His big speech was bookended by protestations that, yes, Philip Hammond was right and he will never be Prime Minister, and that Tories should “softly, quietly and sensibly” back Theresa May to “chuck Chequers” in favour of her “original plan”.
But given the bombast that accompanied his evisceration of Mrs May’s policies and manifesto of alternatives, not one member of the 1,000-strong audience saw this as anything other than a leadership pitch.
And how they loved it - at least three huge queues snaked outside the auditorium more than an hour before Mr Johnson took to the stage to a standing ovation, and there were huge cheers as he painted Brexiteer former ally Michael Gove as a traitor to the cause for compromising on Chequers in the hope of “fixing it later”.
As expected, there were good jokes and brutal putdowns of Labour’s “weaselly cabal of superannuated Marxists and Hugo Chavez-admiring, anti-Semitism-condoning Kremlin apologists”.
When this kind of fun, optimism and partisan joy is on offer next to the dour reality of Mrs May and Brexit, the faithful will have fun.
But by the end it was clear that their hero lacks the plan or the backing from MPs to call for Mrs May’s head and “truly take back control”.Boris Johnson’s cheek knows no bounds and Tory members love him for it - but he cannot strike the killer blow for hard Brexit.