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  1. ITV Report

Theresa May pledges caps on energy prices in dramatic conference speech interrupted by prankster Simon Brodkin

  • Video report by ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston

Theresa May battled through a keynote speech plagued by a prankster, a persistent cough and the background of the stage falling down.

The Prime Minister's appearance at the Conservative Party Conference was interrupted by comedian Simon Brodkin who handed her a "P45" on Wednesday.

Mrs May then interrupted herself repeatedly by breaking out into a series of coughing fits, battling a sore throat.

And her luck appeared to be out as part of the stage fell down behind as she concluded her talk.

Amid the drama, the Prime Minister revealed that caps on energy prices would be imposed under planned legislation.

She also pledged an additional £2 billion for the construction of affordable housing.

Mrs May began her address by apologising for the Conservatives' performance at the General Election - saying she took responsibility.

She said the campaign "fell short", describing it as "too scripted and presidential".

"I hold my hands up for that. I take responsibility. I am sorry," she told the Manchester crowd.

Key points from speech:

  • Cap on energy prices to be introduced
  • Additional £2 billion for affordable housing
  • May says poor General Election campaign is her fault
  • Prankster Simon Brodkin hands May a 'P45' sheet
  • Prime Minister battles through losing her voice

At a conference which had already been overshadowed by talk of a leadership bid by Boris Johnson, the pressure was on for Mrs May to deliver a convincing speech.

Her overriding theme was the idea of the "British dream" and "restoring hope" that living standards would rise for the next generation.

But Mrs May's speech was peppered with interruptions - firstly by prankster Simon Brodkin and then as she lost her voice.

Brodkin, also known by character name Lee Nelson, thrust a "P45" at her as she spoke from behind a lectern, saying he had been put up to it by Boris Johnson.

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She maintained her composure as Brodkin was led away by security, and said: "I was about to talk about somebody who I would like to give a P45 to, and that's Jeremy Corbyn."

Police later revealed that Brodkin was in possession of official accreditation.

For most of her speech, Mrs May increasingly lost her voice, frequently sipping from water before Chancellor Philip Hammond came to the rescue by handing over a cough sweet.

She took to Twitter to poke fun at her unfortunate coughing episodes, after the speech.

Mrs May pledged an additional £2 billion for affordable housing. Credit: PA

She warned that energy firms faced a price cap on their "rip-off" bills under new plans.

Draft legislation for the measure will be published next week, Mrs May revealed, as she accused firms of punishing loyal customers.

She said: "While we are in favour of free markets we will always take action to fix them when they are broken.

"We will always take on monopolies and vested interests when they are holding people back.

"One of the greatest examples in Britain today is the broken energy market.

"The energy market punishes loyalty with higher prices and the most loyal customers are often those with lower incomes, the elderly, people with lower qualifications and people who rent their homes."

The Prime Minister lost her voice during parts of the speech. Credit: PA

Pledging an additional £2 billion for the construction of affordable accommodation, Mrs May said the money would be used for a "generation of new council houses".

Mrs May said local authorities and housing associations would be invited to bid for a share of the additional money to "allow homes to be build for social rent well below market level".

She said she would "take personal charge" of "getting government back into the business of building houses" and creating "a new generation of council houses to help fix our broken housing market".

Mrs May told house-builders that the Government will ensure that land is available for homes, and in return "you must do your duty to Britain and build the homes our country needs".

Mrs May was buoyed on by a cheering crowd during her speech. Credit: PA

The Prime Minister's speech was highly personal, referencing her reasons for entering politics.

She said that, even though she and her husband had not been able to have children, she wanted future generations to be able to enjoy better lives that those of their parents, something she described as the "British dream".

She won a standing ovation as she said: "It has always been a great sadness to me and Philip that we were never blessed with children. It seems some things in life are just never meant to be.

"But I believe in the dream that life should be better for the next generation as much as any mother, any father, any grandparent.

"The only difference is that I have the privileged position of being able to do more than most to bring that dream to life.

So I will dedicate my premiership to fixing this problem, to restoring hope, to renewing the British dream for a new generation of people."