It was not a great day for the British government.

It Was Not a Great Day for the British Government

It Was Not a Great Day for the British Government

The Slatest
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Oct. 4 2017 10:59 AM

It Was Not a Great Day for the British Government

Conservative-Leader-Makes-Her-Keynote-Speech-To-Party-Conference
British Prime Minister Theresa May takes a lozenge during her keynote speech to delegates and party members on the last day of the Conservative Party Conference on Wednesday in Manchester, England.

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The leaders of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party, currently at their annual party conference in Manchester, are having a rough go of it.

During what Prime Minister Theresa May no doubt hoped would be a rousing speech to help bolster her increasingly unpopular leadership, things reached Iannuccian levels of humiliation. A heckler handed her a fake notice that she was being fired, a persistent cough got so bad that the chancellor of the exchequer handed her a lozenge, and letters started falling off the sign behind her:

Building a country that works … or everyone.

There’s growing speculation about May stepping down, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has clashed with the prime minister over Brexit strategy, is a leading candidate to replace her. But Johnson is also facing calls to resign after comments he made at the conference, suggesting that the Libyan coastal city of Sirte could become the “next Dubai” once they “clear the dead bodies away.” (Johnson, who has visited Libya twice this year, defended his comments, saying that he was referring to the booby-trapped bodies of ISIS fighters.) This comes a few days after video was released of Johnson reciting the beginning of the colonial-era Rudyard Kipling poem, “The Road to Mandalay,” during a visit to the most sacred Buddhist temple in Yangon, Myanmar, in January. Johnson was in front of a group of local officials, and thankfully the British ambassador stopped him, saying the poem was “not appropriate,” before he got to the part of the poem about a “Bloomin’ idol made o’ mud/ Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd.”

Johnson has said worse things before without derailing his political career, but he's not exactly building confidence that he can right the Tory ship. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and author of the forthcoming book, Invisible Countries.