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May puts Union at heart of her priorities as she vows to build a better country

UK’s second female PM pledges to fight the privileged few as she promotes prominent Brexiteers in Cabinet reshuffle, while Cameron and family leave No 10 for the final time

By Andrew Woodcock

Theresa May put the Union at the centre of her first speech as Prime Minister yesterday, vowing to fight for the people of all four UK nations.

Mrs May also pledged she would stand up against "the privileged few" and fight "burning injustice" as she announced that her priority would be keeping the UK together.

Wearing her trademark animal print kitten heels, a blue and yellow dress and a dark blue blazer, the former Home Secretary was flanked by her husband Philip as she spoke from the same Downing Street lectern that David Cameron had made his farewell statement from just an hour earlier.

In a speech heavy on themes of social justice, the former Home Secretary pledged to "build a better Britain".

She said Mr Cameron had led a "One-nation Government, and it is in that spirit that I also plan to lead".

"Not everybody knows this, but the full title of my party is the Conservative and Unionist Party, and that word 'unionist' is very important to me," Mrs May explained.

"It means we believe in the Union, the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - but it also means something else that is just as important.

"It means we believe in a union not just between the nations of the United Kingdom, but also between all of our citizens - every one of us - whoever we are and wherever we're from.

"That means fighting against the burning injustice that if you're born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others.

"If you're black, you're treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you're white.

"If you're a white working class boy, you're less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university.

"If you're at a State school, you're less likely to reach the top professions than if you're educated privately.

"If you're a woman, you will earn less than a man.

"If you suffer from mental health problems, there's not enough help to hand.

"If you're young, you'll find it harder than ever before to own your own home.

"But the mission to make Britain a country that works for everyone means more than fighting these injustices. If you're from an ordinary working class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise."

Outside Downing Street a small but noisy band of people could be heard calling "Theresa May, don't delay" and "Brexit, when do we want it? Now" during the speech.

Mrs May, fresh from meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace and being invited to form a new Government, began at 6.02pm and spoke for around four minutes.

She appeared to stumble over her words only once as she referred to notes in the lectern.

At the age of 59, Mrs May becomes the 13th holder of the office of Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury of Elizabeth II's reign.

Earlier, Mrs May had arrived at the palace by ministerial car with her husband.

She was invited to form a Government by the Queen in a simple ceremony at Buckingham Palace less than half an hour after Mr Cameron tendered his formal resignation to the Head of State.

The ex-Prime Minister had advised the Queen to appointed the former Home Secretary in his place, and Mrs May gave the Queen her hand and bent her knee in a traditional procedure known as "kissing hands".

A spokesperson for the Palace explained: "The Queen received in audience Theresa May and requested her to form a new administration."

In a brief address outside Downing Street before he resigned, Mr Cameron said: "It has been the greatest honour of my life to serve our country as Prime Minister over these last six years, and to serve as leader of my party over 11 years.

"As we leave for the last time, my only wish is continued success for this great country that I love so very much."

Belfast Telegraph


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