concerns.

And then of course to get great, great neighbourhoods, safe streets, allow people to own their own homes – we need great public services to make that possible.

Which is why I have committed to delivering the funding promised to the NHS by the previous government in June 2018 and to ensure this vital money goes to frontline services as soon as possible.

This will include urgent funding for 20 hospital upgrades and winter readiness.

And proposals drastically to reduce waiting times for GP appointments.

The NHS represents a sacred promise between the state and its citizens. A promise that says we will protect and support one another when we are at our most vulnerable and weakest.

And the same should go for the other great service of wellbeing; particularly social care.

Yet many people who have worked hard all their lives have had to struggle with the financial burden of care in their final years and been forced to sell their homes.

The British people cannot understand why the health service is able to provide the same care for everyone, regardless of income,

And yet the social care system cripples those with savings.

For too long, I think politicians have simply kicked this can down the road. I want you to know, that can-kicking stops now.

So I have promised to find a long term solution to social care once and for all.

And that is what we will do – with a clear plan that will give every older person the dignity and security they deserve.

At the same time, we will give every child the world class education they deserve.

Which is why we will increase the minimum level of per pupil funding in primary and secondary schools and return education funding to previous levels by the end of this parliament.

And we cannot afford any longer the chronic under-funding of our brilliant FE colleges, which do so much to support young people’s skills and our economy.

We have a world class university sector; in fact it is one of the biggest concentrations of higher education anywhere in Europe right here in this city – why should we not aspire to the same status for our further education institutions, to allow people to express their talents?

If you’re going to allow people to express their talents properly, then you need proper connectivity. It is absolutely crucial.

Because if you are someone with a bright idea, or you are running a fantastic business, but you can’t get the connectivity you need and instead spend an eternity staring at that pizza wheel circle of doom on your computer screen – then you won’t be able to get your idea off the ground, you won’t be able to grow your business, and you won’t be able to find customers.

And you can have all the talent in the world

but if you are a young kid in a deprived town, with intermittent transport, and you can’t get to the places where the jobs are then you won’t have the opportunities you deserve.

But people are able to meet each other, and compete with each other, challenge each other, spark off each other – around the water cooler or elsewhere –

That’s when we get the explosion, or flash of creativity and innovation.

That is what we are going to make that happen – not just here but across the country.

First we’re going to invest in fibre roll-out and indeed we have just completed the build of a large fibre cable between Manchester and York alongside the Trans-Pennine railway route.

This interconnects the Manchester and Leeds Internet Exchanges and strengthens the internet infrastructure for the Northern Powerhouse.

I am delighted to see Jake Berry, sitting in the Cabinet, expressing this Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.

And just now, before coming here, I met Barry White – at the Pomona site – part of a huge stretch of new tramline that will link up to Northern Powerhouse Rail.

I want to be the Prime Minister who does with Northern Powerhouse Rail what we did for Crossrail in London.

And today I am going to deliver on my commitment to that vision with a pledge to fund the Leeds to Manchester route.

I want to stress it will be up to local people to decide what comes next, as far as I’m concerned that’s just the beginning of our commitment and our investment. We want to see this whole thing run.

I have tasked officials to accelerate their work on these plans so that we are ready to do a deal in the autumn.

It is the right thing to do, it’s time we put some substance into the idea of the Northern Powerhouse Rail, and that’s why we are here this morning.

We want to inject some pace into this so that we can unlock jobs and boost growth.

But I know people can’t wait and they want to see change faster. They want change now. It takes a while to build a railway, believe me.

They want reliable, everyday services – so that the 18-year-old in Rochdale just starting out as an apprentice knows that they can get into Manchester for 8 o’clock each morning.

So that people can get out and about in the evening, for a drink and a meal – boosting local businesses and growth.

Services within cities, not just between cities. Services that mean people don’t have to drive. Services that don’t just give up at the end of the working day.

So I am going to improve – with your help – the local services which people use every day. And I want that to start now with improvements that can happen in the short term.

That means buses. I know a lot about buses, believe me. I love buses. I helped to invent a new type of bus, very beautiful that it is.

I will begin as a matter of urgency the transformation of local bus services – starting here today in Manchester.

I will work with the Mayor of Greater Manchester on his plans to deliver a London style bus system in the area under powers we gave to him – you Andy – in the Bus Services Act.

I want higher frequency, low-emission or zero-emission buses, more bus priority corridors, a network that’s easier to understand and use.

I want local partnerships between the private sector, which operates the buses, and a public body, which coordinates them.

In London – where they have all these things – bus passenger journeys have risen by 97 per cent in 25 years.

In other metropolitan areas – where they do not – it has fallen by 34 per cent over the same period.

I think we can see the first results, here in Greater Manchester, within a few months.

And I want the same for any other part of the country where local leaders want to do it.

Good bus connections, good transport connectivity, is also vital to so many of the towns that feel left behind.

We are also going to start answering the pleas of some of our left behind towns,

And this might come as a surprise to some, but not everyone wants to live in one of our country’s great cities.

Too many places – towns and coastal communities – that don’t feel they are getting benefits from the grown we are seeing elsewhere in the UK economy.

Now I reject the ridiculous idea that everybody’s ambition is to get on their bikes and move to the city.

Our post-industrial towns have a proud, great heritage – but an even greater future. Their best years lie ahead of them.

So we are going to put proper money into the places that need it.

We will start by ensuring there is investment from central government – by bringing forward plans on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund – and we have growth deals as well for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

And we’re now going to have a £3.6 billion Towns Fund supporting an initial 100 towns. So that they will get the improved transport and improved broadband connectivity that they need.

They’ll also get help with that vital social and cultural infrastructure, from libraries and art centres to parks and youth services: the institutions that bring communities together, and give places new energy and new life.

