"HE’S a leader, he made us laugh.”

“We’re inspired & re-energised.”

“He’s given us confidence.”

“Bombastic Boris – we all needed that.”

“We’ve stopped apologising for being Conservative.”

“Best PM since Maggie.”

Boris gave a barnstorming, crowd pleasing speech at the Conservative conference – no doubt. The audience reaction at the Tory Party conference proved it.

He was big on buses – a bus nut in fact. Big on climate change – though bizarrely he was quoting himself in 2013 when he mocked those who once said wind turbines couldn’t “take the skin off a rice pudding”. He was unapologetic about capitalism in one sentence and proud of his Leave-voting mum – “the ace up my sleeve” – in the next.

Politics is a people business – and Boris is a (some) people person. Ironically, his (partial) and offhand admission of some personal faults seems to boost his popularity, making him appear more like a punter than a politician.

But this whole construct is a sham.

We were witnessing a sham conference – an event with only one wing of the Conservative party present – while most of the expelled, the disillusioned and the self-organising European Reform Group didn’t rock the boat because they stayed away in their droves.

It was also a sham speech – not really about Britain’s future.

READ MORE: Here's what Boris Johnson said about Scotland in Tory conference speech

Not even about Brexit – or the vexed issue of the Irish border. That finicky, “technical” problem needed a little more gaming, before it was finally sent to Brussels, minutes before Boris calmly announced that Parliament will be suspended next Tuesday to ensure no scrutiny of his lash-up deal during the vital short period before the EU summit. Of course, the official excuse was the need for time to prepare a Queen’s Speech. Purlease. Trying to tack down specific spending plans in the face of Brexit is like trying to hammer in tent pegs as a hurricane approaches.

No, this was a naked piece of electioneering to build a sense of mission, making the Tory Party great again and to create a scapegoat -- the anti-No-Deal British Parliament, the “pebble in Britain’s shoe”, a place so dysfunctional it wouldn’t survive an Ofsted inspection or an audience vote in I’m a Celebrity. The speech also created the outline of a manifesto – a weaker version of every popular policy championed by Labour. Johnson even had the audacity to claim that the Tories are the party of the NHS.

But far more important was what he didn’t say and the massive, un-squareable propositions that still sit at the heart of British Government.

First, how can Boris square abiding by the law yet leaving on October 31 – do or die – without asking for an extension as instructed?

Second, how can there “not be border checks on or near the Irish border” (conference speech) but also customs checks? Boris Johnson’s cabinet colleagues were left to do the rounds of radio and TV studios after the EU deal was finally announced, explaining how the UK/EU border was “just” a matter of technology and regulatory alignment without any permanent hardware. Let’s forget for a minute that a possible border between England and Scotland has always been envisioned by the same Tory politicians in inflammatory, apocalyptic terms. The really important issue of border security in Ireland – where lives not just political egos are at stake – was thought through by Radio 4’s Evan Davis, asking ERG member Steve Baker MP how Boris Johnson’s new system would cope with an irregular traveller – an opportunistic white van man, importing goods without tariffs to Northern Ireland and then sneaking them over the border. Baker answered that there would be “spot checks” of the kind already conducted on live animal exports across the Irish border.

If that’s the “big idea” at the heart of Boris Johnson’s complex and temporary replacement for the Irish backstop, no-one could describe it as an enhancement of the arrangements that exist just now. And that’s the test set by the Europeans, based on the Belfast Agreement, which is, after all, an international treaty – not the product of fevered Irish imaginations.

Johnson’s Irish plan relies on technology that doesn’t yet exist and a parliament (Stormont) that isn’t yet sitting, and hasn’t been for the past 1000 days. I suppose apart from that it’s fine ...

Crucially, though, will the proposal get serious consideration by the EU on the basis that it does represent a compromise, despite its unlovely construction?

At the time of writing, much was being made of the fact EU President Jean-Claude Juncker hadn’t dismissed it out of hand, partly because placing the border in the Irish Sea was originally an EU proposal. But as Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld patiently explained, the EU always thoroughly considers serious proposals, so the lack of an immediate knockback shouldn’t be mistaken for approval.

There are still a number of big problems.

Firstly, the EU will be guided by what Ireland thinks. As I write, Boris Johnson is holding talks with Angela Merkel and the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. He in turn has been holding talks with the DUP’s Arlene Foster, which may well have swung her behind the Irish Sea border or Northern Ireland-only backstop after long years of opposition. The Irish will be very cautious about the Johnson plan, however, in large part because they believe No Deal was taken off the table by the Benn Law voted through last week. Deputy PM Simon Coveney said: “We don’t believe customs checks will be a basis for any deal with the EU.”

And Northern Ireland opinion – as expressed in the most recent EU elections – firmly backs the original backstop. Parties supporting that won 60% of the vote and two out of three Euro MPs. How would a weaker solution look to them?

Secondly, the EU will want to be sure any deal can get through the Commons. But that’s a chicken-and-egg problem. Some Labour pro-Brexit rebels and the sacked 21 Tory MPs will support a deal if it’s accepted by EU. But the EU decision depends on the impact on the Belfast Agreement (an international law, remember) and the likelihood of it getting through Parliament.

And how likely is that?

There is now open warfare between former Tory MPs like former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who asked at PMQs yesterday: “How is the Government allowing special advisers ... to tell outright lies? Mercifully this country is not yet run as a police state by Mr Cummings.”

And how will other MPs feel about a Prime Minister who’s willing to express such utter contempt for the Parliament in which he is technically, only the first amongst ministers? Essentially, neither the Prime Minister’s speech nor his Brexit proposals have left the Irish border question any clearer.

Will the Irish or EU succumb to the pressure building in Britain to “get Brexit done”? Anything’s possible – but this day of sham politics doesn’t deserve to get Boris off the hook.