May orders Tories to ‘shape up’ for Britain


Theresa May will try to reassert her authority on Wednesday when she urges Conservatives to “shape up and give the country the Government it needs”.

The embattled Prime Minister will deliver her first leader’s speech to the party conference since June’s botched election gamble, when the Tories lost their parliamentary majority.

Since then she has abandoned key pledges in the 2017 manifesto, tried to contain challenges to her approach on Brexit and dampened speculation about the length of her premiership.

Most recently, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson gave an interview to The Sun newspaper in which he appeared to set his criteria for Brexit, including limiting any implementation period to two years “and not a second more”.

This conference has been an attempt by the leadership to assert collective responsibility on Mrs May’s Brexit strategy, including a “status quo” transition, acknowledging the UK will offer to pay a “divorce bill”, and concessions on EU citizens rights.

The four-day event in Manchester has also seen a raft of new policy announcements on terrorism, online security, measures to crack down on knife crime and acid attacks, new money for nurses’ training and a freeze on tuition fees.

But a senior party figure told Sky News privately that the conference has “felt flat”, while another said the first day of speeches and announcements was “dire”.

Wednesday’s speech will fire a warning shot across the boughs of the party, as divisions over Brexit continue to surface.

On Tuesday, foreign minister Sir Alan Duncan said the EU referendum had caused working-class Britons to “throw a tantrum”.

Speaking in the US, he criticised the campaign – jointly run by his boss Boris Johnson – for stirring up “a lot of sentiment” about immigration.

Mrs May is expected to tell delegates to put country above party to help those struggling to get by in modern Britain.

“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,” she will say.

“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.”

Mrs May will also try to silence any speculation about her leadership as she tries to deliver Brexit.

The Prime Minister will say: “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.”