PM’s speech raises questions among Tories

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Speaking to the CBI conference, the PM quoted Lenin and performed an impression of a car. Halting his speech led to an awkward 21 seconds of apologies and paper shuffling from the Tory leader reports Asian Lite News

Conservative MPs are increasingly worried about Boris Johnson’s competence and drive after he gave a rambling speech to business leaders and was accused of losing his grip over a series of key policies from social care to rail.

Senior members of his own party said they needed Johnson to get the government back on track after a disastrous two weeks amid dismay about his performance at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference, where he lost his place in his speech for about 20 seconds and diverted into a lengthy tangent about Peppa Pig, The Guardian reported.

The prime minister was also facing a substantial rebellion over his social care proposals, anger at the decision to scale back rail improvements for the north and frustration over the government’s failure to keep its promises on small boats crossing the Channel.

It caps a difficult fortnight for the prime minister after he admitted he “crashed the car into a ditch” in his handling of the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal, the report said.

Nervousness among Tory MPs about No 10 intensified after one Downing Street source told the BBC there was “a lot of concern inside the building about the PM — it’s just not working”, adding that the “cabinet needs to wake up and demand serious changes otherwise it’ll keep getting worse”.

A former cabinet minister also told the Guardian that there was “an accumulation of things building up, really relating to his competence and that is beginning to look very shaky” after a “pretty bad bloody fortnight”.

He said it was unlikely to result in a leadership challenge while the polls were still fairly even between the Tories and Labour, but it could be “problematic for him” if that changes when an election is looming.

Another senior backbencher said Johnson’s CBI speech had been a “mess” while a third Tory MP said: “Someone needs to get a grip. He is losing the confidence of the party.”

Speaking to the CBI conference, the PM also quoted Lenin and performed an impression of a car. Halting his speech led to an awkward 21 seconds of apologies and paper shuffling from the Tory leader.

Labour’s shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, called the speech “shambolic”. She added: “No one was laughing, because the joke’s not funny anymore.”

A senior Downing Street source told the BBC: “Business was really looking for leadership today and it was shambolic.”

They added 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.”

Johnson’s 25-minute speech to assembled business leaders focused on levelling up, but also took some awkward turns as the prime minister tried to fuel enthusiasm for his green industrial revolution.

After saying the government “cannot fix everything” and that “the true driver of growth is not the government but the energy and dynamism and originality of the private sector”, Mr Johnson turned to CBI chief Danker and said: “Yesterday I went, as we all must, to Peppa Pig World.”

He asked the audience for a show of hands for who had been to the Hampshire attraction, and after saying “not enough”, the PM continued.

“I was a bit hazy about what I would find at Peppa Pig World, but I loved it,” he said.

A Downing Street spokesperson pointed out that CBI head Tony Danker had welcomed the PM’s words on the private sector working with the government.

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