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In quotes: Theresa May's Conservative Party Conference speech

Jake Cordell
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Conservative Leader Theresa May Addresses Party Conference
Theresa May roused the Conservative Party with an hour-long speech at the party conference in Birmingham (Source: Getty)

Theresa May has promised to reset the Conservative Party's relationship with capitalism, crack down on immigration and intervene in a host of "dysfunctional markets".

In her speech to the Conservative Party Conference the new Prime Minister addressed everything from Brexit to grammar schools to corporate governance and focused on the theme of "change". Here are the key quotes.

On "change"

The former home secretary mentioned the top political buzzword on 21 occasions in her hour-long speech in Birmingham, including:

"In June people voted for change. And a change is going to come."

"A change has got to come. And this party – the Conservative Party – is going to make that change."

On 23 June vote

Theresa May, who officially campaigned to stay in the European Union, championed the UK's vote to break away form the 28-member bloc:

"A quiet revolution that took place in our country just three months ago – a revolution in which millions of our fellow citizens stood up and said they were not prepared to be ignored anymore.

"This is a turning point for our country. A once-in-a-generation chance to change the direction of our nation for good.

On Leave voters

"Listen to the way a lot of politicians and commentators talk about the public. They find your patriotism distasteful, your concerns about immigration parochial, your views about crime illiberal, your attachment to your job security inconvenient.

"They find the fact that more than 17m voters decided to leave the European Union simply bewildering."

On the plans for Brexit

Theresa May arrived in Birmingham amid reports of squabbling, disagreements and a general lack of direction over the plans for leaving the EU. She sought out to put the record straight:

"Do we have a plan for Brexit? We do.

"Let’s be clear about what is going to happen: Article 50 triggered no later than the end of March. A Great Repeal Bill to get rid of the European Communities Act – introduced in the next parliamentary session. Our laws made not in Brussels but in Westminster.

A ram-packed conference hall watches their leader outline her plans for Britain

On negotiations with the EU

While outlining her dream scenario of free trade in services, goods and capital with restrictions on immigration, May also indicated she was willing to compromise:

"It is, of course, too early to say exactly what agreement we will reach with the EU. It’s going to be a tough negotiation, it will require some give and take. And while there will always be pressure to give a running commentary, it will not be in our national interest to do so.

"But let me be clear about the agreement we seek: I want it to involve free trade, in goods and services. I want it to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within the Single Market – and let European businesses do the same here.

"But let’s state one thing loud and clear: We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration all over again. And we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. That’s not going to happen."

On picking winners:

May, who kept deafeningly quiet in the referendum campaign, knows a thing or two about how to come out on the right side of things. Yet she gave some confusing signals as to exactly what the government means by its new industrial strategy:

"Philip Hammond and Greg Clark are working on a new industrial strategy to address those long-term structural challenges and get Britain firing on all cylinders again.

"It’s not about picking winners, propping up failing industries, or bringing old companies back from the dead.

"It’s about identifying the industries that are of strategic value to our economy and supporting and promoting them through policies on trade, tax, infrastructure, skills, training, and research and development.

"We will identify the sectors of the economy – financial services, life sciences, tech, aerospace, car manufacturing, the creative industries and many others – that are of strategic importance to our economy, and do everything we can to encourage, develop and support them."

May's top team watch on

On the rich and powerful

May also tried to put some distance between claims the Conservative Party only represents the top of British society:

"I understand the frustration people feel when they see the rich and the powerful getting away with things that they themselves wouldn’t dream of doing"

"If we act to correct unfairness and injustice and put government at the service of ordinary working people – we can build that new united Britain in which everyone plays by the same rules, and in which the powerful and the privileged no longer ignore the interests of the people."

On the Labour Party

Stealing one of the most famous monikers, which she herself coined, used to attack the Conservatives, May said:

"The Labour Party is not just divided, but divisive. Fighting among themselves. Abusing their own MPs. Threatening to end their careers. Tolerating anti-Semitism and supporting voices of hate.

"You know what some people call them? The nasty party."

On Boris Johnson

There were also some choice words for her foreign secretary, and a pointed warning to stay in her good books:

"When we came to Birmingham this week, some big questions were hanging in the air: Can Boris Johnson stay on message for a full four days?"

Over the roar of the conference hall, she stared into the former Mayor of London's eyes: "Just about."

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