UK’s May seeks to broaden Tory appeal with housing, energy pledge

MANCHESTERUK Prime Minister Theresa May (picture), seeking to draw a veil over in fighting within her Conservative Party, tried to woo back floating voters tempted by Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of socialism with a promise to cap energy prices and build more social housing.

The government will publish next week a draft bill to “put a price cap on energy bills,” May announced in a speech at the party conference in Manchester, England. It will invest an additional £2 billion (RM11.22 billion) in affordable housing — taking the government’s total affordable housing budget to almost £9 billion.

Her plan is for “a new generation of council houses to help fix our broken housing market”. May used her keynote speech yesterday to call for unity in a party that’s been divided by opposing views on Brexit.

The vicar’s daughter — dubbed the “Maybot” by some in the British media for her emotionless tone — called on the party to do its “duty” by voters as the nation heads toward leaving the European Union in two years. Dissatisfied with her performance in June’s general election, in which the Tories saw their parliamentary majority wiped out, May must inspire her party to carry on supporting her and not look for an alternative leader.

The premier has been beset by problems. May has spent the four-day convention dodging questions about her gaffeprone Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson after he set out a series of demands over May’s Brexit strategy. On Tuesday, he told a meeting of activists that the port town of Sirte in Libya could become the new Dubai, once the nation clears “away the dead bodies”, prompting condemnation within his own party.

Ministers said before May’s speech that she would announce plans to help localgovernment bodies build more housing for rent as well as limiting increases in gas and power costs for consumers, but gave no details.

Corbyn closed his Labour Party’s conference in Brighton a week ago with a speech that drew a euphoric response from his supporters. The challenge for May will be to see whether she can inspire a similar reaction among Tories.

May has lost her parliamentary majority, her Cabinet is squabbling over Brexit — and a heckler at the Tory party conference handed her a notice to quit.

“People ask me why I put myself through it — the long hours, the pressure, the criticism and insults that inevitably go with the job,” May told the Tory party faithful in Manchester on Wednesday. “I tell them this: I do it to root out injustice and to give everyone in our country a voice.”

She went into a lengthy explanation of her efforts to tackle child sexual abuse, help ethnic minorities overcome discrimination and tackle the stigma suffered by those suffering mental-health problems. Eight issues in all: “That’s what I’m in this for,” she said every time. — Bloomberg