The oratory of Boris Johnson
in Conservative orators from Baldwin to Cameron
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Boris Johnson has deftly used a combination of intellect, scandal and wit to boost his own status and normalise his views. In so doing his exhibitionist, outsider persona has greatly advanced the Conservative’s electoral cause, at once attracting a clutch of new supporters and energising the grassroots. In this chapter it is argued that oratory is integral to Boris’ success – but also marks his limitations. The blend of humour (pathos) and logic (logos) deployed often at the expense of his own character has helped to create a unique personal appeal which attracts broad support and disarms opponents. In addition his use of physical theatre and his willingness to attract controversy have rendered him formidable when addressing public and party audiences. However, Johnson’s oratory suffered from key limitations in Parliament, and as Mayor of London his performances in the London Assembly are perceived to be unreliable and lack credibility. Accordingly whilst invaluable for raising the status and appeal of Conservative ideas Boris Johnson holds an ambiguous position within the party – deemed both saviour and liability – a status reinforced by his oratorical style.

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