“I could refute these critics of my athletic abilities in any way they want: arm-wrestle, leg-wrestle, Cumberland wrestle, sprint-off, you name it,” Mr. Johnson said, sounding a bit like Mr. Trump, who despite being 74 and moderately obese attributed his recovery to the fact that he is a “perfect physical specimen.”
Both leaders sought to make political points after being discharged from the hospital: Mr. Trump about the miracle-cure qualities of the drugs he was treated with, which he promised to distribute free to all Americans; and Mr. Johnson about the miracle workers who treated him — the doctors and nurses of the National Health Service, perhaps Britain’s most revered institution.
But Mr. Johnson, unlike Mr. Trump, emerged from his illness with a new appreciation for the virus’s deadliness and his own vulnerability. He spoke movingly about how the nurses in the I.C.U. took turns giving him oxygen, something that Mr. Trump, who also received supplemental oxygen, has not mentioned.
Mr. Johnson also became a reluctant proponent of protective measures, a stance that has put him at odds not only with Mr. Trump, but also with members of his own party who worry about the damage that lockdowns do to the economy.
The prime minister’s speech to the Conservative conference was a concession to the times. Whereas he would typically deliver the speech in a giant hall with the party faithful arrayed before him, Mr. Johnson instead faced a camera in an empty room. “There is no one to clap or heckle,” he lamented.
He did his best to turn the page, sketching out his vision of a post-Covid future for Britain: ambitious investments in wind turbines and windmills, under the slogan “Build Back Better,” which happens to also be the slogan of the jobs and recovery plan of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic candidate for president.