Finally, of course, there is an even more radical shift that we need to make now to deliver this and I have seen myself the changes that you can bring about in towns and cities and regions, when local people have more of a say over their own destinies. A say over their own destinies.

And I do not believe that, when the people of the United Kingdom voted to take back control, they did so in order for that control to be hoarded in Westminster.

So we are going to give greater powers to council leaders and to communities.

We are going to level up the powers offered to mayors so that more people can benefit from the kind of local government structures seen in London and here in Manchester.

We are going to give more communities a greater say over changes to transport, housing, public services and infrastructure that will benefit their areas and drive local growth.

And in doing so, we will see to it that every part of this country sees the benefits of the potentially massive opportunity that will come from Brexit.

Over the last three years, we have tended to treat Brexit like some impending adverse weather event.

I campaigned to leave the EU because I believed it was a chance to change the direction of the UK and make us the best country in the world to live.

Leaving the EU is a massive economic opportunity – to do the things we’ve not been allowed to do for decades, to rid ourselves of bureaucratic red tape, create jobs, untangle the creativity and innovation for which Britain is famous.

And we do not need to wait to start preparing to seize the benefits of that project.

So we will begin right away to create the free ports that will generate thousands of high-skilled jobs – and revitalise some of the poorest parts of our country.

We will begin right away on working to change the tax rules to provide extra incentives to invest in capital and research

We will double down on our investment in R&D, we will accelerate the talks on those free trade deals

And prepare an economic package to boost British business and lengthen this country’s lead as the number one destination in Europe for overseas investment.

At the same time we will unite and level up across our country – as I say, with infrastructure, better education and with technology.

And in so doing, making our whole nation not just an alright kind of place to live, or a better-than-average place to live but the greatest place on earth. The greatest place to live, to raise a family, to send your kids to school, a great place to start a business, to invest and to have a life –

And where better than Manchester, where better than the Science and Industry Museum, to set out our ambition for doing so.

Here today we can look back at centuries of progress, the inventions, ideas and breakthroughs that came out of Manchester, came out of the North, came out of the United Kingdom and shaped the world we know today.

I just want you to imagine, if we were to reconvene here 30, 40, 50 or more years hence, what treasures this museum might hold then.

I’m absolutely certain there will be displays celebrating the dawn of a new age of electric vehicles, not just cars or buses, but electric planes, made possible with battery technology being developed now in the UK.

You will see tributes and dioramas commemorating the men and women who use new gene therapies to cure the incurable and achieve the impossible.

Here in Manchester, home of the world’s first passenger railway, with Stephenson’s rocket behind me, we should remember that there were people back then who thought that the whole project should be abandoned as a danger to public health, because the speeds that were being proposed would be intolerable for the human body.

So I can imagine in the future of this wonderful museum there will exhibits recording not only the breakthroughs in bioscience, here in Manchester and elsewhere that allow the UK to lead the world in producing genetically modified crops – blight-resistance potatoes will feed the world.

But also a memorial to the sceptics and doubters, complete with bioengineered edible paper, with which they were forced to eat their words.

I don’t blame the doubters and the sceptics, but all I will say, is that the evidence is behind us, there’s Stephenson’s rocket behind us, we’re sending rockets into space – we will expand our space programme as well.

I don’t blame the doubters and the sceptics, it’s a natural human instinct, but time and again, they have been proved wrong.

I think they will be proved wrong again.

If we unite our country, with better education, better infrastructure, with an emphasis on new technology, then this really can be a new golden age for the UK.

Time and again Manchester has shown the UK that anything is possible. Time and again this extraordinary country has delivered the same message to the world. That’s what we are going to do once more.

Boris Johnson – 2019 Speech on Becoming Prime Minister

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, at Downing Street in London on 24 July 2019.

Good afternoon.

I have just been to see Her Majesty the Queen who has invited me to form a government and I have accepted. I pay tribute to the fortitude and patience of my predecessor and her deep sense of public service.

But in spite of all her efforts it has become clear that there are pessimists at home and abroad who think that after three years of indecision that this country has become a prisoner to the old arguments of 2016 and that in this home of democracy we are incapable of honouring a basic democratic mandate and so I am standing before you today to tell you the British people that those critics are wrong.

The doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters – they are going to get it wrong again. The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts because we are going to restore trust in our democracy and we are going to fulfil the repeated promises of parliament to the people and come out of the EU on October 31 no ifs or buts and we will do a new deal, a better deal that will maximise the opportunities of Brexit while allowing us to develop a new and exciting partnership with the rest of Europe based on free trade and mutual support. I have every confidence that in 99 days’ time we will have cracked it, but you know what – we aren’t going to wait 99 days – because the British people have had enough of waiting, the time has come to act, to take decisions, to give strong leadership and to change this country for the better and though the Queen has just honoured me with this extraordinary office of state.

My job is to serve you, the people because if there is one point we politicians need to remember it is that the people are our bosses. My job is to make your streets safer – and we are going to begin with another 20,000 police on the streets and we start recruiting forthwith.

My job is to make sure you don’t have to wait 3 weeks to see your GP and we start work this week with 20 new hospital upgrades, and ensuring that money for the NHS really does get to the front line. My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care and so I am announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve. My job is to make sure your kids get a superb education, wherever they are in the country and that’s why we have already announced that we are going to level up per pupil funding in primary and secondary schools and that is the work that begins immediately behind that black door and though I am today building a great team of men and women I will take personal responsibility for the change I want to see.

Never mind the backstop – the buck stops here and I will tell you something else about my job. It is to be Prime Minister of the whole United Kingdom and that means uniting our country, answering at last the plea of the forgotten people and the left behind towns by physically and literally renewing the ties that bind us together, so that with safer streets and better education and fantastic new road and rail infrastructure and full fibre broadband, we level up across Britain with higher wages, and a higher living wage, and higher productivity, we close the opportunity gap, giving millions of young people the chance to own their own homes and giving business the confidence to invest across the UK.

