- Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
- Theresa May says “I am sorry” for general election result in speech to Conservative Party conference. Prime minister admits her campaign was “too scripted, too presidential.” Comedian Lee Nelson interrupts May’s speech to give her fake P45. “Boris asked me to give you this,” Nelson said. May’s speech was overshadowed by a bitter row over comments by Johnson about “dead bodies” in Libya. May uses speech to urge Cabinet to “shape up” and focus on unity. PM unveils new council housebuilding scheme in an attempt to regain control of the political agenda.
MANCHESTER – Theresa May said she is “sorry” for the general election result in a chaotic Conservative Party conference speech on Wednesday.
On the final day of the party’s Autumn conference in Manchester, the prime minister paid tribute to activists who campaigned for her in the run-up to the June election, and apologised for running a campaign that was “too scripted, too presidential.”
“Because of your hard work we got 2.3 million more votes and achieved our highest vote share in 34 years,” May said.
“But we did not get the victory we wanted because our national campaign fell short. It was too scripted, too presidential… I hold my hands up for that. I lead the campaign. I take responsibility. I am sorry.”
May also used her speech to urge the Conservative party to “shape up” and get behind her leadership at the end of a fractious conference which was overshadowed by rows over the future of Boris Johnson.
- SEE ALSO: ‘Anything can happen’: Andrea Leadsom refuses to rule out a future Tory party leadership bid.
But her address is likely to be remembered for the interruption of comedian Simon Brodkin, known by his stage name Lee Nelson, who handed May a fake P45. The PM’s voice was also strained at times and she had to pause on a number of occasions to cough and sip water. Things got even worse for the prime minister when letters began to fall from the Conservative Party slogan displayed behind her.
- Phil Noble/Reuters
— Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics) October 4, 2017
“Let us do our duty by Britain. Let us shape up and give the country the government it needs,” she said, as she forged on.
“For beyond this hall, beyond the gossip pages of the newspapers, and beyond the streets, corridors and meeting rooms of Westminster, life continues – the daily lives of ordinary working people go on.
“And they must be our focus today. Not worrying about our job security, but theirs. Not addressing our concerns, but the issues, the problems, the challenges, that concern them. Not focusing on our future, but on the future of their children and their grandchildren – doing everything we can to ensure their tomorrow will be better than our today.”
In a bid to regain the political agenda after a difficult week, May also used her speech to unveil a new council housebuilding programme and indicated that she will push ahead with her previous plans to implement an energy price cap.
Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Jon Trickett MP, said the prime minister’s speech confirmed her “failure” to create a country that works for everybody.
“Rather than apologising to her party, Theresa May should have taken the opportunity to apologise to the public for a record of failure for the many and left Britain worse off.
“Conference season has shown us that the Conservatives are yesterday’s party; Labour is setting the agenda. With bold, mainstream plans like scrapping tuition fees, building a million new homes and public ownership of the energy system, Labour is the only party who will deal with the challenges facing the country. We will build a Britain for the
“We will build a Britain for the many not the few,” Trickett said.
In a surreal moment, May was interrupted mid-way through her speech by comedian Nelson, who handed the prime minister a fake P45 and said: “Boris asked me to give this to you.”
— Bloomberg (@business) October 4, 2017
Before May had even got to her feet, the speech was overshadowed by a bitter row over the foreign secretary’s position after he was filmed making a crass joke about “dead bodies” in Libya.
The comments, at a fringe event on Tuesday, led to widespread calls from across the party for him to be sacked.
Tory MP Heidi Allen said the comments were”100% unacceptable from anyone, let alone the foreign secretary. Boris must be sacked for this. He does not represent my party.”
Former Conservative minister Soubry described Johnson as “embarrassing and the PM should sack him.”
The row over Johnson’s future dominated the conference after the foreign secretary set out his four “Brexit red lines” in a piece for The Sun newspaper.
The intervention meant May was dogged throughout conference by calls to either sack Johnson or stand down as PM.
No turning back
However, May used her speech to insist that she would not retreat from the task of leading her party and country.
“That is what I am in politics for. To make a difference. To change things for the better. To hand on to the next generation a country that is stronger, fairer and more prosperous,” she said.
“None of this will be easy. There will be obstacles and barriers along the way. But it has never been my style to hide from a challenge, to shrink from a task, to retreat in the face of difficulty, to give up and turn away.”
In a section that appeared to have been partially lifted from a speech in the hit American series “The West Wing,” May said the party must “rise to the challenge” ahead of them. She said:
“And it is when tested the most that we reach deep within ourselves and find that our capacity to rise to the challenge before us may well be limitless.
“That is the story of our party. That is the story of our country. And that is the resolve and determination we need as we turn to face the future today. So let us go forward together. Let us fulfill our duty to Britain.”