Theresa May speech: Section of Prime Minister's address closely matches one given on The West Wing

Both Ms May and the fictional President Bartlet talk about their 'limitless' capacity to face a challenge

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Wednesday 04 October 2017 10:18
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Prankster delivers fake P45 to Theresa May during conference speech

Theresa May’s speech-writers have been left red-faced after it emerged a pre-briefed section of her keynote conference address closely matched one given by a fictional character in the TV show The West Wing.

The words used to set out her party’s abilities to meet the huge challenges facing the UK were similar to ones uttered by President Jed Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen in the hit programme.

It emerged hours before Ms May was to take to the stage in Manchester to address the party faithful in a bid to get her administration back on track.

A section of the speech briefed overnight had the Prime Minister saying: “It is when tested the most that we reach deep within ourselves and find that our capacity to rise to the challenge before us may well be limitless.”

The line was supposed to be a section of the speech boosting the Tory troops and calling on her cabinet to pull together and “shape up” in the national interest.

But political journalists who are among some of The West Wing’s biggest fans felt they had heard the passage before.

In episode one of season 4, entitled ‘20 Hours in America’, President Bartlet says: “Every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless.”

It would not be the first time that a politician’s speech has felt vaguely familiar.

Jeremy Corbyn’s conference speech in 2015 was followed by a row when it emerged the leadership team used a lengthy passage written years before by the author and former political adviser Richard Heller.

He had sent the same passage to Ed Miliband in 2011, and had offered versions of it to every leader since Neil Kinnock to no avail.

Kinnock himself had a speech plagiarised by US Democrat politician Joe Biden, albeit before he became a vice president in Barack Obama’s administration.

Mr Obama’s wife, Michelle, then had her own words closely mirrored by her successor as First Lady, Melania Trump.

A number of lines in the speech delivered by Trump at the 2016 Republican national convention appeared to have been lifted verbatim from Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic convention.

US First Lady Melania Trump gave a speech that in sections was almost exactly like one delivered by Michelle Obama 

Obama had said: “Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values, that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do.

“And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children – and all children in this nation – to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

Eight years later Trump told GOP delegates on Monday: “From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise.

“That you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son, and we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow, because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

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