Because it is time we unleashed the productive power not just of London and the South East, but of every corner of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the awesome foursome that are incarnated in that red white and blue flag, who together are so much more than the sum of their parts and whose brand and political personality is admired and even loved around the world for our inventiveness, for our humour, for our universities, our scientists, our armed forces, our diplomacy for the equalities on which we insist – whether race or gender or LGBT or the right of every girl in the world to 12 years of quality education and for the values we stand for around the world.

Everyone knows the values that flag represents. It stands for freedom and free speech and habeas corpus and the rule of law and above all it stands for democracy and that is why we will come out of the EU on October 31, because in the end Brexit was a fundamental decision by the British people that they wanted their laws made by people that they can elect and they can remove from office and we must now respect that decision and create a new partnership with our European friends – as warm and as close and as affectionate as possible and the first step is to repeat unequivocally our guarantee to the 3.2 m EU nationals now living and working among us and I say directly to you – thank you for your contribution to our society, thank you for your patience and I can assure you that under this government you will get the absolute certainty of the rights to live and remain.

And next I say to our friends in Ireland, and in Brussels and around the EU. I am convinced that we can do a deal without checks at the Irish border, because we refuse under any circumstances to have such checks and yet without that anti-democratic backstop and it is of course vital at the same time that we prepare for the remote possibility that Brussels refuses any further to negotiate and we are forced to come out with no deal, not because we want that outcome – of course not – but because it is only common sense to prepare and let me stress that there is a vital sense in which those preparations cannot be wasted and that is because under any circumstances we will need to get ready at some point in the near future to come out of the EU customs union and out of regulatory control fully determined at last to take advantage of Brexit because that is the course on which this country is now set with high hearts and growing confidence we will now accelerate the work of getting ready and the ports will be ready and the banks will be ready and the factories will be ready and business will be ready and the hospitals will be ready and our amazing food and farming sector will be ready and waiting to continue selling ever more not just here but around the world and don’t forget that in the event of a no deal outcome we will have the extra lubrication of the £39 billion.

Whatever deal we do we will prepare this autumn for an economic package to boost British business and to lengthen this country’s lead as the number one destination in this continent for overseas investment and to all those who continue to prophesy disaster I say yes – there will be difficulties though I believe that with energy and application they will be far less serious than some have claimed but if there is one thing that has really sapped the confidence of business over the last three years it is not the decisions we have taken it is our refusal to take decisions and to all those who say we cannot be ready.

I say do not underestimate this country.

Do not underestimate our powers of organisation and our determination because we know the enormous strengths of this economy in life sciences, in tech, in academia, in music, the arts, culture, financial services, it is here in Britain that we are using gene therapy, for the first time, to treat the most common form of blindness, here in Britain that we are leading the world in the battery technology that will help cut CO2 and tackle climate change and produce green jobs for the next generation and as we prepare for a post-Brexit future it is time we looked not at the risks but at the opportunities that are upon us so let us begin work now to create freeports that will drive growth and thousands of high-skilled jobs in left behind areas.

Let’s start now to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti genetic modification rules and let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world, let’s get going now on our own position navigation and timing satellite and earth observation systems – UK assets orbiting in space with all the long term strategic and commercial benefits for this country.

Let’s change the tax rules to provide extra incentives to invest in capital and research and let’s promote the welfare of animals that has always been so close to the hearts of the British people and yes, let’s start now on those free trade deals because it is free trade that has done more than anything else to lift billions out of poverty all this and more we can do now and only now, at this extraordinary moment in our history and after three years of unfounded self-doubt it is time to change the record to recover our natural and historic role as an enterprising, outward-looking and truly global Britain, generous in temper and engaged with the world.

No one in the last few centuries has succeeded in betting against the pluck and nerve and ambition of this country and they will not succeed today. We in this government will work flat out to give this country the leadership it deserves and that work begins now.

Thank you very much

Boris Johnson – 2019 Speech on Becoming Prime Minister

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the incoming Prime Minister, on 23 July 2019.

I want to begin by thanking my opponent, Jeremy. An absolutely formidable campaigner, and a great leader and a great politician. Jeremy, in the course of 20 hustings or husting style events, it was more than 3000 miles by the way, it was more like 7000 miles we did criss-crossing the country, you’ve been friendly, you’ve been good natured, you have been a fount of excellent ideas, all of which I propose to steal forthwith.

Above all I want to thank our outgoing leader, Theresa May, for her extraordinary service to this party and this country. It was a privilege to serve in her cabinet and to see the passion and determination that she brought to the many causes that are her legacy, from equal pay for men and women to tackling the problems of mental health and racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Thank you, Theresa. Thank you.

I want to thank all of you, all of you here today, and obviously everybody in the Conservative Party. For your hard work, for your campaigning, for your public spirit and obviously for the extraordinary honour and privilege which you have just conferred on me.

I know that there will be people around the place who will question the wisdom of your decision, and they may even be some people here who still wonder quite what they have done. And I would just point out to you that nobody, no one person, no one party has a monopoly of wisdom, but if you look at the history of the last 200 years of this party’s existence, you will see it is we Conservatives that have had the best insights, I think, into human nature, and the best insights in how to manage the jostling sets of instincts in the human heart.

Time and again, it is to us that the people of this country have turned to get that balance right, between the instincts to own your own house, to earn and spend your own money, to look after your own family. Good instincts, proper instincts, noble instincts. And the equally noble instinct to share and to give everyone a fair chance in life. To look after the poorest and the neediest, and to build a great society. On the whole, in the last 200 years, it is we Conservatives who have understood best how to encourage those instincts to work together in harmony, to promote the good of the whole country.

