Hugh Pearson offers an alternative commentary of Theresa May’s finest hour
If Britain were a stage it would be this year’s Conservative party conference stage. Big, blue, British, and podiumed. Blue for Britain, blue for Brexit, blue for British values. Boiling Tory blue blood running through its great big British veins.
Theresa had wanted to keep the logo simple this time, something like, “Building a country that works for everyone” – that would be good. “Work”, “building”, “everyone”, “that”, “a”, finally some words she could understand. Strong and stable was so last season, Theresa is so now.
In her full haunted-house-exhibit glory, she emerged. This time there were no Iris Apfel style necklaces weighing her down, Theresa needed maximum neck manoeuvrability in case of blow dart attack from Boris. Today she was keeping it simple, understated, sporting only a Frida Kahlo bracelet big enough to serve antipasti off its various surfaces. See! She likes Frida Kahlo, the intelligent, bisexual, non-binary artist buried under a communist flag with whom Theresa has almost too much in common. Fuck you Momentum.
She walked to the podium and stood still. A young Theresa had dreamt of this day back when she was a young droid on Tatooine. It was the post-election victory conference. Ok so she hadn’t been victorious exactly but my God was she still standing, blocking the doorway, holding various members of the cabinet hostage, primed and ready to change the locks to number 10 at a moment’s notice; a true professional.
The crowd, peppered with conservative activists, loyal *cough*(yes that is a joke) ministers, the world media and fans of the colour blue stared back at her adoringly, their queen of mediocrity.
It begun with an apology. It needed to. It had been sun-dried reptile Theresa’s campaign, her values, her dementia tax. A 20-point lead wiped out in one of the most funny, sorry, self-destructive campaigns ever. She conceded that she had been too scripted, too presidential, too god damn Maidenhead. Today was about setting the scene for the sequel, Theresa 2 Reloaded: Revenge of the Dead Eyed. “I am sorry” she sighed. The audience applauded, this was candid, human, no wonder her holiday on the yellow brick road was so long this year, the tin woman had come back with a heart!
There was talk of the “British Dream”, a promised land featuring a cap on energy bills FEAT Ed Milliband circa 2015, a review of the Mental Health Act (yay! a review….), money for additional housing, and a favourite amongst fans of lukewarm water temperature, the “we’ve been in government safe pair of hands” argument. This is the kind of rehashed, infecund garbage the Tory party can really rally behind. The crowd was delighted.
And then the fun started. A p45 levitated in front of Mrs May’s face. “Boris asked me to give you this” Simon Brodkin chortled as he added May to the group of the real heroes of our age (Donald Trump, Sepp Blatter, Judus) he had pranked before. May began to malfunction. She ignored, then stuttered, then she began to combust. This was rather good.
She started coughing. First, a clearing of the throat, then a realignment of phlegm, a cough here, a cough there. Theresa started to become hollow, now not only rhetorically but physically, she had started coughing up her organs onto the microphone. Philip Hammond intervened, a cough sweet and a joke from Theresa, hoorah! “Something for free from the chancellor!” May rasped. Who needs the NHS when we have this comedic genius in charge.
By now the whole audience was so nervous there was a feeling that if somebody sneezed particularly vociferously, the whole stage, along with May herself might keel over, her mind-numbing material wearing very thin.
In the front row, human waxwork Amber Rudd made the face of someone trying to hide the fact that they are mid-orgasm at a wake, gout poster boy Boris Johnson began to lubricate himself into oblivion and ageing star of CBBCs young Dracula Philip Hammond turned to stone. At one point Rudd was caught on camera having to literally tell Boris to stand up and applaud the dear leader. Gold.
The words written behind Theresa began to (f)all apart. The irony of a slogan talking about building a country printed behind a leader most (f)amous for her strong and stable soundbite (f)alling to pieces is almost beyond (f)iction (it was the letter ‘f’ that fell off). It was a fantastic, if somewhat on-the-nose art installation concerned with providing a visual aid to describe the current trajectory of the May era. Clear your diary, find a video of the letters falling off the slogan, spend a few hours watching over and over again in ecstasy.
Then it ended. Philip May rushed to comfort his wife and there were rumours that she was crying backstage away from the cameras. This was not the speech the party faithful wanted, but it was the speech they deserved.
Weirdly though, this was such a calamitous, image and soul crushing display that the strangest moment in this speech was my feeling at its conclusion. I felt sorry for her, and nobody should feel sorry for Theresa May. This should be remembered as a moment of political triumph.