Theresa May isn’t much of a dancer. So the British Prime Minister’s decision to sway onto stage at her party’s annual gathering, accompanied by a blast of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” was a brave attempt to shrug (and shuffle and swivel) off memories of a disastrous speech last year.
To rapturous applause at the Conservative conference in Birmingham, England, she twirled somewhat awkwardly into the auditorium — a self-deprecatory reference to dance moves she displayed on a recent visit to Africa.
The dance moves were part of an opening sequence in which she sought to dispel memories of a poor speech at the same event last year, when she was plagued by a cough, a prankster, and the signage falling from the stage behind her.
“You’ll have to excuse me if I cough during this speech. I’ve been up all night supergluing the backdrop,” joked May.
The idea of dancing into the conference hall came from May herself, a source close to the Prime Minister told CNN.
The Swedish ambassador to the UK, Torbjörn Sohlström, was quick to congratulate May on her choice of song, tweeting, “I can only say Bravo to Theresa May for starting her conference speech with ABBA’s Dancing Queen.”
Revenge of the ‘Maybot’
For a politician who has earned the nickname “the Maybot” for her stilted, robotic style, May appeared keen to lighten the mood at a conference dominated by questions about her leadership.
She said business leaders may have heard a “four-letter word” to describe what the Conservatives want to do to them with Brexit. “It ends with the letter k,” she said before delivering the punchline.
The one-liners didn’t end there, with references to the hugely popular BBC drama “Bodyguard” in which (spoiler alert!) the character of the home secretary — a government post previously held by May — has a steamy affair with her protection detail.
“Let me tell you — it wasn’t like that in my day,” May said.
That said, not everyone was impressed with May’s suggestion of a Festival of Brexit Britain in 2022, to celebrate the nation’s achievements — much like the historic Festival of Britain some 70 years ago.
“Just as millions of Britons celebrated their nation’s great achievements in 1951, we want to showcase what makes our country great today,” said May.
Twitter users were quick to dredge up images of apocalyptic amusement parks in response.
The Prime Minister’s speech comes amid mounting pressure to reassert her authority, just hours after one member of Parliament signed a a letter of no confidence in her leadership.
The previous day, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson launched a scathing attack on May’s Brexit plan — known as “Chequers” after the Prime Minister’s country residence where it was approved by the Cabinet in July.
“This is the time to chuck Chequers,” Johnson told the Conservative conference on Tuesday in a speech widely regarded as the opening salvo in a pitch for the leadership.
On Wednesday the Prime Minister stood firm on her deal, telling the conference, “No one wants a good deal more than me, but that has never meant getting a deal at any cost.”
“Britain isn’t afraid of leaving without a deal if we have to,” she added.