Theresa May’s conference speech: What she said... and what she really meant

‘When I find out who has been in power for the past six years, I’ll give them what for’

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Our Chief Political Commentator offers a translation of the Prime Minister’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham

What she said: When we came to Birmingham this week, some big questions were hanging in the air.

What she meant: Am I booked on the 1330 or the 1350 back to London?

Do we have a plan for Brexit? We do.

The plan is not to repeat “Brexit means Brexit” again because people are beginning to see through that one.

Are we ready for the effort it will take to see it through? We are.

Not remotely. But the people voted for it so I am bulletproof, whatever chaos and hardship lies ahead. 

I want to explain what a country that works for everyone means.

A country that works for everyone means a country that works for everyone. Next question.

Theresa May tells public to ‘come with me and seize the day’

No vision ever changed a country on its own. You need to put the hours in and the effort too. But if you do, great things can happen. Great changes can occur. And be in no doubt, that’s what Britain needs today. Because in June people voted for change. And a change is going to come.

You think I can’t compare the injustice of American blacks being turned away from a whites-only motel in Louisiana, the inspiration for Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”, and the oppression suffered by the British people under the yoke of Brussels? Try me.  

This is a turning point for our country. A once-in-a-generation chance to change the direction of our nation for good. To step back and ask ourselves what kind of country we want to be. Let’s be clear: we have come a long way over the past six years.

This is a turning point for my speech, as I say everything is rubbish and then praise the achievements of the clowns who have been in government for the past six years, including me.

And this morning it’s right that we pause to say thank you to the man who made that possible. A man who challenged us to change and told us that if we did then we would win again.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Nigel Farage. 

And he was right. We did change. We did win. 

Now we’ve got to change back.

If you’re one of those people who lost their job, who stayed in work but on reduced hours, took a pay cut as household bills rocketed, or – and I know a lot of people don’t like to admit this – someone who finds themselves out of work or on lower wages because of low-skilled immigration, life simply doesn’t seem fair.

It’s always easier to blame others, especially foreigners. But I’m a politician. I’ll give people what they think they want.  

Yet within our society today, we see division and unfairness all around. Between a more prosperous older generation and a struggling younger generation. Between the wealth of London and the rest of the country. But perhaps most of all, between the rich, the successful and the powerful – and their fellow citizens.

Whoever has been in charge for the past six years were a right bunch of divisive toffs. I’ll give them what for.

If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word “citizenship” means.

The referendum was a vote against the liberal metropolitan elite. You may have thought I was one of them, but I was just biding my time to break the system down from the inside.

A change has got to come. And this party – the Conservative Party – is going to make that change. 

Hence the new name, the Changeversative Party. 

Theresa May criticises ‘activist left-wing human rights lawyers’

Because that’s the good that government can do. And it’s what I’m in this for. To stand up for the weak and stand up to the strong.

What an amateur that Ed Miliband is. You can make the case for big government only if you are actually in government.

It is … time to reject the ideological templates provided by the socialist left and the libertarian right and to embrace a new centre ground in which government steps up – and not back – to act on behalf of us all.

The third way between old Labour and the new right. Forward not back to a new kind of Blairism.

The main lesson I take from their conference last week is that the Labour Party is not just divided, but divisive. Fighting among themselves. Abusing their own MPs. Threatening to end their careers. Tolerating anti-Semitism and supporting voices of hate. You know what some people call them? The nasty party.  

Too easy.

It took that typically British quiet resolve for people to go out and vote as they did: to defy the establishment, to ignore the threats, to make their voice heard. 

To defy the establishment, including me. But you know that because I’m a Remainer convert I absolutely have to deliver Brexit, unlike that potential backslider Boris Johnson. So stick with me.

Our judges sitting not in Luxembourg but in courts across the land.

And also in Strasbourg, because I don’t have the votes to take us out of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The people told us they wanted these things – and this Conservative Government is going to deliver them.

This is how democracy works, people.

Because while we are leaving the European Union, we will not leave the continent of Europe. We will not abandon our friends and allies abroad. And we will not retreat from the world. 

I commissioned a feasibility study, but I understand that – although I believe we could overcome the objections of the Irish government – harnessing continental drift to move the British Isles further into the Atlantic is too great an engineering challenge for the foreseeable future. 

And always committed to a strong national defence and supporting the finest Armed Forces known to Man.

I’m a feminist. I’m Prime Minister. I’ll use gendered language if I like.

The need to make big decisions on – and invest in – our infrastructure. The need to rebalance the economy across sectors and areas in order to spread wealth and prosperity around the country. Politicians have talked about this for years. 

Because there is rather little they can do about it. But I’m a new Prime Minister, so I can spout all this stuff afresh until the fine words wither on the vine of inevitability in a few years’ time.

That’s why Philip Hammond and Greg Clark are working on a new industrial strategy to address those long-term structural challenges and get Britain firing on all cylinders again. It’s not about picking winners, propping up failing industries, or bringing old companies back from the dead.

It’s about picking winners, propping up failing industries, and trying to bring old companies back from the dead.

It’s just not right that two thirds of energy customers are stuck on the most expensive tariffs. 

Do you know, I see people in Waitrose every weekend and they could save several pounds if they bought supermarket own-brand goods.

We can make these big decisions because our economy is strong and because of the fiscal discipline we have shown over the last six years. And we must continue to aim for a balanced budget.

We must continue to say that a balanced budget would be jolly nice but we’re not actually aiming for it.

We’re all Conservatives here. We all believe in a low-tax economy. But we also know that tax is the price we pay for living in a civilised society.

There’s an old saying that you can ignore everything before the “but”. That applies here. I am taking your most cherished beliefs, friends and fellow representatives, and I am going to trash them in the relentless pursuit of victory at the next election.

Let us take this opportunity to show that we, the Conservative Party, truly are the party of the workers, the party of public servants, the party of the NHS.

The Labour Party has gone absent without leave, so we can call ourselves what we like. Let’s make the most of it.

All that should matter is the talent you have and how hard you’re prepared to work.

I work until 2am and I don’t see why the rest of you shouldn’t too.

Our celebrated triathlon champion Jonny Brownlee was heading for glory, the finishing line in sight, when he faltered. Stopped. And was falling exhausted to the ground. And just behind him, his brother Alistair – a tough competitor who typically yields to no one – had the chance to run on and steal the prize. But seeing his brother’s struggle, he didn’t pass on by. As other competitors ran past, he stopped. Reached out his hand. And gently carried him home. And there in that moment, we saw revealed an essential truth. That we succeed or fail together. We achieve together or fall short together.

Let me tell you a parable of collectivism too toe-curling even for Tony Blair.

As I leave the door of my office at Number 10, I pass that famous staircase – the portraits of prime ministers past lined up along the wall … There’s Disraeli, who saw division and worked to heal it. Churchill, who confronted evil and had the strength to overcome. Attlee, with the vision to build a great national institution. And Lady Thatcher who taught us we could dream great dreams again.  

And one day there I will be on that wall, the Brexit Prime Minister, and I want to be remembered for something more than taking us out of the EU, which I argued for staying in.