UK: Theresa May turns left in Conservative Party speech

British PM pledges to spread wealth to working-class people in an unusual address from the Conservative leader.

Conservative Party Conference 2016
May was appointed prime minister after her predecessor, David Cameron, stepped down over Brexit [EPA]

British Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled on Wednesday what she called a new “vision” for the ruling Conservatives – to serve the country by spreading wealth more evenly and becoming the party for “ordinary working-class people”.

May, speaking on the final day of the Conservative Party’s annual conference, told members the government must tackle the problems that spurred millions of Britons to vote to leave the European Union at a referendum on June 23 – a decision she said was part of a protest against the “rich and powerful”.

She said she wanted a Brexit deal that offered “maximum freedom” to operate in Europe’s single market, but also emphasised that she wanted control over immigration.

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Attacking business leaders who abused the system to accrue wealth unfairly and the accountants who help them, she also said she would make sure that everyone “plays by the same rules”.

She described Britons’ decisions to leave the EU as a “quiet revolution” that saw the country take “control of our own destiny”.

Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Phillips, reporting from Birmingham, called it an “extraordinary speech” from a Conservative Party leader.

“An awful lot of talk about compassion, an awful lot of talk about state intervention – ‘government can be a force for good’. Well, you expect centre-left, left-wing parties to say those things.”


Phillips said the speech reflected May’s analysis of what happened at the Brexit referendum on June 23, when more than 17 million people expressed “a great cry of anguish, anger, and frustration.

“They weren’t simply saying take us out of the EU. They were also saying capitalism – globalisation if you have to call it that – isn’t working for us. She’s trying to make the Conservative Party more than just the party of the privileged few.”

On Sunday, May said she will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty before the end of March 2017, a two-year process that will divorce the UK from the European Union.

Britain’s allies fear its exit from the EU could mark a turning point in post-Cold War international affairs that will weaken the West in relation to China and Russia, undermine efforts towards European integration, and hurt global free trade.

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Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies