A cocktail of confusion and panic, he was more artfully shambolic than usual: HENRY DEEDES on the Prime Minister's first big speech of the campaign

Even Boris Johnson’s most fervent supporters would struggle to claim his walk screams ‘world leader’.

Most statesmen stride with a certain purpose, backs straight as ironing boards, eyes front, right arms coiled to extend a welcoming mitt as though propelled by a spring.

Think of President Obama’s smooth ways or that preening French pompadour Emmanuel Macron.

With Boris, it’s more of a plod. Back hunched, arms a-dangle, his expression a cocktail of confusion and mild panic.

Even Boris Johnson¿s most fervent supporters would struggle to claim his walk screams ¿world leader¿, writes HENRY DEEDES after the Prime Minister's speech in Coventry on Wednesday

Even Boris Johnson’s most fervent supporters would struggle to claim his walk screams ‘world leader’, writes HENRY DEEDES after the Prime Minister's speech in Coventry on Wednesday

As he approached the lectern yesterday at the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) factory in Coventry, the Prime Minister’s manner was even more artfully shambolic than usual.

Judging by the state of him, I would not have been surprised if he’d just spent the previous 20 minutes under a bonnet helping one of the mechanics install a fan belt on a customer’s trusty runner.

Here is the place they build London’s famous black cabs. What magnificent machines they are. The great Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli referred to them as the capital’s gondolas.

We were inside a Nasa-style hangar big enough to house eight rugby fields: a ginormous place. Above, the roof was an orderly array of tubes and steel piping, like a mass of linguine.

The Prime Minister visited the London Electric Vehicle Company where London¿s famous black cabs are made and received a small cheer from the workforce during the trip

The Prime Minister visited the London Electric Vehicle Company where London’s famous black cabs are made and received a small cheer from the workforce during the trip

As Boris arrived, there was a small cheer from the workforce who had gathered to hear his speech. Many of them produced their phones to take selfies. A souvenir for home, perhaps: I had that Prime Minister in my cab factory the other day...

We had a bit of preamble about the LEVC building electric cabs. Boris described himself as the project’s midwife, having helped win funding from the Chinese when he was London mayor.

The PM wants to ‘get Brexit done’. We know this because it was plastered across the lectern he was speaking from.

But we also know because he said it almost half a dozen times in his speech. He said it so often I wondered if his staff had started an office sweepstake to see how often he could mention it. It hasn’t yet got quite the same irritation levels of Theresa May’s ‘strong and stable’ mantra, but the campaign remains in its infancy.

Boris described himself as the project¿s midwife, having helped win funding from the Chinese when he was London mayor, during his visit to the factory

Boris described himself as the project’s midwife, having helped win funding from the Chinese when he was London mayor, during his visit to the factory 

Boris’s old campaign boss Sir Lynton Crosby was big on this. The Aussie was very sceptical that voters had much attention. His approach was to ramrod the message into people’s brains. But even he might have been reaching for the tinnies at Boris’s parrot act last night.

The economy is booming, he said, but it could be doing so much more if we could just be free of the European Union. He compared the UK to a prize-winning racehorse that has the potential to go on to even greater glory.

Jeremy Corbyn was lampooned, as usual. His approach to Brexit was described as ‘a minestrone of a muddle’, while his irresponsible borrowing plans were ‘like taking out a mortgage to pay for the groceries’. Also mentioned was his apparent initial support for Russia during the Salisbury poisonings.

Mr Johnson said he wanted to 'get brexit done' almost half a dozen times in his speech but it hasn¿t yet got quite the same irritation levels of Theresa May¿s ¿strong and stable¿ mantra

Mr Johnson said he wanted to 'get brexit done' almost half a dozen times in his speech but it hasn’t yet got quite the same irritation levels of Theresa May’s ‘strong and stable’ mantra

The Prime Minister’s strongest moment came when he was asked about the leader of the opposition’s remarks earlier in the day about the assassinated Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Corbyn said that he would rather have seen Baghdadi arrested, even though the terrorist was wearing a suicide vest at the time his compound was raided by elite American soldiers.

Boris described such an approach as ‘naive to the point of dangerous’.

He may walk funny, but those were words of a true statesman.  

HENRY DEEDES on the Prime Minister's first big speech of the campaign

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