At this pivotal moment in our history, we again have to reconcile two sets of instincts, two noble sets of instincts, between the deep desire for friendship and free trade and mutual support in security and defence between Britain and our European partners, and the simultaneous desire, equally deep and heartfelt, for democratic self-government in this country.

Of course, there are some people who say they are irreconcilable and that is just can’t be done. And indeed, I read in my Financial Times this morning, devoted reader that I am, seriously, it is a great British brand. I read in my Financial Times this morning that no incoming leader has ever faced such a daunting set of circumstances, it said.

Well, I look at you this morning and I asked myself, do you look daunted? Do you feel daunted? I don’t think you look remotely daunted to me. And I think we know we can do it, and that the people of this country are trusting in us to do it, and we know that we will do it.

And we know the mantra of the campaign that has just gone by, unless you have forgotten it. You probably have… it is deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Jeremy Corbyn. And that is what we are going to do.

I know some WAG has already pointed out that deliver, unite and defeat was not the perfect acronym for an election campaign since unfortunately it spells DUD, but they forgot the final E my friends, E for energise.

I say to all the doubters, dude, we are going to energise the country. We are going to get Brexit done on October 31st, we are going to take advantage of all the opportunities it is going to bring in in a new spirit of can-do, and we are once again going to believe in ourselves and what we can achieve.

Like some slumbering giant, we are going to rise and ping off the guy ropes of self-doubt and negativity. With better education, better infrastructure, more police, fantastic full-fibre broadband sprouting in every household, we are going to unite this amazing country and we are going to take it forward.

I thank you all very much for the incredible honour you have just done me. I will work flat-out from now on with my team, which I will build I hope in the next few days, to repay your confidence. But in the meantime, the campaign is over, and the work begins.

Boris Johnson – 2008 Speech on the Fourth Plinth

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the then Mayor of London, at the Royal Academy on 3 June 2008.

I rise with the terror of someone who barely passed Art A-level after working for two weeks on a drawing of a decomposing lobster and yet who is now called upon not only to address this famous academy that has done so much to help make London the cultural and artistic capital of the world, but who is also asked to make judgements, as Mayor, about some of the most bitterly contested battlegrounds of our national Kulturkampf.

And I mean in particular the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, where I am told I must choose.

I can go for a dead white male war hero, gloved, goggled, moustached, forged in traditional bronze and thereby – so I am warned – earn the odium of the entire liberal funkapolitan art world, or else I can continue to support the rotation of strange and wonderful works of contemporary art and enrage those who think these conversation pieces are out of keeping with Nelson’s square and that a failure to install Sir Keith Park is a disservice to the memory of those who saved our country from tyranny in 1940.

As I have wrestled with this problem, I have seen how elegantly I appear to be politically and intellectually skewered.

If we go for Keith Park, we seem to be saying snooks to modern art, remember the war, and on with the great western European tradition 2500 years old of casting military heroes in bronze. Though he is not a Vitruvian model of anatomical perfection, the Keith Park statue is recognisably a human being, and of course there is a large part of me that yearns to memorialise this amazingly brave New Zealand fighter ace.

Yes, I do worry that we have lost interest in our history and in traditional artistic skills and I mourn the loss of so much music teaching in schools and as Mayor I want to help restore it and I grieve that kids have so little time to learn to draw properly. I get pretty steamed up about the general mushy-minded cultural relativism of our age and I assert the total superiority of Homer over the epic of Gilgamesh and I think the artistic output of 15th century Italy was much better than the artistic output of 15th century meso-America and I congratulate Neil McGregor on getting the Terracotta army to London but when you compare those universal imperial henchmen with the Panathenaic frieze you can see why democracy and individualism got going in western Europe rather than in East Asia.

And yet before there is some kind of international incident I want to reassure you that the moment I hear myself arguing in this vein I realise that it does not reflect all that is in my heart because I love Chinese art and I admire those Aztec skulls and I like Damien Hirst’s flagrant rip-off of Aztec skulls and I nod with pleasure and agreement at Richard Dorment’s elucidations of the YBAs. When I was editing the Spectator I was thrilled to print an exclusive original Jake and Dinos Chapman showing one of their dildo-rich Hieronymus Bosch scenes, and I cannot help noticing that large numbers of Londoners are with me in liking the art on the Fourth Plinth and I trust in the sublime instincts of an ancient people.

And that is why I hope we can find a compromise that reflects the division in my heart and that Keith Park will be allowed temporarily to occupy the plinth in the run-up to the anniversary in 2010 while we look for another site. I say to the Keith Park campaigners ‘some day your plinth will come’. Frankly I am prepared to go so far as to rename Hyde Park Keith Park. Of course there will be people on both sides who object to my solution and as the battle rages on we should realise that the row itself is as old as art.

The Keith Park campaigners and the modern art campaigners have the joy of a cultural foe and in their passion they illuminate themselves and they illuminate the other side and they illuminate art, because neither proposition would be half so interesting without the other.

So it has hit me that my function as mayor is not to presume to arbitrate – I leave that to you, the Jedi of the artistic world. My function is to promote this eternal argument, to let a hundred flowers bloom, to be a kind of Don King of the debate between tradition and revolution, to build on the achievements of the previous mayor, to end the tick-box culture, to support and encourage the creative and cultural sectors in any way I can and to make absolutely no distinction between heritage London and the dynamic contemporary scene because, as I have made clear, the two depend on their juxtaposition – incarnated in Trafalgar Square – to make this the most artistically exciting city on the planet.

Boris Johnson – 2009 Speech on Making London Safer

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the then Mayor of London, on 27 March 2009.

What did you want to be when you were a child? Was it something, by any chance, that involved wearing an impressive uniform? Did you marvel at the shiny buttons on Fireman Sam’s uniform, or wonder what it would be like to possess the natural authority that came with wearing Postman Pat’s hat?

