×

UK leader has to deal with coughing fit, prankster and faulty stage in major policy speech

  • Under pressure to rally a divided party, the speech started calmly enough with May offering apologies for the recent poor showing in the U.K. general election.
  • It then quickly took an awkward turn as the prime minister started to lose her voice before suffering a coughing fit.
  • Moments later, however, the speech was again interrupted as a man made his way to the stage and handed the PM a forged P45 document.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May suffered an almost unbelievable series of unfortunate events during her keynote speech at the Conservative Party's annual conference Wednesday.

Under pressure to rally a divided party, the speech started calmly enough with May offering apologies for the recent poor showing in the U.K. general election. It then quickly took an awkward turn as the prime minister started to lose her voice before suffering a coughing fit. The understanding audience came to her aid with a lengthy ovation, allowing May to take a drink of water and regain composure.

Moments later, however, the speech was again interrupted as a man made his way to the stage and handed the PM a forged P45 document — real P45s are used in the U.K. typically when employees lose their job.

The man was later identified as Lee Nelson, a well-known British comedian, and prankster, who once threw money at former FIFA boss Sepp Blatter.

The mock document showed the forged signature of current Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who many in the Conservative Party would like to be the next leader.

Getty Images | Carl Court

May dealt calmly with that interruption and could have been forgiven for thinking the embarrassment would soon end. She was wrong.

Behind May on the stage wall read a slogan "Building a country that works for everyone". As she neared the end of the address, the "f" of "for" dropped off to the floor. It was soon followed by the final "e" on "everyone".

The speech then appeared to end harmlessly enough but a video on social media showed her apparent rival Boris Johnson having to be urged to get up and applaud.