The Only Thing More Disastrous Than Theresa May's Speech? Her Actual Policy Agenda

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The Only Thing More Disastrous Than Theresa May's Speech? Her Actual Policy Agenda

"Viewers would be forgiven for inferring that the Conservatives can't build a functioning stage for everyone, let alone a country."

British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers her keynote speech to delegates and party members on the last day of the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central on October 4, 2017 in Manchester, England. (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

"Viewers would be forgiven for inferring that the Conservatives can't build a functioning stage for everyone, let alone a country."
—Louis Doré, The Independent

After a prankster walked unimpeded to the stage and handed British Prime Minister Theresa May a fake termination notice in the middle of her keynote address at the Tories' annual convention on Wednesday, observers thought: this is the low point, surely the speech can't get any worse.

But it did get worse—much worse.

Shortly following the prankster's stunt, May's voice began to fade, marred by a coughing fit. Then the letters on the wall behind her—which originally read "building a country that works for everyone"—began to fall, one by one.

In the end it was, analysts concluded, an "excruciating," "nightmarish," and "embarrassing" performance at precisely the wrong time for an already floundering party.

But as The Independent's Louis Doré and many others observed, the event was also perfectly emblematic of both the Tories' failed austerity agenda and their complete inability to govern, particularly after the party lost its parliamentary majority in the 2017 snap election, which followed what May herself characterized as an overly "scripted" and uninspiring campaign.

"Viewers would be forgiven for inferring that the Conservatives can't build a functioning stage for everyone, let alone a country," Doré concluded.

"Taking a few of our policies and watering them down won't work."
—Jeremy Corbyn, U.K. Labour leader
Guardian columnist Owen Jones echoed this sentiment, arguing that May's speech was "nearly as humiliating as the situation the Tories have plunged this country into."

The Labour Party—which vastly outperformed expectations in the 2017 election under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn—soon piled it on, telling May on Twitter that the disastrous speech "proved that [her] party has run out of ideas."

"Taking a few of our policies and watering them down won't work," Corbyn concluded on Wednesday.

As The Independent's Ben Kentish observed, that is precisely what May attempted to do.

"If many of the Prime Minister's announcements sounded familiar, that's because they were," Kentish wrote.

While May offered few specifics on her party's superficially revamped agenda, she did promise a "rebirth" of affordable housing—a promise that was quickly denounced as a "damp squib" after it was found that May's plan would result in a paltry 5,000 new homes per year.

Throughout the Tories' conference, which took place in Manchester, tens of thousands of people filled the streets to denounce austerity, privatization, and deregulation, which many argue resulted in the deadly Grenfell Tower fire.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the British Public and Commercial Services Union, concluded that May's actions—particularly cuts to public services and safety rules—are "literally killing people."

One protestor, dressed as May, carried a sign that summarized the outrage: "Mrs. May, if you think cutting our jobs, incomes, and pensions (while tax cheats rip off billions) is the best way to create prosperity, then maybe you haven't quite grasped the principles of good governance."

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