British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday had a tough time getting through one of her most anticipated policy speeches after a prankster created chaos by interrupting her to hand her a piece of paper.
The Conservative party leader was addressing the annual party conference in Manchester, during which she apologised to the membership for the general election debacle in June which lost the Tories their overall majority in Parliament.
However, she was forced to pause as comedian Simon Brodkin handed her what he claimed was a 'P45' from Boris Johnson, the embattled foreign secretary who is widely known to harbour party leadership ambitions.
A P45 in the UK refers to the official tax form issued when an employee leaves a job or is sacked. Brodkin’s intervention was described as a 'massive' security breach at the event, with local police now investigating how he was allowed to get that close to the prime minister.
Greater Manchester Police confirmed that the prankster, now in custody, had managed to acquire official accreditation to the event.
"In light of the arrest during the prime minister’s speech we are working with the police to review the accreditation process and security arrangement for the Party Conference," a Conservative party spokesperson said.
A close-up photo of the fake P45 showed it listed the 'reason for termination' as 'neither strong nor stable'.
"Boris told me to do it. He's left me in the lurch," the comic who posed as a media photographer told reporters in the midst of the chaos.
He was quickly escorted from the hall by security to shouts of 'out, out, out' from the audience and May was given a standing ovation for deflecting attention by saying she wanted to hand over a similar termination form to Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Brodkin, best known for his comedy character Lee Nelson, rose to fame after gate-crashing a FIFA football press conference and throwing dollar bills at the outgoing president Sepp Blatter, accused of corruption.
He was arrested by Swiss authorities for trespassing at the event in July 2015 but later released.
But his interruption was not the end of Theresa May's woes, as she was then hit by a severe coughing bout which meant she was unable to complete her sentences without having to pause for regular sips of water.
She was even handed a cough drop by Cabinet colleague, United Kingdom Chancellor Philip Hammond, which she accepted and joked with the audience about getting something free from the country's finance minister.
But overall her party members welcomed May’s stance in offering an apology for the failed general election campaign, which she said had been flawed because it was 'too scripted, too presidential'.
She also vowed to fix the fact that the British dream that 'life should be better for the next generation' was out of reach for too many people, by making pledges on a new wave of social housing and capping rising energy costs.
On Brexit, May said she was 'confident that we will find a deal that works for Britain and Europe'.
She also reassured European citizens living in the UK that 'you are welcome here' and urged negotiators to reach agreement on this policy 'because we want you to stay'.
The speech had been billed as her most personal one yet in an attempt to soften her public image, something she tackled head on by dismissing her characterisation as 'unemotional' and an 'ice maiden' and making a compassionate case for her leadership style.
May said it had 'always been a great sadness for Philip and me that we were never blessed with children', but she said this did not stop her wanting to help young people on to the housing ladder.
To add to May's troubles, the letters from the conference stage backdrop began to fall off one by one and read a garbled version of 'building a country that works for everyone' by the end of her speech.
IMAGE: A member of the audience hands a P45 form (termination of employment tax form) to Prime Minister Theresa May as she addresses the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters