A prankster and a nagging cough: 5 things that happened during Theresa May’s speech


A prankster and a nagging cough: 5 things that happened during Theresa May’s speech

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, England, Wednesday wasn’t the authoritative, commanding keynote she needed to relaunch her premiership among a divided cabinet.

Instead, the performance was, at many times, hard to watch.

Here are five things that happened during (and after) May’s speech:

She was pranked by a comedian.

Comedian Lee Nelson (real name Simon Brodkin) walked up to the stage minutes after May began her speech. 

Nelson handed May a P45 form, which employees in the United Kingdom are given when they leave a company — similar to the U.S. version of a “pink slip” — and said Boris Johnson told him to give it to her.

Johnson, former mayor of London and Britain’s current foreign secretary, is known for his conservative politics, which some called divisive, and criticism of May. He was one of the leaders behind the Brexit campaign.

He was briefly arrested, according to the BBC, but released shortly after.

Nelson is most infamous for a 2015 incident when he ran onstage as Kanye West was performing.

A nagging cough marred her delivery.

May’s persistent coughing fits didn’t help and, at times, her address was almost too difficult to watch.

“Sometimes,” the New York Times reported, “she seemed almost to be reduced to a faltering whisper.”

Parts of the stage literally fell apart.

Furniture on the stage from which May spoke began to fall.

Eventually, the slogan on the conference stage backdrop behind her, which read “Building a country that works for everyone,” lost the letter “f” in “for” and the last “e” in “everyone.”

“The speech highlighted the problems confronting Mrs. May — her battle to complete it seeming to some like a metaphor for her struggling premiership, the set of mishaps overshadowing the messages she hoped would dominate the news,” the New York Times reported.

The Frida Kahlo jewelry she wore during the speech caused quite the chatter.

May donned a bracelet with self-portraits of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo during her address.

Kahlo, who has become a feminist icon over the years, was a communist believed to have had an affair with revolutionary communist Leon Trotsky himself.

May wore the jewelry during a speech in which she was keen to criticize the politics of rival and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who in the 1980s called for the “complete rehabilitation” of Trotsky.

At one point during her speech, May said, “I was about to talk about someone I'd like to give a P45 to and that's Jeremy Corbyn.”

But after the mishaps, May made light of the situation.

With a hint of self-deprecation and some humor, May’s team tweeted out a photo of her speech, cough drops and water with a charming one-worded caption.

While many criticized May’s often difficult-to-watch performance, others like party member Joe Porter, said May’s determination to finish the address showed her “professionalism.” “We are all human beings, we all get coughs,” he told the New York Times.

During her speech, May promised to aid the country’s housing crisis and build more homes and also spoke about a cap on energy prices.

Watch the full speech:

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