Theresa May vows to ‘shape up’ as she makes last ditch attempt to rescue gloomy conference

Theresa May pictured in the audience at the Conservative Party conference.

Theresa May pictured in the audience at the Conservative Party conference. - Credit: Empics Entertainment

Theresa May will vow to 'shape up and give the country the government it needs' when she addresses Conservative Party conference.

Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip arrive for the Conservative Party Conference in M

Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip arrive for the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Closing what has been a tricky gathering for the embattled prime minister she will hope to win over members and delegates who have questioned her leadership.

Her speech is expected to offer a positive view of the future post-Brexit and she will claim Britain has the opportunity to build a better future outside the European Union.

Addressing the conference in Manchester she will say: 'So let us do our duty by Britain. Let us shape up and give the country the government it needs.

'For beyond this hall, beyond the gossip pages of the newspapers, and beyond the streets, corridors and meeting rooms of Westminster, life continues – the daily lives of ordinary working people go on.


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'And they must be our focus today. Not worrying about our job security, but theirs. Not addressing our concerns, but the issues, the problems, the challenges, that concern them. Not focusing on our future, but on the future of their children and their grandchildren – doing everything we can to ensure their tomorrow will be better than our today.

'That is what I am in politics for. To make a difference. To change things for the better. To hand on to the next generation a country that is stronger, fairer and more prosperous.

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'None of this will be easy. There will be obstacles and barriers along the way.

'But it has never been my style to hide from a challenge, to shrink from a task, to retreat in the face of difficulty, to give up and turn away.

'And 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.

'That is the story of our party. That is the story of our country. And that is the resolve and determination we need as we turn to face the future today. So let us go forward together. Let us fulfil our duty to Britain.'

Mrs May will be hoping her speech will put a smile on the faces of delegates leaving Manchester. She had hoped this conference would be the start of her party's fight back but new policies on tuition fees and counter-terrorism laws have failed to catch the imagination.

There has been a flat feeling to the gathering thus far. The Conservative Party appears unsure about its direction. But there was some relief when Boris Johnson delivered a trademark speech full of bombast and gags.

'Let the Lion Roar' was the title of the foreign secretary's address – but the prime minister would prefer the lion to shut up.

The Tory faithful crammed into the conference hall to listen to Mr Johnson with the exception of one rather significant figure – Mrs May.

The PM decided it would be best to stay away, she did not want cameras in her face as she faked laughter at Mr Johnson's jokes. Let's be clear, there is no love lost between the foreign secretary and the prime minister at party conference in Manchester.

He told delagtes: 'Once again this country has had the guts to try to do something new and different to challenge received wisdom with a democratic revolution that we can turn into a cultural and technological and commercial renaissance.

'We can win the future because we are the party that believes in this country and we believe in the potential of the British people. We have been privileged collectively to be placed in charge of this amazing country at a critical moment in our history.

'We are not the lion. We do not claim to be the lion. That role is played by the people of this country. But it is up to us now – in the traditional non-threatening, genial and self-deprecating way of the British – to let that lion roar.'

Mr Johnson's repeated Brexit bombshells have become the story at this otherwise gloomy gathering. MPs and delegates are worried about the surge in the polls for Labour and have found it difficult to build any enthusiasm this week.

No East Anglian MPs were willing to speak out against the foreign secretary in public but one, who asked not to be named, did say Mr Johnson should back off and 'concentrate on the job we have to do in government'.

And that is the view of most of the Tories gathered in Manchester. They like Mr Johnson but they do not want to see the cabinet at war. They are petrified instability at the top will play into Jeremy Corbyn's hands.

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