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UK’s Theresa May says sorry for poor election, vows social reforms

British Prime Minister Theresa May promised to put a price cap on energy bills and to get government back into the business of building public housing.

world Updated: Oct 04, 2017 23:48 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press
Associated Press, Manchester
Theresa May,British Prime Minister,Social reforms
Conservative Party Leader and Prime Minister Theresa May addresses delegates during a speech at the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central in Manchester Wednesday.(AP Photo)

British Prime Minister Theresa May apologised to her party Wednesday for a disastrous election result and promised economic help for struggling families, as she tried to restore momentum to a divided government.

In a Conservative Party conference speech full of idealistic language but interrupted by a prankster, May said the election campaign had been “too scripted, too presidential.”

“I led the campaign, and I am sorry,” she said.

The Conservatives are in a sour mood after June’s election — called early in hope of bolstering the party’s majority in Parliament — saw May’s government reduced to a minority administration. The poor result has left May weakened and struggling to unite a government divided over Brexit and other issues.

May closed the party’s annual conference with a speech telling ministers to “shape up” and focus on “the daily lives of ordinary working people.”

In a bid to appeal to middle- and lower-income voters, May promised to put a price cap on energy bills and to get government back into the business of building public housing.

British governments, including Conservative ones, built hundreds of thousands of homes in the decades after World War II.

But Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s decision in the 1980s to allow properties owned by local authorities to be sold to residents marked a major shift, and in the last two decades successive governments have largely left house-building to the private sector.

May promised “a new generation of council houses to help fix our broken housing market.”

Rising prices have made home ownership an increasingly elusive goal for many, especially in London and other big cities.

May needed a strong speech to help fight off rivals to her job, including ambitious Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

The address did not go entirely to plan. May struggled with a cough and hoarse voice that forced her to pause repeatedly.

Midway through the speech a prankster walked up and handed May a P45, the form given to people being laid off.

As he was bundled away by security, the joker — identified in media reports as comedian Simon Brodkin — said “Boris told me to do it.”

First Published: Oct 04, 2017 18:25 IST