What Theresa May said when she launched her manifesto – and what she really meant

Our chief political commentator decodes the Prime Minister’s words at the launch of her programme for election in Halifax today

John Rentoul
Thursday 18 May 2017 14:42 BST
The PM reeled off some familiar soundbites at the Conservative manifesto launch this morning
The PM reeled off some familiar soundbites at the Conservative manifesto launch this morning (AFP/Getty)

What Theresa May said: Today, as we face this critical election for our country, I launch my manifesto for Britain’s future.

What she really meant: My manifesto. Mine. All mine. Everything you see before you belongs to me.

What she said: At this defining moment for the United Kingdom – as we embark on this momentous journey for our nation – we have a chance to step back and ask ourselves what kind of country we want to build together.

What she meant: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But before we take that step, let us step back and ask if we really want to go there. That Tony Blair was always on a stupid journey.

What she said: I believe we can – and must – take this opportunity to build a great meritocracy here in Britain. Let me be clear about what that means.

What she meant: Let me obfuscate and define what that means in terms that I can use to mean whatever I like.

What she said: It means making Britain a country where everyone – of whatever background – has the chance to go as far as their talent and their hard work will take them.

What she meant: Terms and conditions apply.

What she said: We need to look forward, not back.

What she meant: See what I did there? Forward, not back. Tony Blair’s slogan from the 2005 election. Anyone who voted for him feeling a bit queasy about Mr Corbyn? You know what to do.

What she said: Let us be in no doubt: it will not be easy.

What she meant: It’s a piece of cake. I’m really good at this.

What she said: There will be obstacles in our way. There will be some who wish us to fall short. Others who wish to hold us back. Many who will us to fail.

What she meant: No, wait. It will be very difficult. We will have to fight every inch of the way. Donate your money to us to keep the red tide at bay.

General Election polls and projections: May 18

What she said: We need a new contract between government and people.

What she meant: For those of you not sure what “manifesto” means.

What she said: This manifesto … identifies the five giant challenges that we face as a country.

What she meant: Everything in politics comes in fives. William Beveridges five giant evils. Gordon Brown’s five tests. Labour’s five pledges that John Prescott couldn’t remember. Luckily mine are on this autocue here. It’s too many to remember but it makes it sound as if I have pared down my priorities to the essentials.

What she said: I have been clear that we do not seek to fudge this issue [Brexit], to be half-in and half-out of the EU. The British people made their choice. I respect that.

What she meant: I can’t think of anyone, or any party, that is seeking to fudge the issue, can you?

What she said: We will forge a new deep and special partnership with Europe, but reach out beyond Europe to strike new trade deals.

What she meant: We will forge a new suspicious and hostile relationship with Europe as we are expelled to the outer darkness.

What she said: And if we get Brexit right, we can use this moment of change to build a stronger, fairer, more prosperous Britain here at home.

What she meant: What do you think I am, a miracle worker?

What she said: People in Britain today … are not ideological. They don’t buy into grand visions. They aren’t fooled by politicians who promise the earth and claim no tough choices are required.

What she meant: They are fooled by politicians who promise the moon and permanent Conservative government.

General Election round-up: May 17

What she said: With the right Brexit deal secured, my mainstream government will deliver for mainstream Britain.

What she meant: What people want is Brexit plus Blairism.

What she said: And it is why the Government I lead will be relentless in tackling burning injustices like discrimination on the basis of race, gender, mental health or disability. For injustice is a scar on the soul of our nation and I will fight it wherever it is found.

What she meant: Labour rhetoric from a Conservative government could be even more popular than Conservative rhetoric from a New Labour government.

What she said: And it is why in this election – more than in any before – it is time to put the old, tribal politics behind us and to come together in the national interest.

What she meant: Time to put the old tribal politics of Jeremy Corbyn behind us and unite behind me. I am aiming for 98 per cent.

What she said: Because every vote for me and my team in this election will strengthen my hand in the negotiations to come.

What she meant: Every vote for me gives me even greater supernatural powers.

What she said: So I offer myself as your Prime Minister.

What she meant: You can shut up with that “unelected Prime Minister” nonsense now.

What she said: With ... optimism that I can get a deal that works for all...

What she meant: If the other EU leaders play hard ball, I’m done for.

What she said: That is the goal. This is the plan. And now is the time.

What she meant: The congregation will stand and sing hymn number 232, “Why, my soul, thus trembling ever”.

What she said: So join me on this journey... And with confidence in ourselves and a unity of purpose in our country, let us all go forward together.

What she meant: I’m on a journey, with the ghost of Tony Blair, the party formerly known as the Conservatives and everyone else who thinks Jeremy Corbyn is a silly billy.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in