It was when the set started falling apart that the Prime Minister realised everything was going to be all right. Phew, she thought. Thank goodness for that. I’ll just glance down at myself now, see that I’m fully naked, then all my teeth will fall out and I’ll wake up and start getting ready for that speech that I’ve got to give to save my career.
But, much to her disappointment, the Prime Minister found that she was not naked. The cameras were rolling. The hall was packed. At her feet was a P45 form she’d just willingly taken from a serial prankster. There were still ten pages of a seventeen-page speech to go, and she was entirely unable to speak.
It was a nightmare so richly layered it was almost as if it had been directed by Christopher Nolan. Time passed, seconds warped into hours, and as Theresa May moved deeper and deeper down through the levels of her own never-ending anxiety dream it became impossible to see how she might ever find her way out.
The sheer mindbending horror of it is arguably best captured in bullet point form.
She arrived on stage.
She was handed a P45 form by a comedian – and she took it.
She became unable to speak, and carried on speaking for around thirty minutes.
The backdrop fell apart.
What can you add, really? Oh yes, at the end, the Home Secretary, herself in the midst of a security scandal she hadn’t been in when the speech started, had to tell the rest of the Cabinet to stand up and clap.
Not for anything like the first time in recent years, the satirist is reduced to transcriber. A simple list of events adds up to the most unbelievable political speech of many, many years.
It is almost painful to have to put on the record that the speech had been trailed as “The British Dream” and not a single person watching was able to think of anything other than, say, suddenly having to resit exams without having revised, or pushing a trolley round a supermarket with no clothes on.
Certain phrases leap out in retrospect.
“I rely on the NHS!” was a particularly unfortunate rhetorical flourish for a Prime Minister seemingly dying in plain sight to have to croak out.
“When people ask me why I put myself through it,” she had said earlier. “I do it to give everyone in our country a voice.”
The atmosphere in the hall was, well, one of total agony. The crowd had just about calmed down from a frankly nervous few moments when an individual with clearly malign intentions had just breezily wandered up to the Prime Minister for reasons not instantly apparent.
Then, in a flash, the Prime Minister couldn’t speak. Literally couldn’t speak. Her lips moved but no sound emerged.
The press are typically handed printed copies of the speech as soon as it starts. People turned to one another, turning the pages, eyes agog at the sheer weight of verbiage still to go, wondering what on earth was going to happen, what horrors would fill the next thirty minutes of their lives.
The Chancellor handed her a lozenge. She put it in her mouth and made a self-deprecating joke. It was instantly apparent this too would compound her misery. You can’t give a speech while sucking a sweet. Not long later, inevitably, she had to spit it out. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, giving the ‘speech of her life’, spitting out a half-sucked sweet.
Then the backdrop turned out to be made of malfunctioning fridge magnets, and one by agonising one began slipping to the floor.
The British dream. The stuff of unimaginable nightmares.
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