Being Theresa May’s party conference warm-up act must be one of the toughest gigs in politics. This time last year, a coughing fit, a comedian’s ambush and a failing backdrop marked one of the most disastrous conference speeches of all time.
Step forward Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General but a largely unknown figure beyond the Westminster village and his Devon constituency.
The Cabinet minister electrified the main hall on Wednesday with his booming address, which included a rendition of John Milton’s 17th century Areopagitica speech to Parliament.
Cox was drowned in applause as he called on the party to unify behind May and allow her to deliver the “prize that millions voted for” in the referendum, and Twitter liked it too.
In the key section, he said:
“The Prime Minister will not flinch from her duty.
He added: “As a lawyer I have negotiated many agreements over the years and as Dom (Raab) has said, I know that the nature of the negotiation is – with apologies to The Rolling Stones – that you can’t always get what you want.
“We have to be grown up about it and we have now reached a critical moment.
“I am convinced we must resolve to put aside our differences and unite behind the Prime Minister to ensure that the decision of June 23 2016 is not set at nought by those who would have us remain with the European Union.”
He added: “So let us say with Milton: Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks.
“Methinks I see her as an eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full midday beam.
“Ladies and gentleman, let us seize that prize.”