PM puts new council houses at heart of 'British dream' in eventful speech

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Theresa May has announced a major boost to council house building, with an additional £2 billion of Government money to fund affordable homes.

The announcement came in a speech to the Conservative conference in Manchester in which the Prime Minister promised to "renew the British dream for a new generation of young people" who feel they have been locked out of economic progress.

Mrs May's speech was interrupted by a comedian, Lee Nelson, who approached Mrs May to hand her a P45 unemployment slip in what appeared to be a publicity stunt, before being bundled away by security.

And the Prime Minister was also halted by a persistent cough which at several points left her struggling to speak and forced her to pause for a drink of water.

After a four-day conference dominated by speculation over Boris Johnson's leadership ambitions, Mrs May made no mention of her Foreign Secretary by name, instead praising the "team" around her in the Cabinet.

And she singled out for praise the Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, often tipped as one of Mr Johnson's main potential rivals for the top post.

She made an apology to the party for running an election campaign earlier this year that was "too scripted, too presidential" and allowed the Conservatives to be painted as the party of continuity at a time when voters wanted change.

And she repeatedly assured delegates that following the botched poll "we have listened and we have learned".

Spelling out her plans for social housing, Mrs May said that local authorities and housing associations would be invited to bid for a share of the additional £2 billion to "allow homes to be build for social rent well below market level".

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

She said she would "take personal charge" of "getting government back into the business of building houses" and creating "a new generation of council houses to help fix our broken housing market".

She told house builders that the Government will ensure that land is available for homes, and in return "you must do your duty to Britain and build the homes our country needs".

In a highly personal account of her motivations to get into politics, Mrs May recalled the history of her own grandmother, who worked as a domestic servant and made sacrifices in the hope of winning a better future for her family and whose grandchildren now include three professors and a prime minister.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and other members of the cabinet listen to Prime Minister Theresa May deliver her keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and other members of the cabinet listen to Prime Minister Theresa May deliver her keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference (Owen Humphreys/PA)

And she said that, even though she and husband Philip, watching in the audience, had not been able to have children, she too wanted future generations to be able to enjoy better lives than those of their parents, something she described as "the British dream".

She won a standing ovation as she said: "It has always been a great sadness to me and Philip that we were never blessed with children. It seems some things in life are just never meant to be.

"But I believe in the dream that life should be better for the next generation as much as any mother, any father, any grandparent.

"The only difference is that I have the privileged position of being able to do more than most to bring that dream to life.

"So I will dedicate my premiership to fixing this problem, to restoring hope, to renewing the British dream for a new generation of people."