HENRY DEEDES watches Priti Patel addressing the Conservative Party conference


Well, I wouldn’t mess with her. Priti Patel click-clacked on to the podium and fixed her imaginary audience with a cold, hard stare. 

Chin out, jawline firm, paws beneath the pulpit.

Surely all these illegal Channel crossings would be solved if the Home Secretary simply set up camp down on the white cliffs. 

One glare from those peepers would be enough to make even the most eager migrant swivel their outboard engine and point their rubber inflatable back toward Calais, pronto.

Miss Patel was addressing the Conservative Party conference which, owing to the pandemic, is an online-only job. 

Access was via a specially designed website on which every expense appeared to have been spared. 

Think of heavily pixelated computer graphics on a clunk Amstrad computer and you’re not far off.

Loud and clear: Priti Patel, wearing two mics, fixes a hard stare on her imaginary audience

The cost of a day-pass to this four-day extravaganza? A trifling £850 for business delegates. 

For that sort of cash you could probably stretch to a half-decent weekend away in Paris, vin compris.

Miss Patel’s appearance was preceded by a video montage of old-fashioned bobbies on the beat. 

There was an excerpt of Margaret Thatcher’s 1982 conference speech in which she declared law and order was ‘not just a political slogan’ but ‘the foundation of the British tradition’. 

Priti, by the by, rarely misses an opportunity to align herself with Mrs T.

‘Firm but fair’ was the catchphrase of the day. 

Priti would be firm on criminals, terrorists and, yes, asylum seekers. Fair to those on the right side of the law.

She was dressed in poppy red. Or was it orange? 

The feed was rather grainy. On her dress were pinned two microphones, though how much amplification she needs is debatable. 

She may be barely five foot, but Priti’s got quite a voice box on her.

She talked of ‘the hardworking majority’ versus ‘those who don’t play by the rules’. 

She pledged to put ordinary, law-abiding people’s right above those of convicted terrorists. ‘That is right and that is fair.’

As with most of the Home Secretary’s public appearances, her support for the police was unflinching. 

One of her predecessors, Theresa May, seemed to almost relish confrontation with the rozzers. 

Priti never misses opportunity to blow adoring kisses at them. 

She pointed out that while those ‘on the Left’ spoke of defunding the police in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, she had showered them with extra cash, while giving them increased stop and search powers.

Prep time: The Home Secretary reads through her speech before her address yesterday

Prep time: The Home Secretary reads through her speech before her address yesterday

In normal times, this would be the point when some Home Office lackey rises from the front row and encourages the rest of the auditorium onto their feet. 

As it was, she whittled along lickety-split.

We then arrived at the thorny issue of immigration. 

She boasted of the Government’s plans for a points-based system that would attract only the best and the brightest to these shores. ‘That is firm, that is fair.’ 

Britain’s current system was ‘fundamentally broken’. 

She pledged to routinely deny asylum to those seeking to enter Britain illegally.

There was a broadside at the lily-livered elites who were defending the current system: ‘The do-gooders, the Leftie lawyers, the Labour party.’ 

They were simply ‘defending the indefensible.’ 

If this rather stony approach made her unpopular with the trolls on Twitter, ‘so be it’.

Among those, she included Tony Blair’s former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, who recently mocked Priti on social media over the way she speaks.

‘Without firmness there will be no fairness,’ she announced before marching off stage.

Soon after, the web feed cut to a pasty-looking Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, his expression somewhere between wonderment and fear.  

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