But she did her best to appear carefree as she sashayed on to the stage to the Abba hit Dancing Queen - a reference to the much-shared video of her dancing on a trip to Africa - and joked about the coughing fit and collapsing stage backdrop which marred her calamitous conference speech in Manchester past year. "This was a missed opportunity to say she would listen to the party". "Let s lift our horizons to meet it".
Johnson, who quit as foreign secretary in July, drew cheers from 1,500 delegates on Tuesday when he called May's proposal for close post-Brexit economic ties an "outrage" that would leave Britain manacled to the European Union and unable to strike new trade deals around the world.
Less than an hour before taking the stage in Birmingham, Mrs May was hit by a call for her removal from former minister James Duddridge, who said she was "incapable" of providing the leadership Tories need.
France unveiled a draft law for such a scenario, with the budget minister admitting Paris was preparing "for the worst".
May did not ruleout leaving the European Union without a deal, despite acknowledging it would be a "bad outcome for the United Kingdom and the EU".
In her speech, May also rejected calls for a second referendum on Brexit and pledged to stick to her Chequers plan. But she remains defiant. But as she emerged to the strains of her favourite song, Abba's Dancing Queen, she looked like she was having the time of her life.
May set out a series of measures aimed at reforming free markets.
She reached out to voters whose living standards have been squeezed by stagnating incomes and public-spending cuts since the 2008 global financial crisis. "Too many people are standing up and criticising her but they dont have an answer to what they would do".
"It struck the right tone".
"The very timing of his speech, on the eve of the Prime Minister's keynote address, was calculated to upstage her and cause her maximum embarrassment", the paper said.
Mrs May and her team face weeks of hard conversations with Brussels, especially after Mr Hunt offended some in the bloc by comparing the EU to the old Soviet Union in asserting that the EU was trying to "punish" any member seeking to leave it. Debt will go down, she said.
May has had a tough year since a disastrous 2017 conference speech, when she was her plagued by a cough and interrupted by a prankster while parts of the backdrop fell down as she was speaking.
A major sticking point in the talks is the determination by all sides to keep the Irish border open.
Mrs May appears set to promise Brexiteers the agreement would be replaced in time by a comprehensive trade deal but are needed to fulfil the "backstop" until then.
But Northern Ireland s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props ups May s government, this week signalled its strong opposition.
The battle for the party leadership, latent since the decline registered in the parliamentary elections of 2017 who were lost to Theresa May in its absolute majority, is, however, remained contained.
"It's important to support the only politician I can see who is actively campaigning to give people the Leave that they voted for", said Colette Wyatt-Lowe, 71, a councillor from the outskirts of London, while queueing to hear Johnson speak.
May has surprised observers by surviving this far and many delegates at the conference - whatever their feelings on Brexit - are wary of a change at the top now.
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