British PM to tell her divided government to 'shape up'

2017-10-04 16:06
British Prime Minister Theresa May. (Jason DeCrow, AP)

British Prime Minister Theresa May. (Jason DeCrow, AP)

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Manchester - British Prime Minister Theresa May will on Wednesday admit her divided government must "shape up" to the challenges of Brexit and a resurgent opposition, as she wraps up her Conservative party conference.

The four-day gathering has been dominated by talk of ministerial rows over Britain's future outside the European Union, as well as May's own weakened position following an electoral setback in June.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who goaded her in the run-up to the event with outspoken interventions on Brexit, gave May his full support in his speech on Tuesday.

But she is under growing pressure over negotiations in Brussels, while the increasing popularity of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn poses a threat.

In her closing speech, May will say it has "never been my style to hide from a challenge" - and remind her ministers of the responsibilities of power.

"The daily lives of ordinary working people go on. And they must be our focus," she will say, according to extracts released by her office.

She will add: "Let us shape up and give the country the government it needs."

Many delegates gathered in Manchester, northwest England, have been irritated by the talk of government splits and speculation about Johnson's ambitions.

"I was cross with him before, but he behaved," said Penny Pendleton, 58, from Tunbridge Wells in southeast England, after the foreign secretary's speech.

"We do not want another election. We've got to get on with it."

'It's not miserable' 

Audrey Graham, a delegate from Bury, near Manchester, said she wanted a positive message from the prime minister in her closing address.

"It's been really hard for her but we really are behind her. Now we need a bit of uplifting," she told AFP.

May has struggled to reassert her authority since calling the snap election in June, only to lose the Conservatives' majority in the House of Commons.

Her own performance was blamed, but the Labour party also did better than expected, as young voters flocked to Corbyn's left-wing vision.

In Manchester, cabinet ministers have been lining up to condemn the Labour leader, with Johnson accusing him of "economic masochism" and joking he would like to send him into space.

But May also announced a number of policies clearly targeting the youth vote, prompting Corbyn to accuse her of having "no ideas and no plan for Britain".

The prime minister is also under pressure from members of her own party and from Brussels over the Brexit negotiations, which are moving slowly.

The European Parliament overwhelmingly backed a motion on Tuesday calling for trade talks to be delayed, saying negotiations so far had not made enough progress.

May, who took office after David Cameron resigned following the Brexit referendum last year, has appeared tired in recent days, prompting questions about her enthusiasm for the top job.

"It's not miserable," she told Channel Four television on Tuesday.

"The reason it's not miserable is because as prime minister I can ensure that government takes decisions that really improve people's lives."

Read more on:    theresa may  |  uk  |  politics

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