It was billed as a Valentine’s Day letter to remainers. But the foreign secretary’s love affair with himself got in the way
The foreign secretary Boris Johnson made a speech on Wednesday in praise of optimism, confidence and a liberal Brexit. It was rich in rhetorical flourish and almost empty of detail. It was the speech of a politician whose only credibility is as the tribune of the leave campaign, a shameless piece of oration that fell back on his old journalistic trick of describing an EU that does not exist in order to justify his determination to get out. It was billed as an overture to the 48% who wanted to stay in the EU and a definitive speech about the shape of Britain’s future relationships outside it. But it was singularly free of the kind of irksome detail needed to understand a world beyond Europe.
It was rich in what Whitehall describes as optimism bias, “an estimate for a project’s costs, benefits and duration [made] in the absence of robust primary evidence”. It was a Valentine’s Day card to himself and his ambition to be the next Tory leader, an ambition he betrayed with his incoherent answer to a question about whether he would rule out resigning this year.