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The vultures may be circling but May could still be at the helm of the Conservative party

By Paul Francis

As political car crashes go, Theresa May’s agonisingly awkward speech was up among the most calamitous and you can make a case that it was the most disastrous of recent years.

Plagued by a cough, ambushed by a comedian handing her a P45 and the backdrop falling apart, it was certainly a test of her own measure of a leader: not turning away from overcoming adversity.

Excrutiating as it was - and it was - her speech does not make her a bad politician and as plenty of loyal Conservative MPs have pointed out, we all get colds at inconvenient times and her doggedness was a sign of her resilience.

Having said that, the horror of what should have been a speech consolidating her position and fleshing out her personal vision has led to renewed speculation about whether she is a leader living on borrowed time.

Unfair though that might be, it is a symptom of modern day politics where we invest as much in the person - or personality - as the policies they espouse.

Most damaging for the PM was the amount of sympathy she received. That may seem odd but politicians dislike people feeling sorry for them because it weakens rather than strengthens them.

And well-intended though it might be, the fact that her ministers have been lining up to contact her to express their support only underlines that.

Such is the uncertainty of modern-day politics that the least unexpected outcome is often what happens. Which perversely, might just give the beleaguered PM something to cling on to.

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