Great to be here.
I have to admit it was quite late in the day that I was invited to present these awards.
I did wonder whether I was first choice… or if Fraser had to ring as many people as the PM did to recruit the new Brexit Secretary.
I hear Ruth Davidson was busy spending time with her baby boy. May he grow up to see the day we’re out of the backstop.
But I am really pleased to be hosting tonight – not least because this room is stuffed with journalists. It will save me a lot of money on my phone bill.
Speaking of which, I’m glad to see James Forsyth has made it out of his priest hole in the Cabinet Room to be here tonight.
And it’s fantastic to see so many of my Parliamentary colleagues –
- Dame Nadine Dorries
- Sir Simon Clarke
- Lord Bone
And I’m glad to say the Home Secretary and his sharp buttocks haven’t turned up, so I can at least get a seat!
Now, I know in the past my jokes haven’t always gone down well with my friends.
So this time I decided to consult them.
I asked Michael Gove for a joke, but he’s still not taking my calls.
…the DUP sent a joke, but then produced a bill for £1 billion.
…Jacob Rees Mogg promised me five jokes, but only sent three.
And finally, I asked the Chancellor for a joke… just kidding, I didn’t ask the Chancellor for a joke.
Speaking of Michael Gove…
One of my proudest achievements in Government was working with him on the new knowledge-based curriculum.
It means that new generations don’t have to suffer in ignorance – unlike those of us born in the 60s and 70s.
I heard some of those poor, left behind students don’t even know:
- The difference between China and Japan…
- …that unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland vote for different parties…
- …or that Britain is an island.
And I have to admit, I only learned recently that ‘Any Deal Is Better Than No Deal’.
All of this time, I’ve been thinking it was the other way round!
As the Brexit debate rages, we shouldn’t lose focus on our ground-breaking domestic reforms.
As part of getting us Instagramming, Deliveroo-eating and uber-riding, we’ve replaced the Government car service with fully autonomous vehicles.
But not all has been going to plan.
I heard Matt Hancock’s car keeps pitching up outside No11 Downing Street...
…the Speaker’s car just refuses to leave…
…and Chris Grayling’s car is stuck somewhere near Crewe.
But I’m glad we’re fiercely resisting calls to tax bacon or restrict the size of pizza.
I have to admit, I don’t like pizza... I love it. I’m clearly willing to endure anything to get a slice.
We can’t seem to move for bans these days – Labour want to ban Christmas, Sadiq Khan wants to ban Uber, Nicola Sturgeon has banned cheap booze.
Instead of banning the good stuff, we should be banning the banes of our lives, like:
…banning snap elections…
…banning treasury forecasts…
…and banning Andrew Bridgen from speaking to the lobby…
I am proud to be fully behind the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan.
Were all busy promoting it – visiting European capitals – Rome, Paris, Vienna, Prague ...but enough about Amber Rudd’s gap year.
I see President Trump has sounded off on the deal.
…that wasn’t part of No10’s grid.
In fact, I can tonight exclusively reveal extracts of the proposed Trump endorsement script.
People of Britain.
With this deal, we’re going to start winning again.
We’re going to win at every level.
We’re going to win on the economy, and we’re going to win economically.
We’re going to win so much, you may even get tired of winning.
Don’t listen to those TOTAL LOSERS Corbyn and McDonnell.
This is a huge, beautiful, flawless Brexit deal.
It contains THE best words.
And if it weren’t a piece of paper, I’d be dating it.
Lots of people bemoan the state of British politics but I think it is in rude health.
And the Spectator exemplifies this. Of all our political publications, it’s the only one with Balls.
Brexit has energised millions of people – young and old – to take part in our democracy. And that’s a great thing.
Now we need to get on and do it.
And look forward to our future as a proud, sovereign nation.
In control of our laws, borders and money.
Run not by a bunch of overpaid bureaucrats in Brussels…
… but by a bunch of overpaid bureaucrats in Britain.
Now that’s a dream worth fighting for.