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Theresa May struggles to sell vision of the 'British Dream'

Theresa May was beset with coughing fits and interupted by a protest and faulty lettering at her party's annual conference. She attempted to sell her position as a free market enthusiast but also a compassionate leader.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday struggled to outline her ambitions for her country's post-Brexit future at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester as her voice faltered.

In her "British Dream"-themed speech, May said the UK was focused on reaching a deal with the European Union, but if negotiations fell through that she was more than prepared to proceed without one.

But as she attempted to detail how her government would lead a nation unable to secure to deal with the EU, she was reduced to a coughing fit. Sympathetic applause, and a throat lozenge from the British chancellor, gave her time to recover but she was reduced to a pale croak several times throughout her speech.

May sought to embrace the funny side afterwards, posting an image on Twitter of her speech, various cough lozenges and medications, and a glass of water.

Read more: Boris Johnson under fire for 'dead bodies' in Libya quip

As she attempted to outline her vision of a free market economy, she was interrupted by a prankster handing her a P45 tax form, a termination of employment document, saying it was courtesy of Foreign Minister Boris Johnson. The prank was led by Simon Brodkin, a British comedian who has previously targeted US President Donald Trump and former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

And even the Conservative soundbites weren't playing ball. Mid-way through May's address the "f" in the slogan "building a country that works for everyone" came loose and fell off the blue wall behind her. 

More of the letters came loose over time, as shown in the image at the top of the story.

'We want you to stay'

Once back on track she promised EU citizens who were worried about their future in a post-Brexit Britain that they would be welcome.

"If you are a citizen of the EU who has made their life in this country, I know you will feel unsettled and nervous, but let me be clear that we value the contribution that you make to our country. You are welcome here. And I urge the negotiation teams to reach agreement and reach agreement quickly because we want you to stay," May told the party faithful.

Read more: EU lawmakers slam lack of Brexit progress, putting trade talks out of reach

May said her country aimed to be a world leader in global trade, pursing new free trade agreements across the world.

"We will build an outward-looking Britain" (addressing things) "like mass migration, modern slavery and climate change. And we will provide a moral lead to the world."

She slammed secessionist movements in Scotland and Ireland saying they wanted to "drive us apart."

May attempted to sell her credentials on humanity saying the Labor Party "does not have a monopoly on compassion." She pledged to change organ donation to an opt-in system, reduce racial disparity and address housing affordability.

She apologized for her party's losses in the June elections and took responsibility for them. "I led the campaign. And I am sorry," May said.

aw/rc (Reuters)

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