May's hopes for reset dashed with nightmare speech

Manchester: Theresa May's hopes of resetting her flailing prime ministership have been dashed with a prankster handing her a termination notice during her speech to the Tory conference, which she struggled to complete as she battled with a cough and a sign behind her falling apart.

In what were excruciating scenes, the Prime Minister was repeatedly forced to halt her speech as her voice gave way and she was overcome with coughing fits.

She began strongly, apologising to Conservative Party members for her disastrous election campaign, describing it as "too presidential" and "too scripted" that allowed Labour to paint the government of "continuity" when the public had wanted to hear a "message of change."

"We did not get the victory we wanted because our national campaign fell short," she told members. "I hold my hands up for that. I take responsibility. I led the campaign. And I am sorry."

But the speech went downhill after prankster Simon Brodkin interrupted her and handed her a P45 slip, the bureaucratic name given to the document used to fire employees, and said: "Boris asked me to give this to you."

Mrs May accepted the form and put it on the ground. She attempted to continue her speech and her attack on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn until members began to realise what had just happened and began chanting "out", "get him off" and "get him out".

The Conservative Party conference is being held at the Manchester Central convention centre and neighbouring Midland Hotel. Police have locked down the area and only those with passes to attend are allowed inside the secure zone. Police and security check the passes, which carry the holder's photograph, at least twice before entry is granted.

Mr Brodkin was wearing what appeared to be an official pass with the sponsored blue lanyards provided by the party. Brodkin then approached Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Amber Rudd. It took 49 seconds before he was detained.

Chief Superintendent John O'Hare from Greater Manchester Police said the man was released a "short time later" and had official accreditation.

"The man had legitimate accreditation which granted him access to the conference site.

"In light of this we will be reviewing the accreditation process with the Conservative Party.

"Even with accreditation, everyone at the conference goes through airport-style searches before being allowed entry to the site."

Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the BBC's Radio 4 there would be an investigation "at pace" and said she was "disappointed" that the security breach had happened.

"We will make sure we look carefully into how it happened to make sure it doesn't happen again," she told PM.

Mrs May recovered and said: "I was about to talk about someone I want to hand a P45 to - Jeremy Corbyn," to which she received sustained applause from members.

But as she set out her vision to restore what she characterised as "the British dream," Mrs May fell victim to a cough and lost her voice multiple times causing her to repeatedly stop delivering her speech. At one point Phillip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer walked up to the stage and handed her a lozenge.

Then letters began to fall off the slogan behind her. The slogan had read: "Building a country that works for everyone."

Members gave Mrs May multiple standing ovations and applause as her speech deteriorated.

"It was actually an incredibly strong gesture of support that came from everybody in the hall," said Mrs Rudd.

After the speech, Mrs May posted a picture on her Twitter account a picture of cough medicine and Strepsils next to the Prime Minister's red box with the caption "coughs."

Policy announcements

Mrs May made two policy announcements on energy prices and housing. She launched a strong defence of free markets but vowed to intervene in the "broken energy market."

"We will always take on monopolies and vested interests when they are holding people back."

Energy bills have doubled in Britain over the past decade to an average of about ??1,200 ($1,500) a year, putting the biggest providers in the sights of politicians. Next week, she will publish a draft bill to "put a price cap on energy bills".

The government had proposed a price cap on the sector earlier this year, the biggest market intervention since it was privatised almost 30 years ago, but the plan was thrown into doubt after her ruling Conservative Party lost their parliamentary majority in an election in June.

She dedicated her premiership to fixing Britain's unaffordable housing and said the crisis had been caused by a failure to build enough houses over the past four decades.

The government would spend an additional ??2 billion in affordable housing, she said, which would take the government's total affordable housing budget to almost ??9 billion.

Mrs May said she would unleash "a new generation of council houses to help fix our broken housing market," but said relief would take time. Earlier this week the Chancellor of the Exchequer said a further ??10 billion would be poured into "Help to Buy" scheme which offers equity loans and first-home buyers grants of up to ??3,000.

"It won't be quick or easy but as Prime Minister I am going to make it my mission to solve this problem. I will take personal charge of the government's response and make the British Dream a reality by reigniting home ownership in Britain once again."

Renewing the British dream

Mrs May's Tory party is bitterly divided as a result of her disastrous early election pitch and her robotic performance during the campaign in which she refused to take part in televised debates with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Her speech entitled "Renewing the British Dream" to the party was one of her most personal as she spoke of her "great sadness" at not being "blessed with children" and how the NHS had diagnosed and helped her manage her type 1 diabetes.

"I know that people think I'm not very emotional," she said.

"I don't mind being called things like the Ice Maiden - though perhaps George Osborne took the analogy too far," she said, referring to the former chancellor whom she sacked before he went on to edit the LondonEvening Standard newspaper where he is a regular and sharp critic of Mrs May.

Esquire recently quoted Mr Osborne as having told friends that he not rest until Mrs May "is chopped up in bags in my freezer".

Mrs May said she was inspired by the British dream and cited the case of her grandmother - a downstairs lady's maid, with three professors and a prime minister for grandchildren. Mrs May pledged to "renew the British dream" once again and said her primary motivation for being in politics was to root out "injustice" which she said were barriers that made the British dream "increasingly out of reach".

"That's what I'm in it for," she said at least eight times.

This story May's hopes for reset dashed with nightmare speech first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.