THERESA May suffered a Tory conference nightmare yesterday as her speech was branded the worst ever.
The PM’s keynote address turned into a shambles as she was pranked, part of the set collapsed behind her and she suffered a coughing fit. One historian said: “It’s hard to think of a more diabolically disastrous speech.”
The PM’s address to close the Tories’ annual gathering was billed as her bid to win back angry voters.
But as loyal lieutenants rallied round her with sympathy, enemy Tory MPs launched a fresh bout of plotting to oust her.
The Sun can reveal that several Cabinet ministers judged Mrs May’s personal horror so serious that they rang No10 to insist she must not resign.
During the 66-minute long shambles:
Loyal ministers resorted to repeatedly leaping to their feet to give the PM a series of standing ovations during her coughing fits in the hope of giving her precious seconds to recover her voice.
During one, Home Secretary Amber Rudd was caught on camera ordering still sedentary Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to his feet to join in.
Chancellor Philip Hammond even handed the PM a cough sweet at the podium, allowing her to recover enough to get to the end.
As the PM finally finished the speech to activists’ relieved cheers, husband Philip May leaped onto the stage to give her a bear hug, and overheard telling her: "I'm proud of you".
The humiliated Tory leader tried to make light of the disaster by later tweeting a snap of her cough mixtures and throat lozenges, with the single word “*coughs*”.
But one stunned minister told The Sun his reaction to her speech was: "What the f–king f–k f–k f–k. F–k."
Aides blamed her loss of voice on themselves, for having put them PM through 28 different TV interviews and 19 receptions during the previous four days.
Senior Tories demanded answers from the police and conference organisers on how the multiple shambles could have been allowed to happen.
There were also calls for the party’s chairman Patrick McLoughlin to resign.
Political historians were also united in their grim verdict.
Professor Philip Cowley of Queen Mary University of London told The Sun: "It's difficult to think of a more disastrous conference speech in modern political history".
Historian Guy Walters added: "It's hard to think of a more diabolically disastrous and cringe worthy conference speech in modern political history.
“It's cute to tweet Strepsils, but the Tory party needs stronger medicine and indeed, a doctor who can work miracles."
The pitiful scenes overshadowed a series of big new policies.
Mrs May had unveiled a plan to build “a new generation” of council homes, enforce her long-promised energy cap, and pledged an opt-out system for organ donation as well as a major review of the heavily criticised 30 year-old Mental Health Act.
In a bid to reconnect with frustrated voters who have flocked to hard left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the PM also defined the mission for the rest of her Premiership as " to renew the British dream of progress between generations".
Mrs May also gave the party faithful her most direct and fulsome apology yet for botching June’s general election.
Admitting that the campaign was "too scripted and too presidential", the PM grovelled: "I hold my hands up for that. I take responsibility. I am sorry".
In a bid to overcome her 'Maybot' robotic image, Mrs May also delved deeper than ever before into her personal background and motivation to hold the nation’s top job.
She revealed her grandmother had worked as a domestic servant, and that it had been “a great sadness for me and Philip that we were never blessed with children”.
Cabinet ministers rallied to Mrs May’s side.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who appeared to have tears of sympathy in his eyes for her at one stage of the speech, said of her coughing fits: “I’m sure it made her come across as very human”.
Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson insisted: “If ever the PM needed a metaphor for service and duty through adversity, that battling performance was it. Huge respect.”
Philip Hammond said “she showed resilience."
And Boris Johnson tweeted: "Great job by the PM today putting housing at the heart of renewing the British dream".
But her critics leaped on the disaster.
One Tory MP said the speech meant “a leadership election must come and it must come soon.”
Another backbencher added: "As Napoleon always asked of those promoted to General: 'Are they lucky?'
I'm not sure Theresa May is lucky. An opportunity lost and there aren't many left".
Another minister claimed that Tory MPs were not ready to pounce on her, putting down the alleged plots to just “a good dose of Chinese whispers”.
Foreign Affairs committee chair and senior backbencher Tom Tugendhat added: “Funnily enough the party will love her for this.
“She showed dignity and courage.”
The botched speech delivery ended the four day gathering that had already been marred by bitter spats between Cabinet ministers, and Boris Johnson’s challenge to the PM’s authority on Brexit by spelling out four new red lines for her.
Amber Rudd admitted the Tory Party was shell-shocked at the start of conference.
Speaking ahead of the PM’s speech, the rising star conceded the atmosphere was “flat” before insisting the party had since rediscovered its “mojo”.
Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said after the speech: “This was the speech of a brave Prime Minister struggling on, while her disloyal Cabinet colleagues openly plot against her”.
But Labour leaped on it as a metaphor for her crumbling premiership.
Referring to the letter ‘F’ that fell from the slogan behind Mrs May, Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon taunted: “It's an F off to the country from Conservative Party Conference”.
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