Thu | Dec 13, 2018

Cough, prankster make May's British Dream speech a nightmare

Published:Thursday | October 5, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Comedian Simon Brodkin, also known as Lee Nelson confronts British Prime Minister Theresa May during her keynote speech, at the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Central Convention Complex in Manchester, England,yesterday.


Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May promised to restore the "British Dream" yesterday, in a nightmare speech that saw her plagued by a cough and interrupted by a prankster, while parts of the backdrop fell down as she was speaking.

In a mishap-prone Conservative Party conference address, May vowed economic help for struggling families for whom "the British Dream that has inspired generations of Britons feels increasingly out of reach".

But a speech intended to strengthen her tenuous grasp on leadership was chaotically interrupted by a comedian who handed May an unemployment form. The party said it was reviewing security after the breach.

It was a shambolic end to a troubled convention. The Conservatives are in a sour mood after June's snap election called three years early in hopes of bolstering the party's majority in Parliament saw May's government reduced to a minority administration. The poor result has left May weakened and struggling to unite a government divided over Brexit and other issues.

May needed a strong speech to help fight off rivals to her job, including ambitious Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

But things did not go to plan. May struggled with a cough and a hoarse voice that forced her to pause repeatedly.

Midway through the speech a prankster walked up and handed May a P45 the form given to people being laid off in Britain.

As he was bundled away by security, the joker identified in media reports as comedian Simon Brodkin said "Boris told me to do it."

May's office said there would be a thorough investigation. Police said the man, who was briefly detained "to prevent a breach of the peace", had legitimate accreditation for the high-security conference.

Brodkin, whose stage name is Lee Nelson, has pulled off other high-profile stunts, including showering international soccer federation president Sepp Blatter with money during a 2015 press conference.

As May neared the end of her televised speech, two letters fell off the slogan on the wall behind her "Building a country that works for everyone."