– Keynote speech interrupted by protester handing May a P45
– PM battled through untimely coughing fit
– Government will publish energy price cap bill next week
– £2 billion boost to build affordable homes announced
– May apologised for General Election performance
It was meant to be the moment Theresa May re-established her authority as Prime Minister.
Instead, the keynote speech at the Tory party conference that aimed to put to bed talk of Cabinet splits and leadership challenges was hijacked by a protester handing her a P45 – and the PM’s own voice.
The speech descended into chaos when Simon Brodkin – who goes by the alter ego Lee Nelson – handed May a note, telling her Boris Johnson had asked him to perform the stunt.
Amid frantic scenes he was bundled out of the conference hall and through the exhibition stands by security staff at the Manchester Central venue.
He told reporters: “Boris told me to do it. He’s left me in the lurch.”
Mrs May dealt with the interruption well, calmly putting the note on the floor and saying: ‘I was about to about someone I would like to give a P45 to and that’s Jeremy Corbyn.’
The breach in security shocked spectators, with a number questioning how an intruder managed to approach the Prime Minister with such ease.
Protester tried to hand her a P45 – astonishing someone managed to get that close to her
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) October 4, 2017
Jokes aside, serious questions have to be asked about security. How on Earth did Brodkin get in + within metres of May? Blimey.
— Adam Payne (@adampayne26) October 4, 2017
And things soon turned sour again.
After recovering from the interruption, the Prime Minister was then hit by an untimely coughing fit, leaving her spluttering and unable to speak.
Tories in attendance gave Mrs May a long standing ovation in an attempt to let her compose herself before continuing.
The Prime Minister battled on, and was handed a cough sweet by Chancellor Philip Hammond.
She responded with a quip about her surprise that Hammond ‘gave her something for free’.
But she was struck down by another coughing fit straight away and was almost unable to get her words out.
She struggled for several agonising minutes before finally managing to regain control of her words.
Responses to the speech ranged from pity to ridicule, with commentators pointing out that the day would likely be remembered more for the calamities than the policies.
The Comedian and the Cough. Together could make this speech historic. But not in a good way.
— Andrew Neil (@afneil) October 4, 2017
I asked Tory MPs to text me their thoughts about the speech. So far, getting a lot of “Coughing fit. Embarrassing”
— Tamara Cohen (@tamcohen) October 4, 2017
A final mishap came from the slogan on the wall behind the Prime Minister, with an ‘F’ and an ‘E’ falling onto the floor as she spoke.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) October 4, 2017
Energy price cap
The government will publish a bill to cap energy prices next week, Theresa May announced.
She told the conference that it was now clear that the energy market was “broken” and that those being “punished” by higher prices were the most loyal customers, often the poor, elderly and less-educated and those in rented homes.
New homes boost
The Prime Minister announced a major boost to council house building, with an additional £2 billion of Government money to fund affordable homes.
She promised to ‘renew the British dream for a new generation of young people” who feel they have been locked out of economic progress.’
General Election blunder
The speech opened with an apology from Mrs May for her botched General Election campaign performance.
She admitted the campaign was “too scripted, too presidential” and said she took responsibility for its shortcomings.
She said: ‘We did not get the victory we wanted because our national campaign fell short.
‘It was too scripted. Too presidential.
‘And it allowed the Labour Party to paint us as the voice of continuity when the public wanted to hear a message of change.
‘I hold my hands up for that. I take responsibility. I led the campaign. And I am sorry.’
Mental health act review
Mrs May announced that an expert will lead a review of the Mental Health Act to tackle injustice and discrimination in the system.
She said Professor Sir Simon Wessely would review the legislation to address ‘widespread concern’ that the act is open to misuse.
‘Detention rates under the Mental Health Act are too high,’ she told the Manchester crowd.
The lack of progress in the Brexit talks received a mention, with Mrs May insisting that she was ‘confident we will find a deal that works for Britain and Europe too’ and would usher in ‘a global Britain that stands tall in the world’.
And she explicitly stated that the Government was preparing for the possibility that no deal will be reached.
In an olive branch to critics of her refusal unilaterally to offer EU citizens in the UK the right to stay, she sent a message to the three million EU expats living in Britain: ‘We want you to stay.’