What the papers say about Theresa May's conference speech

Reading The News

Thursday’s front pages will make agonising reading for Theresa May, as the fallout from her “nightmare” speech to the Conservative party conference continues.

Virtually all the broadsheets and the vast majority of the tabloids led with the address, which was overshadowed by a faulty backdrop and coughing fits from the prime minister, who was handed a P45 by a prankster. May will find the reaction from normally supportive elements of the national press particularly concerning, with some papers even suggesting her future in No 10 is now in major doubt.

May is on a “final warning” after the “most shambolic conference speech in memory”, according to the Times, which reports that Tory MPs now see the prime minister as “one crisis from the exit”. The paper also notes how the address was supposed to settle questions over her “authority and resilience” for the job.

The Daily Telegraph also claims the prime minister’s future is “hanging in the balance”, following what it described as a “disastrous” speech. The paper, which yesterday used a front-page headline to describe Boris Johnson as “the roaring lion”, does give the prime minister some sympathy, blaming a “triple dose of bad luck” for the crisis engulfing May’s premiership.

The Sun runs with “Things can only get letter” above a picture of a faulty Conservative party slogan. “Words fail … after letters fell off slogan”, reads their caption.

Theresa May suffered a Tory conference nightmare yesterday when her speech was hit by a string of disasters. The PM’s keynote address was meant to set out her vision for the nation. But it turned into a shambles…

The Guardian uses three uncomfortable pictures to illustrate the headline “Coughing and spluttering – May’s British dream turns into a nightmare”. The paper says the “most personal speech of her tenure” backfired and “mishaps raise fresh concerns among party critics”.

The i newspaper says the speech was “overshadowed by farce”, reporting that Tory critics have seized on the “chaos as (a) metaphor for her leadership”.

The Independent’s digital front page adds to the criticism, saying the speech “laid to waste hopes it would rejuvenate her embattled leadership”, after descending into “chaos”. Their sketch writer, Tom Peck, writes: “It was when the set started falling apart that the prime minister realised everything was going to be all right. ‘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.’”

The Financial Times – which attracted heavy criticism at the conference – uses an awkward shot of three cabinet ministers, Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd and Boris Johnson, watching from their seats, and says “speculation on leadership” has resurfaced.

A positive spin from the Daily Express might give the prime minister some comfort, as the paper suggests she managed to “overcome” the prankster and coughing fits, urging readers to “trust Theresa’s fighting spirit”. They are nonetheless one of a number of publications to use the word “nightmare”.

The Daily Mail also opted for optimism, quoting a Quentin Letts sketch to place the blame on “a nitwit prankster [and] wretched freakish luck”, whilst they focus on organ donations in their main story.

Meanwhile in Scotland, the National runs with the cheeky headline “Disast r Zone”, in reference to the falling letters. “May’s big speech lurches from embarrassment to catastrophe”, the paper adds, alongside a gallery of 12 awkward pictures from the speech. The Scotsman ominously suggests May has now lost “what was left of her authority”.

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