In the midst of the complex and stressful Brexit negotiations, there isn’t a lot of time for jolly japes. That’s a bit of a shame considering UK prime minister Theresa May has clearly got some comedic chops.
In a speech at the annual Downing Street correspondents’ dinner last night, the prime minister poked fun at ministerial colleagues, the Brexit negotiations, herself, and, of course, the press reporting on it all.
What might come as a surprise to May’s critics, though, is that her speech was actually very good. The whole thing was jam-packed with topical references, timely digs and fiery zingers.
While May has already confessed she’s not a huge karaoke fan, she might just have found another way to jump-start a post-ministerial career as a comedian.
Here are some of the best lines from May’s speech.
Theresa May’s best zingers
On her predecessor, David Cameron, and the rumours of her cabinet plotting to oust her:
David couldn’t make it in – he’s snowed into his wheelie-shed.
I was able to catch up with David over the phone though and, as ever, he had some excellent advice. ‘Don’t worry about Boris. ‘Don’t worry about your chancellor. ‘Worry about ambitious, female, home secretaries.’
Lovely to see you here tonight, Amber!
On the real reason for last summer’s snap election:
I am, of course, absolutely delighted to be here. Last year, I was looking forward to this event so much that I called a general election to get out of it.
But I can’t pull that stunt two years in a row. Or can I? I am, after all, going walking in Wales this Easter…
(Last year May called the snap election shortly after returning from a walking holiday in the Cotswolds.)
On Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock launching a personal app:
Matt Hancock has now transcended into a higher state of existence, thrown off the surly bonds of flesh and blood, and actually now is an app.
He only talks to me now by way of alarming iPhone notifications, like: ‘Matt Hancock would like to track your location’, ‘Matt Hancock would like to access your photos.’ And most worryingly of all: ‘There is a fault with Matt Hancock.’
On Chancellor Phillip Hammond:
[He’s] like a dryer, less frivolous version of LinkedIn.
On her own various PR gaffes since becoming prime minister:
And tonight I can reveal that I’m even working on my own app.
It provides GPS directions to your nearest wheat field, real-time tracking of Priti Patel’s air travel and the instant allocation of all household chores into girl jobs and boy jobs.
On the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn:
Last year cinema-goers were wowed by a brilliant film from the makers of The Thick of It and Veep, called The Death of Stalin.
It told the story of an ageing Socialist demagogue who maintains his power through a sinister personality cult, re-writing history, and crushing all internal dissent.
And I know we’re all very sad that Jeremy Corbyn can’t be with us tonight.
On parliamentary reporters:
One of your illustrious predecessors was Charles Dickens, who served as a Parliamentary reporter for two years in the 1830s.
Drawing on his experiences in the gallery for his novel David Copperfield, he wrote:
‘Night after night, I record predictions that never come to pass, professions that are never fulfilled, explanations that are only meant to mystify.’
180 years later and evidently: ‘nothing has changed!’
Other iconic Theresa May jokes:
When May referred to the Brexit secretary as David “Mad Max” Davis, referencing his pledge not to plunge Britain into a Mad Max-style apocalypse.
The moment when she told prominent political reporter Tom Newton Dunn to “ask for his money back”, while joking that he’d had plastic surgery.
Her discussion of what the future might hold for her if Jeremy Corbyn becomes prime minister: “I’d be breaking rocks in John McDonnell’s re-education camp on the Isle of Man along with Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall and other undesirables.”
The extended bit where she said she’d accidentally canvassed a couple copulating in a caravan.
This flawless self-own: “What says ‘Theresa May’ more than a comic speech at a boozy dinner for a room full of journalists? I feel right at home.”
Safe to say, when she steps down as prime minister, May will no doubt have a fruitful career as a comedian ahead of her.