The United Kingdom holds elections on June 8
Prime Minister Theresa May gives TV interview after support in polls dropped
Theresa May tried to rescue her faltering British election campaign on Monday by accusing her opponents of “playing on the fears of elderly and vulnerable people” and dismissing claims that she has broken voters’ trust.
On the worst day so far of her campaign for re-election to Downing Street, the Prime Minister performed a U-turn on one of her key policies, a tax on care for the elderly, after it provoked a widespread backlash.
May had seemed to be on course for a landslide victory next month, with her party consistently 20 points ahead in the polls. Yet the row over what has become known as the “dementia tax” on elderly people led to her poll lead being cut to 9 points on Sunday, causing alarm in the Conservative Party campaign. While the polls still point to a Conservative victory, her majority could be considerably less than party strategists hoped, leaving her with a weaker hand in Brexit talks.
In her first major TV interview of the election, hours after the policy change, May looked uneasy as she insisted the choice for British voters on June 8 was between her “strong and stable” leadership – the campaign slogan she has repeated since campaigning began – and the “coalition of chaos” under Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Yet her own slogan has backfired because of the backtrack on a major policy in her Conservative Party manifesto, with opponents claiming the change is a sign of weakness and instability.
May called the surprise election last month because she wanted a larger majority to strengthen her hand in negotiations with European leaders over Brexit.
Key themes of her campaign have been her personal honesty and trust, which now look to be in jeopardy. BBC interviewer Andrew Neil said that changing a key policy halfway through the election made her policy agenda look “half-baked and uncosted” and undermined her claim to be “strong and stable.”
The row centers on proposed reforms to funding care for the elderly, including a plan to make people pay if they stay in their own homes, which was quickly labeled a “dementia tax.” Four days after unveiling the policy, the Prime Minister announced there would be a cap on the total cost charged to recipients, to lessen the burden for older people.
May told the BBC she was only being “honest” with voters, adding: “Our social care system will collapse unless we do something about it. We could pretend it will go away, play politics with it or try and fix it. I am not going to bury my head in the sand and play politics with it.” She countered that Labour, which had seized on the policy as a “dementia tax” and pledged to protect people¹s homes, were making “fake claims.”
The Prime Minister said: “Jeremy Corbyn wants to sneak into Number 10 by playing on the fears of elderly and vulnerable people.”