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Theresa May’s British dream is a personal nightmare

Theresa May battled a persistent cough during the speech. Credit: PA

At the risk of not being wholly impartial (sorry Ofcom) I feel sorry for Theresa May.

To give the most important speech of her life, the one that would decide whether she keeps her job and home, with a tickle in her throat that would not be suppressed, and then to be punked by a comedian presenting her with a P45, well this was party conference as soap opera.

For those in the hall, she will be seen as having manifested all her famous virtues: unflappability, even when she could not have known whether the prankster meant her serious harm; steely resolve, to press on when she could barely speak.

Outside the hall it may not play so well.

Some will see the drama as a metaphor for a government that, since an election which saw its majority vanish, has not looked like the master of its own destiny.

The PM was also accosted by prankster Simon Brodkin. Credit: PA

As for what she said, the over-arching theme was what she called “renewing the British dream” - that life and living standards can improve once more for our children and grandchildren.

There were were two down payments on the “dream” - a promise to cap energy prices (well to keep a promise made in her election manifesto); and a useful though not transformative extra £2 billion for affordable housing, including council housing.

These initiatives will be criticised by some on the left as Corbyn lite or Diet McDonnell.

And by the right they may be seen as tainting her passionate defence of free markets, which she might claim as the intellectual heart of her speech (although she would always describe herself as a practical politician rather than an intellectual one).

Frustratingly for her it is not her “British Dream” which will lodge in the public consciousness - but the chaotic theatre, which also involved letters tumbling from the campaign slogan stuck on the wall behind her (“Building a country that works for everyone”, though apparently with insipid adhesive).

'Building a country that works or (sic) everyon (sic)'. Credit: PA

I am told that after she left the stage, the prime minister hugged her husband and wept.

No one would blame her.

PS. Downing Street insists “her crying is a total lie, 100% untrue”. I am obviously happy to report that.