Theresa May’s closing Conservative Party Conference speech appeared to show that you can dance, jive, and even have the time of your life while your entire premiership is being questioned and your approach to Brexit shot down. A speech full of humour, personality and the promise that ‘austerity is over’ has raised the question as to whether everyone is now diggin’ the dancing queen or whether her fate is already sealed.
As conference speeches go, this was definitely one which will be remembered. That has been the case with her speeches in the past, but this time it was May who decided exactly why. There was no coughing fit, no P45 handed, and those pesky letters remained firmly on the wall. While this may seem to be trivial stuff, it also represented something much deeper; May took control, showed her party and the country that she was in charge and, crucially, that she was far from ready to give up fighting.
From the announcement that the council borrowing cap would be lifted to the revelation that if the country accepted her Brexit plan then the end of austerity would be in sight, these were clever manoeuvres from May and her team. It placed more responsibility on councils to build the homes needed and gave politicians across the house a strong ultimatum: accept my Brexit or be responsible for more austerity, the latter of which is something which last year’s general election showed people were well-and-truly sick of.
However, I do not believe this was a tactical move by May. Instead it was her way of showing the country and her critics that she understands what needs to be done. It acknowledged that private enterprise wasn’t enough to address the housing crisis and that her Brexit vision is the only feasible option; no deal would have severe ramifications for the country, as the World Trade Organisation would create a border along Northern Ireland, while Labour’s alternative would be Brexit only in name.
Moreover, the announcement of a new cancer strategy also allowed the public to see a more human side to May. Her personal story about the pain of losing her goddaughter to cancer helped to see beneath the Maybot persona and understand just what motivated her to tackle the burning injustices which she spoke of when she became Prime Minister in 2016.
Contrast this speech with Jeremy Corbyn’s the week before. May also represented why allowing Labour into Number 10 under Corbyn’s leadership would be detrimental to the country. She lamented the destruction caused to Labour through the damaging anti-Semitism scandal, while the defence she gave for politicians such as Diane Abbott and Jacob Rees-Mogg, in light of high-profile abuse levelled at them, (in Abbott’s case online, for Rees-Mogg in the street) was of stark contrast to Corbyn, who would happily silence those who oppose him. Again, this illustrated that May understands what makes this country great, whereas Corbyn simply threatens it.
Putting the dancing and jokes aside, May’s speech was one of serious credibility and strength. It presented a clear picture to the country as to why to vote Conservative, and more importantly why to vote for a Conservative government led by Theresa May.
Image: Graham C99