Shiny shoes, dinky suit, buttered hair – Rishi suaver than Roger Moore

QUENTIN LETTS: Ultra shiny shoes, dinky suit, buttered hair… Rishi was suaver than Roger Moore

As Rishi Sunak approached the lectern he shot his wife Akshata the tiniest, loving little wink with his right eye. He a cool smoothie, Rishi. 

Mrs Sunak, with pop-eyed innocence, had just done a surprise turn as his warm-up artiste. Not that we needed warming up after Penny Mordaunt. Blimey, she was a pulsating combination of Boudicca, Henry V and Vyvyan from The Young Ones. 

‘Stand Up And Fight!’ Ms Mordaunt kept bellowing. Michael Gove, blinking in the front row, looked as though he might spring a leak. 

HMS Mordaunt continued with her bombardment. Crush their walnuts! Kebab their kidneys! Something like that. 

My mother, watching from afar, said the BBC did not broadcast the Mordaunt speech. Too strong pre-watershed, perhaps. It was the conference equivalent to an All Black haka. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty greet people on stage at the Conservative Party’s annual conference in Manchester

Mr Sunak delivered his speech on the final day of the party conference where he vowed to  ‘change’ Britain like Margaret Thatcher did

As Big Penny left the stage with three final ‘Stand Up And Fight!’s she flicked a finger at the TV cameras. It was the gesture a Portsmouth striker might make after scoring a screamer against Southampton. 

READ MORE: ‘Son of pharmacist’ Sunak compares himself to ‘grocer’s daughter’ Maggie as he unveils pre-election policy blitz

Then came Rishi, and a more serene presence prevailed. If a Mordaunt will get the troops eating Labour’s raw giblets, a Sunak provides the argument why that might be a good idea. 

As little Akshata tottered to her seat (she had spoken for almost as long as Jeremy Hunt on Monday), Rishi said that marrying the billionaire’s daughter had been ‘truly my best long-term decision for a brighter future’. 

See? He’s suaver than Roger Moore. Ultra shiny shoes, dinky suit, buttered hair. From the stage decor, he could have been standing inside a blue box. The voice? Light and polite. The demeanour was serious, the pace allegretto. 

He is never going to stir the bottom of the pond. He has Suella for that. He is never going to send the regiment into battle with their snouts tingling. Big Penny had just done that. 

His force comes from reason, rationality, the presentation of facts. He does it with quiet determination. 

There were a few digs at Labour. The best crack was at the SNP’s former leader Nicola Sturgeon, now helping police with their inquiries. 

‘She wanted to go down in history as the woman who broke up our country but now it looks as though she might go down for different reasons.’ 

But snarling abuse is not the Sunak way. For him, the sharpest bodkin is argument. It was logic that had led him to scrap the next leg of HS2. 

Penny Mordaunt today channelled the spirit of Margaret Thatcher as she issued an impassioned rallying call on the final day of the Tory conference.

Ms Mordaunt, the Leader of the House of Commons, told the Manchester gathering that Labour wanted to drag Britain back to the ‘battles of the 1980s’

The hall initially stiffened but then relaxed as he explained his case and dropped a barrow-load of transport improvements for the north of England. Near me sat the buses minister, Richard Holden. He bellowed ‘yes!’ and clapped wildly. My neighbour, an activist from Ipswich, nodded with approval. 

Had anyone seen Andy Street, the West Midlands mayor who was so upset about HS2? Mr Sunak worked in a special mention of Mr Street, calling him ‘a man I have huge admiration and respect for’. Translation: please don’t resign. 

There had been a cross-party consensus on HS2, admitted Mr Sunak, ‘but that consensus is wrong’. To attack consensus is revolutionary in today’s politics. It is both Mr Sunak’s advantage and his problem that he is so unlike a revolutionary. He started complaining there had never been ‘a long-term workforce plan’ in the NHS. Technocrat Rishi found this exasperating. The audience couldn’t give a monkey’s. 

Gillian Keegan had won the ‘sitting next to Therese Coffey’ prize. Kemi Badenoch had won Oliver Dowden in the raffle. When Mr Sunak talked, movingly, about how the Tories gave opportunities to people of colour, Kemi clapped like a sea lion and grinned so much you could have parked a carpenter’s pencil in that gap in her teeth.

At the end he did not milk the applause but headed off through the crowd, to be gladhanded and selfied. Michael Ellis MP, all-comers’ champ at sucking-up, somehow positioned himself on the route of exit and clasped the PM’s hand. ‘Could hardly have done it better meself, dear boy.’ 

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