I for one trembled at the sight of a policeman, convinced I was doing wrong by my mere presence. When the terror in a tall hat passed, I would secretly yearn for the power that man possessed.

Most people I know had childhood aspirations of becoming such authority figures with shiny buttons. Yet as we grow up, and we discover that a profession is worth doing for more than the sartorial standards it keeps, we choose different paths.

However, there are some who keep the dream alive- ultimately for reasons of high public spirit. If they don’t go on to become fully fledged coppers, then they volunteer and become Special Constables – of which there are currently over two and a half thousand in London.

Today, I was in Harrow to announce that we’ve secured the funding to train and recruit 10,000 Specials by 2012. They have the same powers and responsibilities as police officers. They can still say “‘ello ‘ello, what’s going on here then?” The only difference is that they are unpaid volunteers, working 8 hours a fortnight. So I’m calling on Londoners to reconnect with their childhood ambitions, to release that pent up desire to do good and step forward. You can still do your day job, and have the opportunity to be part of policing the Olympic Games too.

When I was elected, one of my main promises was to get to grips with crime. This new initiative will see the addition of thousands of new, dedicated police officers to the streets of our city. We’re also continuing with the roll out of the new police teams to patrol bus ‘hubs’. I launched another one in Harrow this morning.

These teams consist of nine officers and they are attached to an area with a high concentration of buses, typically a town centre with a bus station. By later this year, we will have 29 such teams across London. Their specific remit is to provide a highly visible presence on buses to deter the kind of low level disorder that has been prevalent over the last few years.

We’ve also seen over 5,000 knives lifted from the streets of London through the sensitive use of stop and search powers. New police officers are also stepping up their patrols at suburban railway stations.

So that’s what I am doing to honour my promise. My ambition is, by 2012, to have made public transport feel safer, got more police officers out on the streets and made youth violence an extreme rarity. You can help me achieve that by signing up to become a special constable.

Boris Johnson – 2018 Speech at Paris Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, at the Paris Conference on chemical weapons held on 18 May 2018.

I’m grateful to the French Chair of the Partnership for convening this important meeting.

We gather at a moment when the rules that guarantee the security of every country – including the global ban on chemical weapons – are gravely imperilled.

Almost a century ago, the world united to prohibit the use of chemical weapons with the Geneva Protocol of 1925.

More recently, 165 countries have signed the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997 and agreed never to develop, manufacture or stockpile these munitions.

Banning this terrible category of weapon must rank among the seminal diplomatic achievements of the last century.

And yet I have the unwanted distinction of representing a country which has experienced the use of chemical weapons on its soil, not in a 20th century conflict but on 4th March this year,

when a nerve agent struck down a father and daughter in Salisbury.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal were rushed to hospital after being found reeling and distressed on a park bench.

In the days that followed, our experts had to seal off nine locations in Salisbury – including a restaurant and a cemetery – in order to screen them for possible contamination.

A police officer, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, was hospitalised after suffering the effects of exposure to the nerve agent.

Scores of unwitting bystanders had to be checked for symptoms.

Their only involvement was that chance had placed them in certain areas of Salisbury on 4th March;

they could have been from any country – including those represented here – for Salisbury ranks among the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.

The fact that no bystander was seriously harmed owed everything to luck and nothing to the perpetrators, who clearly did not care how many innocent people they endangered.

I am glad to say that Mr Skripal was released from hospital earlier today – though he is still receiving treatment. His daughter and Detective Sergeant Bailey were discharged last month.

Our experts analysed samples taken from the scene and identified them as a fourth generation, military-grade “Novichok” nerve agent.

The highest concentration was found on the handle of the front door of Mr Skripal’s home.

We sent samples to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, whose experts independently confirmed this identification.

“Novichok” nerve agents were first developed in the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

The British Government has information that within the last decade, Russia has produced and stockpiled small quantities of “Novichok” under the same programme that also investigated how to deliver nerve agents, including by application to door handles.

The fact that such a pure nerve agent was used narrows down the list of culprits to a state actor.

And there is only one state that combines possession of Novichoks with a record of conducting assassinations and an obvious – indeed publicly avowed – motive for targeting Sergei Skripal.

We are left with no alternative conclusion except that the Russian state was responsible for attempted murder in a British city, using a banned nerve agent in breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Our friends around the world shared our assessment and 28 countries and NATO acted in solidarity with Britain by expelling over 130 Russian diplomats – the biggest coordinated expulsion in history.

Many of those countries are represented here today; once again, I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

This resolute action demonstrated our shared determination to ensure there can be no impunity for the use of chemical weapons,

whether by a state or a terrorist group,

whether in the UK or Syria or anywhere else.

On 7th April, barely a month after the Salisbury incident, the Asad regime used poison gas in the Syrian town of Douma, killing as many as 75 people, including children.

Britain, France and the United States responded by launching targeted, precise and proportionate strikes against the chemical weapons infrastructure of the Syrian regime.

Even before the atrocity in Douma, a joint investigation by the UN and the OPCW had found the Asad regime guilty of using chemical weapons on four separate occasions between 2015 and 2017.

Russia’s response was not to enforce the ban on chemical weapons but to use its veto in the Security Council to protect Asad by shutting down the international investigation.

That is all the more tragic when you consider that Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council with special responsibility for upholding peace and security, including the global ban on chemical weapons.

Given that the Kremlin seems determined to block any international investigation empowered to attribute responsibility for chemical attacks in Syria, then we must work together to develop another mechanism.

In the meantime, we have it within our power to impose sanctions on any individuals or entities involved in the use of chemical weapons.

We can collect and preserve the evidence of these crimes.

We can call for a special session of the Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, in order to consider how best to support the Convention and its implementing body, the OPCW.

And we can make clear our resolve that the global ban on chemical weapons shall not be allowed to fade into irrelevance.

