Political news

What we learned from May's conference speech

Prime Minister Theresa May and husband Philip make their way to the ICC on the fourth day of the Conservative party conference in Birmingham PICTURE: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Arj Singh

THERESA May has promised to create a country that "works for everyone". Here are eight things we learned from her set-piece leader's speech at the Conservative Party conference:

The prime minister wants to be all things to all people

From borrowing Labour tropes like railing against corporate greed and tax dodgers, to coopting Ukip-friendly policies to curb immigration, Mrs May has set up the Tories to try to occupy "a new centre ground" and dominate politics for years.

But she is already facing criticism for being divisive

As Mrs May set out her vision for "a country that works for everyone", opposition parties, the business world and scientists heavily criticised the "toxic" new immigration policies of home secretary Amber Rudd, which Labour said showed the Tories are still the "Nasty Party".

Ed Miliband could not resist a dig

The PM's speech was packed with Ed-isms and the former Labour leader could not resist a snarky comment as pre-speech reports suggested a potential move to control the price of energy bills, as he proposed in 2013.

Echoing the Tory criticism of it at the time, Mr Miliband tweeted: "Marxist, anti-business interventionism imho". The PM's aides and Cabinet colleagues later rejected comparisons with Mr Miliband.

Cameron Conservatism is over

The prime minister praised her predecessor David Cameron and made clear her commitment to "George Osborne's" Northern Powerhouse project but a central theme of her speech was "a change is going to come" – a reference to Sam Cooke's civil rights anthem.

Her attacks on the "privileged few" and pledges to stand up for "ordinary working class people" would never have been uttered by Mr Cameron and his chancellor.

Brexit means Brexit means more than just leaving the European Union

Mrs May described the shock vote to leave the EU as "a quiet revolution", the "deep roots" of which run back to the 2008 financial crash, and she promised to help disaffected families who "play by the rules" but still feel that life "isn't fair".

But there were no new policy details

Mrs May criticised companies that use "complex pricing structures", said it was "just not right" that rural areas do not get a proper broadband connection and hinted at moves to help the two thirds of energy customers who are "stuck" on the most expensive tariffs, without setting out any concrete policies.

The prime minister has a mystery injury

Aides were unable to explain why Mrs May was wearing a plaster on her left ring finger, although her decision to speak using paper notes rather than an Autocue may hint at a cut in rehearsals.

Theresa May's husband appears to be enjoying life at the top

Philip May was all smiles as he joined his wife on stage at the speech, readily posing for photos and waving to the adoring crowds, but his dark suit and blue tie were unlikely to spark the same attention as Samantha Cameron's outfits used to – rightly or wrongly.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access