Laura Pidcock, the newly elected MP for Consett, yesterday drew an unfavourable mention from Theresa May in her Conservative Party Conference speech in Manchester. 

Though she didn’t mention Pidcock by name, it was clear who the prime minister was alluding to when she said, “There is a big problem in our politics when an MP from one party refuses to be friends with those of another.”

“We must, all of us, look inside, consider how we conduct our politics in this country and find a better way.” 

May was referring to an interview Laura Pidcock gave in August in which said she had no interest in “being cosy” with Tory MPs. 

Ms Pidcock – the MP for North Durham – stated, “I have absolutely no interest in being friends with any of them. I have friends I choose to spend time with.”

“I go to Parliament to be a mouthpiece of my constituents and my class. I have no interest in chatting on.” 

Laura Pidcock did, however, stress she would work with MPs of other parties if it would help her constituents.

The criticism of Ms Pidcock came in a nightmare speech for Theresa May, which was plagued by interruptions, embarrassments and mishaps. 

May struggled with a bad cough throughout and at one point had to be handed a cough sweet by chancellor Phillip Hammond.

May’s speech was delivered in front of a backdrop that said, ‘Building a Britain that Works for Everyone’. It seemed that Tories were not, however, so good at building signs because – as May’s speech continued – first the letter ‘f’ then the letter ‘e’ fell off. 

The speech’s most bizarre moment occurred when comedian Lee Nelson interrupted the Prime Minister to hand her a spoof P45. May accepted the document, with Nelson saying he had been asked to give it to her by Boris Johnson. Nelson was ejected from the conference as delegates chanted “Out! Out! Out!” 

 

In another embarrassing incident, Home Secretary Amber Rudd was caught on camera having to urge Boris Johnson to stand as delegates applauded May.

Yet another awkward detail was that May gave her speech wearing a bracelet featuring images of the Mexican artist Frieda Kahlo. Kahlo was a committed communist who was the mistress of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky.

In her speech, Theresa May promised to cap energy bills and to invest £2 billion in affordable housing, though critics say this would fall well short of solving Britain’s housing crisis.

May also apologised for the Conservative’s lacklustre general election campaign saying, “I hold my hands up for that. I led the campaign. I am sorry.” 

In her criticism of Labour, perhaps still thinking of Laura Pidcock, the prime minister said, “Britain can do better than this. For this country is, and always has been, the home of tolerance, a bastion of freedom and a beacon of democracy.” 

Ms Pidcock received the backing of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over her comments in August.

Mr Corbyn said, “Laura Pidcock was saying it as she sees it, from the heart, from her region. I think Laura’s a fantastic MP.”

Friendships across party lines are not, however, uncommon in British politics. The late left-wing Labour MP Tony Benn, a mentor of Mr Corbyn, was friends with the Ulster Unionist firebrand Ian Paisley and with arch right-wing Tory Enoch Powell.

(Featured image courtesy of Tiocfaidh ar la 1916, from Flickr Creative Commons)

 




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