If that moral calamity were to happen, the security of every nation would be at risk.

My goal is to be the last foreign minister who attends a gathering like this as the representative of a country that has witnessed the use of chemical weapons.

Thank you.

Boris Johnson – 2018 Statement on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on 9 May 2018.

The government regrets the decision of the US Administration to withdraw from the deal and to re-impose American sanctions on Iran.

We did our utmost to prevent this outcome; from the moment that President Trump’s Administration took office, we made the case for keeping the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) at every level.

Last Sunday I travelled to Washington and repeated this country’s support for the nuclear agreement in meetings with Secretary Pompeo, Vice-President Pence, National Security Adviser Bolton and others and my Right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister spoke to President Trump last Saturday.

The US decision makes no difference to the British assessment that the constraints imposed on Iran’s nuclear ambitions by the JCPoA remain vital for our national security and the stability of the Middle East.

Under the agreement, Iran has relinquished 95% of its low-enriched uranium, placed 2 thirds of its centrifuges in storage, removed the core of its heavy water reactor – thus closing off the plutonium route to a bomb, and allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to mount the most intrusive and rigorous inspection regime ever devised, an obligation on Iran that lasts until 2040.

The House should not underestimate the impact of these measures.

The interval needed for Iran to make enough weapons-grade uranium for 1 nuclear bomb is known as the “breakout” time.

Under the deal, Iran’s “breakout” time has trebled or even quadrupled from a few months to at least a year,and the plutonium pathway to a weapon has been blocked completely.

For as long as Iran abides by the agreement – and the IAEA has publicly reported its compliance, Iran’s compliance, 9 times so far – then Britain will remain a party to the JCPoA.

I remind the House that the JCPoA is an international agreement, painstakingly negotiated over 13 years – under both Republican and Democratic Administrations – and enshrined in UN Resolution 2231.

Britain has no intention of walking away; instead we will cooperate with the other parties to ensure that while Iran continues to restrict its nuclear programme, then its people will benefit from sanctions relief in accordance with the central bargain of the deal.

I cannot yet go into detail on the steps we propose to take, but I hope to make them available as soon as possible and I spoke yesterday to my French and German counterparts.

In his statement on January 12, President Trump highlighted important limitations of the JCPoA, including the fact that some constraints on Iran’s nuclear capacity expire in 2025.

Britain worked alongside France and Germany to find a way forward that would have addressed the President’s concerns and allowed the US to stay in the JCPoA, but without reopening the terms of the agreement.

I still believe that would have been the better course and now that our efforts on this side of the Atlantic have not succeeded, it falls to the US Administration to spell out their view of the way ahead.

In the meantime, I urge the US to avoid taking any action that would hinder other parties from continuing to make the agreement work in the interests of our collective national security.

I urge Iran to respond to the US decision with restraint and continue to observe its commitments under the JCPoA.

We have always been at one with the United States in our profound concern over Iran’s missile tests and Iran’s disruptive role in the Middle East, particularly in Yemen and Syria.

The UK has acted to counter Iran’s destabilising behaviour in the region – and we will continue to do so.

We remain adamant that a nuclear-armed Iran would never be acceptable to the United Kingdom; indeed Iran’s obligation not to “seek, develop or acquire” nuclear weapons appears – without any time limit – on the first page of the preamble to the JCPoA.

Yesterday President Trump promised to “work with our allies to find a real, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat”.

I have no difficulty whatever with that goal: the question is how the US proposes to achieve it?

Now that the Trump Administration has left the JCPoA, the responsibility falls on them to describe how they in Washington will build a new negotiated solution to our shared concerns, a settlement that must necessarily include Iran, China and Russia as well as countries in the region.

Britain stands ready to support that task, but in the meantime, we will strive to preserve the gains made by the JCPoA.

And I commend this statement to the House.

Boris Johnson – 2018 Passover Message

Below is the text of the Passover Message issued by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, on 30 March 2018.

Passover is a time of coming together, when Jewish communities commemorate the liberation of the people of Israel from slavery in ancient Egypt. It is a time to celebrate freedom as a basic human right.

Pesach Sameach to all Jewish families both in the UK and around the world. I wish them a happy and peaceful holiday.

Boris Johnson – 2018 Easter Banquet Speech

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, at the Mansion House in London on 28 March 2018.

My Lord Mayor, Your Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.

I’m going to talk about Britain’s global role and our work with our allies around the world but I turn first to the events of this remarkable week because never before has there been a collective expulsion of Russian diplomats on the scale that we have seen over the last few days.

As I speak there are now 27 countries that have themselves taken the risk of kicking out people whose presence they deem to be no longer conducive to the public good.

Of course there are many more that have chosen to act in other ways, countries that have issued powerful statements or downgraded their representation at the World Cup.

But by your leave my Lord Mayor and without wishing to be in any way invidious I want to remind you of the full roll of honour:

Albania
Australia
Belgium
Canada
Croatia
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Hungary
Ireland
Italy
Latvia
Lithuania
Macedonia
Moldova
Montenegro
Netherlands
Norway
Poland
Romania
Spain
Sweden
Ukraine
United States

And NATO has either expelled or denied accreditation to 10 Russian officials.

And it seems clear that the Kremlin underestimated the strength of global feeling: if they thought that the world had become so hardened and cynical as not to care about the use of chemical weapons in a peaceful place like Salisbury, if they believed that no one would give a fig about the suffering of Sergei and Yulia Skripal or that we would be indifferent to the reckless and contemptuous disregard for public safety that saw 39 others seek medical treatment, if they believed that we had become so morally weakened, so dependent on hydrocarbons, so chronically risk averse and so fearful of Russia that we would not dare to respond, then this is their answer, because these countries know full well that they face the risk of retaliation and frankly there are countries that have taken action that are more vulnerable to Russia than we are, whether through geography or their energy needs, and I pay tribute to them because they know that their own Russia-based diplomats, and their families, must now deal with the possibility of their own lives being turned upside down.

