Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
4 October 2017updated 01 Aug 2021 10:07am

The most excruciating moments in Theresa May’s speech

Everything fell apart when the Prime Minister tried to address Conservative party conference.

By Anoosh Chakelian

In her annual address to Tory conference, Theresa May started out feeling sorry for herself:

“When people ask me why I put myself through it – the long hours, the pressure, the criticism and insults that inevitably go with the job – I tell them this: I do it to root out injustice and to give everyone in our country a voice.”

But little did she know it was going to get a whole lot worse – and she wouldn’t be giving anyone a voice, especially not herself.

Here’s what happened:

The P45 protester

Just as Theresa May was at the part of her speech where she attacked Labour (“NO, Jeremy Corbyn”), a protester – the comedian Simon Brodkin whose onstage persona is Lee Nelson – appeared at the lectern to hand May a P45, saying “Boris asked me to give this to you”.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Content from our partners
Helping children be safer, smarter, happier internet explorers
Power to the people
How to power the electric vehicle revolution

After about a minute’s kerfuffle in the hall, which brought the speech to a complete halt, Brodkin was taken out by security.

Police have arrested him for breach of peace, amid questions swirling around conference about the Prime Minister’s security.

Here’s the P45 in question, which gives the “reason for termination” as “NEITHER STRONG NOR STABLE” and “WE’RE A BIT WORRIED ABOUT JEZZA”:

The conference cough

Just as the Prime Minister got herself back on track – making a quip that she’d like to hand Jeremy Corbyn a P45 – she began to cough. And then cough some more. From this moment on, she struggled at numerous moments in her speech to even get the words out:

In the end, the Chancellor handed her a lozenge – but it didn’t really help. Cue rather valiant ad-libbing about fiscal responsibility and cough sweets a few times as she spluttered and choked through the rest of the speech. (“I hope you noticed that, conference – the Chancellor giving something away for free…”).

May has done 28 interviews and spoken at 19 receptions at this conference, so no wonder her throat was feeling rather sore. Unfortunately her conference cold kicked in early, but Alastair Campbell suggested she should have been prepared, tweeting that Tony Blair used to be treated by doctors before delivering speeches when fluey:

Spilling water

While drinking water to help with her cough, the Prime Minister spilt some on herself – something not lost on the audience, who tried to cover up the awkwardness with a standing ovation.

The slogan falls apart – literally

The backdrop of May’s speech was experiencing its own chaos, as the letter “F” fell off the “Building a country that works for everyone” slogan behind her:

And then the last “E” went the same way, until this is what it looked like:

Even gravity was against her.

Boris told to stand and clap

And of course, it wouldn’t be Tory conference 2017 without an intervention from Boris Johnson. Here’s a clip of him sitting among the rest of the cabinet, with Amber Rudd telling him to stand up with everyone else in applause:

Theresa May said her speech was about the “British Dream” – it turned out to be a real-life nightmare.