The lady’s for turning as the gap narrows

Written By: James Douglas
Published: June 6, 2017 Last modified: June 6, 2017

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell slammed the Tories for failing to provide full costings for their manifesto which will have a negative impact on millions. Their plans to limit the number of pensioners who get winter fuel payments are “sick and sneaky”, he said, adding that 10 million people would be hit by their proposals to means-test the allowance. The SNP said the Conservative manifesto “robs Peter to pay Paul – stealing free school meals to pay for education, cutting winter fuel to pay for social care”.

The fizz in the Conservative Club gin and tonics may taste a little flat as folks realise that they have just been hit with potentially the biggest new wealth tax of all time. The Tory manifesto pledge to use accumulated property wealth to fund the es­calating price of in-home social care bill will be welcomed by many as a bold attempt to tackle one of the greatest prob­lems of our age. Others will see it as a huge and risky departure from traditional Tory policy.”
BBC business editor Simon Jack

The Tory Bow Group warned Theresa May that her plans to shake-up the funding of social care in England – dubbed a “dementia tax” by Labour – are likely to go down badly with the party’s core voters and amount to the “biggest stealth tax in history”. And Conservative candidate Sarah Wollaston said: “If you are somebody who has quite a large asset in your home but you might be living on a very fixed low income – that might make it very difficult for you to go home if you couldn’t afford special care.” But Damian Green said there would be no rethink; the Work and Pensions Secretary said: “We have set out the policy, which we are not going to look at again.”

Four days later Theresa May slipped out changes to the social care pledge in what critics dubbed a “manifesto meltdown”. The PM told the BBC “nothing has changed” and claimed rival parties had been “trying to scare” elderly people. Her announcement that an overall cap on costs would be the subject of a consultation shattered her projected image of “strong and stable leadership”.

“In a matter of weeks a reputation for steady determination that May spent a political lifetime cultivating has broken.”
Former Tory MP Matthew Parris

The Conservatives refused to set a deadline for their target of slashing immigration to below 100,000 even though the pledge, first made in 2009, has never been met. Brexit Secretary David Davis said it would be done in an “economically viable” way.

A YouGov poll gave Labour its highest rating of the campaign so far, up two points following the manifesto launch, to 32 per cent. The Tories were on 45 per cent, down one point; the Lib Dems down three points on eight per cent, and UKIP up one point to six per cent.

UKIP leader, Paul Nuttall postponed a day of campaigning after the party battle bus was damaged. He was due to join party activists in Clacton, where UKIP had its only MP elected, but the party’s purple battle bus had a wing mirror knocked off overnight and needed to be repaired.

Celebrity chef and school food campaigner Jamie Oliver branded Theresa May’s plan to axe free school meals for infants “a disgrace” which would “put future generations at risk”. He added: “It’s a fact. Children perform better after eating a decent lunch.” The Conservatives want to axe the free meals plan for to save money to plug gaps in England’s school finances. The party hopes to save £650m by ending the right to a free meal for all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, but  pledged to offer all children a free breakfast.

Jeremy Corbyn vowed to protect pensioners from Conservative attacks on their income as he stepped up his push for older voters. The Labour leader claims pensioners will be £330 a year worse off under the plans set out in the Tory manifesto, while Labour is promising to protect the winter fuel allowance, the “triple lock” guaranteeing annual 2.5% pension rises and other benefits.

Shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said that Emily Thornberry was “wrong” to suggest Labour might drop its commitment to the UK’s nuclear deterrent, saying it was “already settled” that Trident would remain if the party came into power. Ms Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, had suggested support for the missile system could not be guaranteed following a defence review.

More than two million people have applied to register to vote in the month since Theresa May announced plans for a snap general election. The number of young people registering is the highest of any age group.

Labour said it will bring forward its pledge to scrap tuition fees to include students starting university in England this autumn if it wins the election. Students part-way through their courses would not have to pay for the remaining years. The cost was factored into the £9.5bn annual bill for scrapping fees.