That is a huge commitment and sacrifice for one country to make – let alone 27 – and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

But of course I know that these thanks are in a sense impertinent because I do not for one moment believe that this global wave of revulsion has been prompted solely by Salisbury, let alone a sentimental love or affection for the UK, though I don’t exclude the possibility of such feelings somewhere in the mix.

It wasn’t about us: it was about all of us and the kind of world we want to live in.

Because I believe these expulsions represent a moment when a feeling has suddenly crystallised, when years of vexation and provocation have worn the collective patience to breaking point, and when across the world – across 3 continents – there are countries who are willing to say enough is enough.

After the annexation of Crimea, the intervention in the Donbas, the downing of MH17, the cyberattacks, the attempted coup in Montenegro, the concealing of chemical weapon attacks in Syria, the hacking of the Bundestag, the interference in elections, there are now just too many countries who have felt the disruptive and malign behaviour of the Russian state.

And Salisbury has spoken not just to Salisbury in South Australia and Salisbury in Pennsylvania, in North Carolina, in Maryland, but to all the tranquil cathedral cities across Europe that could have suffered a similar fate and where people deserve to live free from fear and after all these provocations, this week was the moment when the world decided to say enough to the wearying barrage of Russian lies, the torrent of obfuscation and intercontinental ballistic whoppers.

First they told us that Novichok never existed, then they told us that it did exist but they had destroyed the stocks, then they claimed that the stocks had escaped to Sweden or the Czech Republic or Slovakia or the United States.

And the other day they claimed that the true inventor of Novichok was Theresa May.

In the last few days we have been told that Sergei Skripal took an overdose, that he attempted suicide and therefore presumably tried to take his daughter with him, that his attempted murder was revenge for Britain’s supposed poisoning of Ivan the Terrible, or that we did it to spoil the World Cup.

In fact the Foreign Office has so far counted 24 such ludicrous fibs – and so I am glad that 27 countries have stood up to say that they are not swallowing that nonsense any more.

It is rather like the beginning of ‘Crime and Punishment’ in the sense that we are all confident of the culprit – and the only question is whether he will confess or be caught.

And in these last few days it is our values – and our belief in the rules based international order – that have proved their worth.

Not only has there been a strong and speedy multilateral response from NATO and the EU Council but countries that are members of neither have come forward to show that this country is blessed to be part of a broader community of ideals.

And I believe there are many British people who have found it immensely reassuring to learn we may be leaving the EU in exactly a year but we will never be alone, and in part that commitment to Britain reflects Britain’s reciprocal commitment to our friends, whether through the work of our peerless intelligence agencies or our armed forces or our development budgets.

And that is what I mean by Global Britain, and so I repeat the prime minister’s unconditional and immoveable commitment: that we will stand by you as you have stood by us.

We will continue to work with you – bringing as we do 20% of EU defence spending, 25% of the aid budget, 55% of the tonnage of the supply and replenishment vessels needed to keep warships at sea, 100% of the heavy lift capacity.

We are with you in Estonia, we are with you in training the armed forces in Ukraine, we are there in Nigeria and in the Middle East, where the fight against Daesh goes on and where the UK has delivered the second biggest number of air strikes after the US.

We are with you in the Sahel – or we will be with you shortly – and HMS Sutherland is now in the Pacific, exercising alongside our Australian friends, and the UK has forces deployed in more countries than any other European power.

And I have last week announced that we are expanding our FCO network, with another 250 British diplomats overseas and another ten UK embassies or high commissions in another ten sovereign posts – with the Commonwealth as a priority especially as we will be hosting its summit next month – so that Britain will have more diplomatic missions than any other European country – exceeding the French by one, news that I am told was received with rapture in the Quai d’Orsay, since there is no more compelling case for more funding than news of expansion in King Charles Street.

We believe in that expansion – and we will go further, especially in Africa, because we believe that a Global Britain is fundamentally in the interests of the British people because it is by being open to the world, and engaging with every country, that the British people will find the markets for their goods and services and ideas as we have done for centuries in that great free trade revolution that made this city the capital of the world and built the Mansion House in which we meet tonight.

When we leave the EU next year, we will re-establish ourselves as an independent member of the WTO and we will be the world’s leading proselytiser for free trade.

And it is symmetrically by being welcoming to talent from abroad – as we must and will be – that we have brought to our shores for generations people who want to live their lives without fear of judgment or persecution, to do as they choose provided they do no harm to others, and it is that ethos of generosity that has made this city not just the most diverse in the world but also the most productive region of Europe.

And today the UK is the biggest destination for FDI after the US, our unemployment is at the lowest for 43 years (I seem to remember some people predicting that it would rise by 500,000), we have the biggest tech sector, the best universities.

And Cambridge University alone has won more Nobel prizes than every university in Russia and China added together and multiplied by 2.

We have the most vibrant and dynamic cultural scene, with one venue – the British Museum – attracting more visitors than ten whole European countries that it would not be tactful to name tonight.

And out of this great minestrone, this bouillabaisse, this ratatouille, this seething and syncretic cauldron of culture, we export not just goods – though we certainly do – but ideas and attitudes and even patterns of behaviour.

I am delighted to say that in both the Czech Republic and in Iceland they mark Jan 7 with silly walks day in honour of Monty Python.

There are now 9 countries that have their own version of David Brent, and it is an astonishing fact that both of the two highest grossing movies in the world last year was either shot or produced in this country:

Beauty and the Beast and Star Wars.

And what is the principal utensil of violence in Star Wars?

And where was the light sabre invented?

In which part of London? In Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

And that tells you all you need to know about the difference between modern Britain and the government of Vladimir Putin.

