Theresa May’s 2018 conference speech was on a completely different level when comparing it to last year. The Prime Minister knows that her party is badly fractured, and in her speech, she attempted to unite the party. She raised a number of issues and announced a variety of new government policies. Party members queued for over two hours just to get a seat in the conference hall and listen to their leader. In this speech, there was no protester, no collapsing walls, and no sore throat. Instead, this speech demonstrated her compassion, and her genuine desire to make the UK a wonderful country to live in.
Perhaps the most memorable part of her speech was her entrance; dancing onto the stage with the song “Dancing Queen” by ABBA in the background. Pundits on the BBC were shocked, and you could even hear them gasping as they watched. However, despite it looking a tad cringe, it also showed that she is a human being, and her jokes at the beginning of the speech referring to last year’s conference disaster was cheerful and amused the hall.
This year’s conference phrase was “opportunity”, but everyone knew that it was about uniting the party and preparing it for the difficult next 6 months. Mrs May referred to the First World War when mentioning the need for unity. Shortly after this, she strongly attacked the Labour frontbench, and referred to past Labour leaders who would have stood up against the current Anti-Semitism creeping amongst the left-wing of the Labour party. Diversity was also a key focus point for Mrs May, as she proudly mentioned the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davison, who is having a baby with her female partner, and also announcing the Conservative London Mayoral candidate who came from the Windrush generation. It is clear that the Conservatives have radically changed in this century and can now celebrate their diversity.
The NHS was a big talking point for the PM, and she proudly declared that she will be giving more funding to Cancer treatment and set out ambitious targets; for the survival rate to increase from 1 in 2, to 3 in 4. There was a personal touch when discussing the NHS; Theresa May sadly lost a god-daughter to cancer, and it was obvious that she was genuinely committed to helping the best health service in the world. Earlier this year, the government declared they will be giving the NHS an extra £394 million a week as a Brexit divided for the institution’s 70th birthday present. Labour will undoubtedly ignore these promises and ask why the Conservatives have left it this late to invest in the NHS. Nevertheless,
As she worked her way through the speech, people were waiting for her to speak about Brexit and the “Chequers Plan”. When the topic arose, the PM briefly made a case for her Chequers Plan, but then swiftly moved onto the new immigration policy. She announced that “free movement” would end and migrants will be selected based on their skills and not their country. Moreover, she said that ending free movement would allow British businesses to train up young British people. Obviously, everyone knew that leaving the EU would mean an end to free movement, but it was a valuable point to make whilst trying to unite the party members.
One audience member was utterly shocked and loudly gasped when Theresa May announced the “best of Britain” year-long festival in 2022. No one expected this policy to be valid, but the Prime Minister said it would ensure that we show the world how brilliant the UK is. A large bulk of this speech was boasting about Britain, because the PM knows that confidence in business and Brexit will lead to economic security rather than uncertainty. Moreover, she mimicked Labour’s “for the many not the few” phrase multiple times and was sending a message to the world to “back British businesses”. Labour held their conference last week, and announced a policy of workers “becoming shareholders”, but Theresa May attacked them, saying that businesses would leave Britain, and that the policy would mean returning back to the 1970’s.
There was nothing but amazement from party members as they were interviewed after the PM’s speech. It is clear that members want a united Conservative Party and they genuinely believe Britain can be brilliant after we have left the EU. Before her speech, Mrs May would have been desperately hopeful that it would not be a repeat of last year, and that she would unite her party members. She has managed to do both, and has also secured her job as party leader for many years to come. Prime Minister May delivered a fantastic and faultless speech, but will this lead to unity with her rebellious MP’s? Only time will tell…