Boris Johnson warmed up for his first address to the UN General Assembly at a Foreign and Commonwealth Office soirée in the ballroom of New York’s Westin Hotel yesterday.
After a torrid day when the British Supreme Court ruled his move to prorogue Parliament was illegal, Johnson ruffled his hair before taking the stage after Baroness Scotland and Paul Kagame, who has been president of Rwanda since 2000 and replaces the British prime minister as co-chair of the Commonwealth this year.
Johnson, a former Spectator editor, spoke for around four minutes, discussing dogs, plastics and Swiss Army knives. A glass of British sparkling wine in one hand, Cockburn scrawled down the PM’s remarks with the other:
‘I’ve been thinking about the Commonwealth a lot recently because I’ve recently acquired a dog…a little…for the first time I’ve really had to try and organize a dog, and…it’s an awful lot of work. I get up very early in the morning…not looking particularly…you know, well turned out, in my boxer shorts, so I go downstairs in Downing Street, and I go…and this dog is very very ill-disciplined and won’t…you know, get on with it as it were. And so I spend a lot of time looking at the pictures on the walls in Downing Street. And…would you believe it, I’ve been looking at the pictures of the first meetings of the Commonwealth! The first Commonwealth summit! From 70 years ago! And they are quite extraordinary, I commend them to you, because you wouldn’t…it’s absolutely unbelievable. Well first of all…what’s the most extraordinary thing about them…first of all, they’re smoking pipes…they’re all…I’m afraid, Patricia, they’re all men…but the most extraordinary thing, there are only eight of them! Only eight of them. And I look today at the Commonwealth and I see one of the most extraordinary institutions in the whole world.
‘Who’d have thought, looking back at those post-war years, those post-war pictures from 1949, that we would now have this most extraordinary, vibrant, dynamic institution, that I think represents the very best of humanity…and…I think that we saw at the…both at the Valletta and at the London Commonwealth summits…we saw us coming together to do things that really matter to our people, whether it’s tackling climate change or, as Paul very kindly said, working to ensure that every girl in the world has 12 years of quality education. There is nothing, frankly, more important…as I often say, perhaps in a slightly politically incorrect way, it is the Swiss Army knife of global policies, it tackles so many other…so many other problems that afflict the world. And I’m proud to say that we have today announced…I think it’s today…yes…it is today…another £515 million that we’re investing in…a small ripple of applause for that…not enough to trouble the governor of the Bank of England who I am delighted to see here today, but still a significant…we are spending, by the way, we’re spending 11.6 billion more, on…tackling climate change, by the way. And that is one of…those are the policies that bring this extraordinary institution together.
‘We represent 2.4 billion people, 30 percent of the population of the world, and 60 percent of them under 30. We are the future. Thank you very much everybody for coming along tonight, I hope you enjoy it.
‘I cannot tell you, Paul, you’re looking forward to coming…for us coming to Kigali, I am absolutely overwhelmed with excitement, I’ve never been to Rwanda in my life, I long to see what you’ve done. You lead the world on banning…plastics. And I congratulate you on that. And it’s one of the reasons that I am determined to follow in your footsteps…it’s one of the reasons, by the way, we need a Queen’s speech, is to get on….drag that stuff in…to have a bold environmental agenda.
‘But anyway ladies and gentlemen, thank you all very much for coming along tonight, I hope that you all enjoy this evening. Forwards to Kigali! Thank you very much.’
Johnson then disappeared into the night, on foot, to address the United Nations, before catching a red-eye back to the United Kingdom. Presumably his dog missed him.