They make Novichok, we make light sabres.

One a hideous weapon that is specifically intended for assassination.

The other an implausible theatrical prop with a mysterious buzz.

But which of those two weapons is really more effective in the world of today?

Which has done more for our respective economies?

Which has delighted the imaginations of three generations of children and earned billions?

Which one is loved and which one is loathed?

I tell you that the arsenals of this country and of our friends are not stocked with poison but with something vastly more powerful: the power of imagination and creativity and innovation that comes with living in a free society, of a kind you see all around you today.

And it is that power that will prevail and it is in that spirit of absolute confidence and security that it is our job now not just to beware the Russian state, but to reach out, in spite of all our present difficulties, to extend the hand of friendship to the Russian people.

Because it cannot be said too often that the paranoid imaginings of their rulers have no basis in fact, they are not ringed by foes but by countries who see themselves as admirers and friends, who have taken this action this week because they want nothing so much as to have an end to this pattern of disruptive behaviour, and who want to live in peace and mutual respect and who hope one day that it will be possible to see ever greater commercial and cultural co-operation between us and the Russian people.

And I believe that day can and will come.

I hope it does.

And if and when it does I believe it will be thanks to the resolution of all the countries that acted in their different ways this week.

We will have to keep that resolve because there is no doubt that we will be tested again and I can assure you that in that test the resolve of the British government and people will be unflinching.

Boris Johnson – 2018 Article on Vladimir Putin

Below is the text of the article written by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, on 20 March 2018.

To understand why 3 people lie stricken in Salisbury, look at Vladimir Putin’s actions inside Russia.

Yesterday he was proclaimed the winner of an election that resembled a coronation, complete with a triumphant ceremony outside the walls of the Kremlin. Mr Putin’s leading opponent had obviously been banned from standing and an abundance of CCTV footage appeared to show election officials nonchalantly stuffing ballot boxes.

One loyal functionary in Siberia used balloons in Russia’s national colours for the novel function of covering up a prying camera. “A choice without a real competition, as we have seen in this election, unfortunately is not a real choice,” was the verdict of the observer mission from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

As he extends his grip on power, Mr Putin is taking his country in a dangerous direction. Throughout his rule he has eroded the liberties of the Russian people, tightened the screws of state repression and hunted down supposed foes.

When a leader starts behaving in this way then no-one should be surprised if many of his compatriots feel drawn to the example of countries that observe a different scale of values. They will notice that plenty of nations hold elections where no-one knows the result in advance. They will see how free societies in Europe, America and elsewhere thrive and prosper precisely because people are able to live as they choose, provided they do no harm.

They will understand how an independent media exposes the failings or evasions of democratic governments. And they will wonder why Russia cannot have the same? Mr Putin cannot give the straight answer, which is that he must deny Russia those freedoms in order to guarantee his perpetual rule. Instead, he has to send an emphatic message that asking awkward questions or turning against him carries a terrible price. Which brings us back to Salisbury. The use of a Russian military grade ‘Novichok’ nerve agent against Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, was very deliberate.

As Ken Clarke pointed out in Parliament last week, the obvious Russian-ness of the weapon was designed to send a signal to anyone pondering dissent amid the intensifying repression of Mr Putin’s Russia. The message is clear: we will hunt you down, we will find you and we will kill you – and though we will scornfully deny our guilt, the world will know that Russia did it.

There was a hint of this in Mr Putin’s first public response to Salisbury. He denied Russia’s culpability – of course – while carefully injecting a note of menace. “If it was military grade agent,” he said, “they would have died on the spot, obviously.”

Obviously. After all, he had already told state television that traitors would “kick the bucket” and “choke” on their “pieces of silver”. Yet the Kremlin, accustomed to a tame official media, is clearly struggling to get its story straight.

Since the Skripals and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey were struck down on March 4, Russian officials and the state media have claimed variously that ‘Novichok’ never existed, or the stockpiles were destroyed, or they weren’t destroyed but mysteriously escaped to other countries.

Alexander Shulgin, the Russian Ambassador to The Hague, told Sky News: “I’ve never heard about this programme, about this Novichok agent. Never.” But his memory suddenly improved when he appeared on Russia Today and said that Novichok had been developed by the Soviet Union. “There never was such a programme under such a codename in the Russian Federation,” he said. “However, in Soviet times research began to produce a new generation of poisonous substances.”

This seemed to wrongfoot the Russian foreign ministry, whose spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, declared on the same day that neither Russia nor the Soviet Union had created Novichok. “This programme is not the creation of Russia or the Soviet Union,” she said, before disgracefully pointing the finger at Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, America – and inevitably the UK.

Meanwhile, other Russian officials have sought to conjure doubt and suspicion out of thin air. Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian Ambassador in London, questioned the absence of photographs of the Skripals in their hospital beds.

His counterpart in Brussels, Vladimir Chizhov, accused Britain of breaking “consular conventions” because Russian officials had not been able to visit the Skripals.

The response to the 2 envoys is so obvious that I can scarcely believe they require instruction. Sergei and Yulia Skripal have been in a coma since 4 March – as you would expect from victims of a nerve agent attack. They cannot give their consent to be photographed or receive visitors. Under the NHS Code of Practice, hospitals must have their patients’ permission before allowing this to happen.

And I will make the point as delicately as possible: it is not obvious that the Skripals, of all patients, would welcome a visit from Russian officials. The Russian state is resorting to its usual strategy of trying to conceal the needle of truth in a haystack of lies and obfuscation.

But when I met my European counterparts in Brussels yesterday, what struck me most is that no-one is fooled. Just about every country represented around the table had been affected by malign or disruptive Russian behaviour. Most had endured the kind of mendacious propaganda onslaught that the UK is experiencing today.

This is how Mr Putin behaves at home; we should not expect anything different abroad.