Even aside from the coughing and P45, there was no avoiding the elephant in the room: May has lost all authorityby Tom Quinn / October 4, 2017 / Leave a comment
What a difference a year makes. At the Conservative Party conference in 2016, Theresa May set out a bold vision for Brexit Britain, taking on the liberal elite and Thatcherite economic orthodoxies in equal measure. May was at the height of her powers leading a seemingly united party while facing a shambolic Labour Party led—if “led” is even the right word—by Jeremy Corbyn, who had recently survived a coup by his own MPs.
Today in Manchester, the prime minister faced her party again, but this time as a shrunken figure. Just as Gordon Brown’s reputation was destroyed by the election-that-never-was in 2007, May’s credibility has been shattered by the election-that-never-should-have-been. An unnecessary poll called to bolster her Commons majority ended up depriving her of any majority at all while transforming Corbyn’s public image. May’s authority has steadily drained away since.
Today, the prime minister struggled to regain the initiative—and “struggled” was the operative word. Her delivery was badly disrupted by a severe cough that continued throughout the speech. It got so bad that the audience began to pity her and seemingly offered long rounds of applause to give her time to recover. It was almost a metaphor for her wider struggles and her diminished powers. At precisely the moment when she needed to convey strength, the ailing prime minister looked anything but. She was then interrupted by a prankster who tried to hand her a ‘P45’ he claimed was from the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson. Apart from anything else, it was a major security lapse.
As for the substance of the speech, in other circumstances it would have been interesting—even if some of it had already been announced. May continued with the vision of a more caring and interventionist government, insisting that the left does not have a monopoly on compassion. She set out numerous policies that would help what she has previously called “the just-about-managing.” She pointed out how the cost of housing is a major problem for young people in particular and announced an extra £2 billion for affordable housing.
May also signalled “a new generation of council houses,” saying government would get back involved in housing to reignite the dream of home ownership. On student debt, she confirmed…