Theresa May resets government policy in flagship conference speech

Jake Cordell
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Theresa May delivers Conservative Party Conference speech
Theresa May has delivered her second speech to the Conservative Party conference as leader and Prime Minister (Source: Getty)

Theresa May has promised to reset the Conservative Party's relationship with capitalism, free markets and business and stepped up her claims to be the representative of working-class Britain.

The Prime Minister also threatened to intervene in "dysfunctional" markets, tackle failing competition in the utilities sector, press ahead with reforms to boardroom pay and crack down on immigration.

In a self-defined pitch for the centre-ground of politics, May said she would "shift the balance in favour of ordinary working people and put fairness at the heart of our agenda to make sure hard work is rewarded and talent is welcome".

"In June people voted for change. And a change is going to come," the Prime Minister repeated, as she drew a clear line between her administration and that of her predecessor, David Cameron.

"Where markets are dysfunctional, we should be prepared to intervene. Where companies have deliberately complex pricing structures, we must set the company right."

Threatening to step in where markets were not working as she would like, May said: "It is just not right that companies and people in rural areas can't get good broadband.

"It is just not right that two-thirds of energy customers are stuck on the most expensive tariffs".

However, May's crackdown on business will not be limited to just certain sectors. The Prime Minister also said she will outline plans "to have not just consumers represented on boards, but workers, too".

In her second speech to the party conference as leader and Prime Minister, May also addressed criticism of her Brexit strategy head-on, attacking people who failed to understand why people voted to leave the EU, as she called the 23 June vote "a once in a generation change to change to direction of our country."

Confirming that immigration will be at the heart of the UK's exit negotiations, May directly linked immigration with unemployment and low pay for UK citizens, though did not mention the controversial proposals outlined by home secretary Amber Rudd to tighten the rules for workers hiring workers from outside the EU.

"It is, of course, too early to say exactly what agreement we will reach with the EU," May said. "It will be a tough negotiation, which will require give-and-take.

"I want it to reflect the strong and mature relationships we enjoy. I want it to include free trade on goods and services. I want to give companies the maximum freedom to trade within the Single Market, and for European companies to have the same freedoms.

"But we are not leaving the EU only to give up control of immigration all over again. We are leaving to become a fully sovereign and independent nation".

May also confirmed the government will make a final decision on expansion of either Heathrow or Gatwick "soon" and will prioritise other "controversial" projects such as HS2.

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