Fri, Oct 06, 2017 - Page 6 News List

May’s rallying speech becomes a farce

SHORT FALL:An additional US$2.6bn for public housing has been welcomed, but charities said that 1.2 million households are already on waiting lists in the UK

The Guardian

Comedian Simon Brodkin, right, confronts British Prime Minister Theresa May during her Conservative Party Conference keynote speech at the Manchester Central Convention Complex in England on Wednesday.

Photo: AP

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday sought to relaunch her premiership by offering voters the “British dream,” but the most personal speech of her premiership was overshadowed by a prankster handing her a P45 (British termination of employment form), an incessant cough and problems with the backdrop.

The prime minister attempted to shift the focus from Brexit infighting to domestic policy on energy bills and council housing, but at times struggled to deliver her words as her voice faltered.

After accepting a glass of water and a cough sweet from British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, May plowed on with a conference speech that was designed to set out her credo, but ended with questions about her future.

With the Conservatives already weakened by the loss of a parliamentary majority in June’s snap election, the accident-prone presentation made some in the party question how long the prime minister could carry on.

One member of parliament said colleagues were asking: “Is it going to improve over the next 18 months?” and added: “It’s hard to see how it can.”

The Tories launched an investigation after the comedian Simon Brodkin was successfully accredited and able to hand the prime minister a mocked-up P45, saying that British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson had told him to do it.

He was evicted and subsequently arrested for breach of the peace.

May accepted the form, which stated in the reasons for termination box that she was “neither strong or stable” and “we’re a bit worried about Jezza,” but then quipped that Corbyn was in need of a P45.

As the cameras focused on Brodkin, May’s cough worsened and she began to have difficulty speaking.

At one point the conference floor rose to a standing ovation, their applause intended to help her voice recover, although British Secretary of State for the Home Department Amber Rudd appeared to criticize Johnson for not rising to his feet quickly enough.

Later, the set behind the prime minister, which read, “Building a country that works for everyone,” began to fall apart, with an F and E dropping to the ground while she was still speaking.

Publicly, ministers and members of parliament were understanding of the mishaps.

British Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt joked that it would be “one of the most famous coughs in British history,” but praised May for plowing on.

Johnson tweeted: “Great job by the PM today, putting housing at the heart of the British dream.”

Until May spoke, there had been a broad understanding among Tory members of parliament to give her 18 months to two years in order to see through Brexit.

However, one Tory politician said that the speech — along with her recent declaration that she wanted to fight the next election — had made colleagues wonder whether she could last much longer.

Such were the mishaps that after the speech, Downing Street sources were forced to deny a claim that May had wept into the arms of her husband, Philip May, instead describing her mood as “stoic” as she joined her team for a drink and sandwiches.

The prime minister, who has been dubbed the “Maybot,” had hoped the speech would be an opportunity to reset public opinion about her leadership. She began it with the frank admission that she understood that people did not always find her emotional.

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