19:00 GMT +323 July 2018
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    A member of the audience hands a P45 form (termination of employment tax form) to Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May as she addresses the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, October 4, 2017.

    Was Theresa May's Speech Her Political Epitaph?

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    Neil Clark

    Before this week's Conservative Party conference in Manchester it looked likely that Prime Minister Theresa May would stay in her job until at least 2019. But after a calamitous speech to the party faithful, in which just about everything that could go wrong, did, May's days at Number Ten now appear to be numbered.

    May's big message was 'The British Dream' but sadly for her, her address turned into a ruddy nightmare.

    Her delivery was nervous. Struggling with a cold all week, she had coughing fits and her voice was weak and croaky throughout. She had to  stop several times to drink water and at one point was given a lozenge. She got her words mixed up- at one point saying that Labour was preparing for a 'a run on the ground' instead of 'a 'run on the pound- conjuring up images of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell in jogging pants.

    It didn't help that a comedy prankster interrupted her speech to hand her a P45 (the traditional form given to employees leaving their jobs) which he said he'd been asked to do by Boris Johnson. If that wasn't embarrassing enough, unbeknown to May, letters began to fall off from the backdrop- so that in the end the message behind her read 'Building a country that works or everyon'.

    May's speech  was- literally- a case of 'F off'- and 'dropping 'E'. Piers Morgan called it 'the biggest speech fiasco in political history'- and  he probably wasn't exaggerating.

    How relieved May must have been to get off the podium at the end.  You didn't have to be a supporter to feel sorry for her. Anyone who engages in regular public speaking will dread days like this. To her credit, May did battle on and finish her address. Conservative Minister Penny Morduant had a point when she tweeted

    Quite unintentionally the PM is demonstrating that she's got the balls, stamina, SOH & warmth for the task ahead. Speech not needed!

    But politics is a dirty old game and the Tories have historically been ruthless in getting rid of leaders who they believe are past their sell-by date. Margaret Thatcher won three elections in a row but was still ditched when it looked like she might lose the fourth. Iain Duncan Smith didn't even get the chance of fighting one general election- he was given his P45 just a few weeks after his excruciating 'The Quiet Man is here to stay and he's turning up the volume' speech at the party  conference in 2003.

    What's been holding the Tories back from moving against May up to now is the fact that a new leader would be expected to go to the country — within a reasonable timeframe — to get a democratic mandate.

    And with Labour showing a consistent lead in the polls that would be fraught with danger.

    Even so, after Manchester, May looks to be fatally wounded. Like predators stalking a wounded beast, her ambitious rivals will now be moving in for the kill. They're probably ready to take the risk that they could be Prime Minister for just a few months — and hope that in an election campaign — and with the majority of the mainstream media behind them,  they'd be able to get the better of Jeremy Corbyn.

    Boris Johnson's odds of becoming the next PM have shortened from 9-2 to 4-1. David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, is second favourite at 13-2, while Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd and Jacob Rees-Mogg are all 8-1. Ruth Davidson (at 14-1) has support from some influential people. And don't rule out Priti Patel, currently a 20-1 shot.

    How things have changed from April! Back then Theresa May's position looked absolutely secure- and it was Labour's Jeremy Corbyn who looked threatened. But now May is 1-12 to be the first leader to resign, while Jezza, whose position has never been stronger, is 6-1. It's because of Corbyn's advance that May has had to shift 'left' and adopt some Labour policies. She pledged to an energy bills price cap today- a policy that was derided as being 'Marxist' and 'hard-left' when 'Red Ed' Miliband put it forward in 2013. And —breaking from Thatcherism still further- she also announced plans for a 'rebirth' of council house building.

    In the end though, unfortunately for Mrs May, it probably won't be the policies announced in her speech for which it will be remembered.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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    party conference, prankster, political agenda, prank, speech, British Conservative Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May, Manchester, United Kingdom
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