The main political parties suspended general election campaigning after the fatal bombing in Manchester. Theresa May will chair an emergency Cobra meeting in London into the suspected terror attack at the Ariana Grande concert, which left 22 dead – the youngest just eight – and 116 injured. She, Jeremy Corbyn and other senior politicians all expressed their horror at the attack. The SNP postponed the launch of its manifesto. UKIP didn’t.

Jeremy Corbyn said that UK foreign policy would change under a Labour government to one that “reduces rather than increases the threat” to the country. As election campaigning resumed after the Manchester attack, he pointed to links between wars abroad and “terrorism here at home”, adding that the “war on terror is simply not working”.

Researchers at Education Data Lab warned that giving a free breakfast to every primary school child in England could cost more than treble the £60m the Tory party set aside for it. Experts analysing the plans re-costed them at between £180m and £400m, depending on how many pupils take them.

A YouGov poll cut the Tory lead to just five points, with Labour on 38 per cent, its best showing since Corbyn became Leader.

Corbyn used FA Cup Final day to launch plans to offer football fans a “flexible football ticket” to help more people attend matches. The proposal would mean fans aren’t left with unusable tickets after matches are moved or rescheduled. The Labour leader – who supports Arsenal – also pledged more money for grassroots football.

Labour announced a plan to make Britain’s communities safer, by putting thousands more frontline staff into critical public services, including police, fire, prison, intelligence and border agencies. In the wake of big Tory cuts to police and security resulting in 37,000 fewer staff, Labour will recruit: 10,000 more police officers, 3,000 more firefighters, 3,000 more prison officers, 1,000 more security and intelligence agency staff, and 500 more border guards. Those plans will return staffing levels closer to those when Labour left office.

Corbyn was grilled on his previous decisions to share platforms with Sinn Fein members with alleged terrorist links. Diane Abbott said she has changed her mind on the IRA since the 1980s she was asked  if she still thought “a defeat for the British state would be a great liberation”. “I had a rather splendid afro at the time. I don’t have the same hairstyle, I don’t have the same views,” she said.

The Conservative party revised down its internal projections for the general election after a clutch of new polls showed their lead over the Labour party is narrowing. Estimations for the best-case scenario have been revised from a majority of 200 down to 80. The projection for the worst-case scenario is a hung parliament, in which no party is able to get a majority, an idea which was initially inconceivable when May first called the election. Labour was six points behind in a poll conducted by the ORB and has slashed the lead in half compared to the previous week.

Some election facts and figures

There are more than 3,300 candidates hoping to win one of the 650 Commons seats on June 8. Overall, about 30% of candidates are women – up from the previous record of 26% in 2015, although the actual number of women standing is down from 1,036 to 983. Labour is putting forward the highest percentage of female candidates of any major party, at 41%. The Greens are on 36%, the SNP on 34%, and the Lib Dems on 29%. The Conservatives and Plaid Cymru, both of which are led by women, are towards the back of the pack with 28% of their parliamentary candidates female. The party with by far the fewest female candidates is UKIP, on 13. Labour also has a higher proportion of women standing in constituencies that the party won in 2015. But the two biggest parties are fielding very similar proportions of women in seats they lost by less than 10% in 2015. So if Labour increases its share of the vote in each of these places by five percentage points, it would gain 16 women and 32 men. A similar increase for the Conservatives would give them 18 women and 30 men.

With candidates in all British constituencies (bar one) and seven of the 18 seats in Northern Ireland, the Conservatives are standing in more of the country than any other party. In 2015 they contested 16 Northern Irish seats. Labour and the Lib Dems do not stand in Northern Ireland. The Lib Dems have two fewer candidates than Labour, as they are not standing in Brighton Pavilion, which returned the UK’s only Green MP in 2015, or in Skipton and Ripon in Yorkshire, reportedly to bolster the chances of the local Green candidate. Of the 12 Conservatives standing down in 2017, 11 are men, but six of the candidates vying to replace them are women. For Labour, 11 of the 14 standing down are men, and 10 of the candidates in their former seats are women.