‘Poor Theresa May': how European newspapers reacted to PM’s speech – The Guardian

European newspapers were brutal on Theresa May’s mishap-strewn Conservative party conference speech, with verdicts ranging from “a fiasco” to “fatal” via an awful lot of “British dreams turning to nightmares”.

In France, Libération’s London correspondent said the prime minister’s keynote closing address to the conference had “turned to torture” thanks to “a prank by a comedian, a terrible coughing fit and a set that fell apart”.

It needed to be a success, the paper said, “but it was a catastrophe – a long nightmare worthy of an episode of the famous series The Thick of It … that left Theresa May drained of blood, in pieces, and perhaps on the way out”.

Le Monde said the prime minister had been left fragile after a conference speech that was supposed to mark her return. “In politics, coughing fits can be fatal,” the paper said. “Those suffered by May … seem a metaphor for her political weakness.” For Le Figaro, “she arrived weak, and finished on her knees, close to tears”.

Germany’s Bild, in a report headlined “Everything went wrong for Lady Brexit”, said May “seemed unsettled, and radiated anything but security and authority”, while the business paper Handelsblatt went with: “May coughs, the Conservatives suffer.”


Everything that went wrong during Theresa May’s speech – video

The paper said the image was fatal. “As human as it is to have a coughing fit, as much as sympathies went out to May at that moment, no leader wants to show physical weakness, and certainly not when it can measured politically. May’s brittle voice … became the symbol of a wounded prime minister.”

Die Welt, in a report headlined “Theresa May’s self-dismantlement”, said what was meant to be “one of the most important speeches of her career” ended up “arousing massive uncertainty in both the prime minister and the party”.

Belgium’s De Standaard said May had “barely survived” her speech, which was “so rickety that speculation about her demise is running riot”. Not even the vitally important speech came off, the paper said: “Poor Theresa May, nothing seems to go well for her any more.”

In the Netherlands, De Volkskrant also opted for the headline: “May’s British Dream conference speech ends in nightmare”. The prime minister’s speech was “a long road paved with suffering”, the paper said.

“Literally everything went wrong, and observers will doubtless see that as a metaphor for the disastrous mandate of the prime minister, who four months ago threw away a Conservative majority in elections she herself had called.”

El País in Spain said the prime minister’s speech had “wrecked her attempt to reinforce her leadership”, describing it as a “distressing” spectacle interrupted by constant coughing fits in which May “tiptoed round” the Brexit question.

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