(Bloomberg) — The opposition Labour Party sought to focus the U.K. election campaign back on Prime Minister Theresa May’s social policies after three days of trading barbs over security in the wake of the deadly Manchester suicide bombing.
While May’s Conservatives maintained their focus on terrorism after the attack on a pop concert on May 22, Labour said the prime minister’s U-turn on care for the elderly on the same day left many questions unanswered.
“Having broken her flagship pledge on social care just days after she launched her manifesto, Theresa May needs to give clear answers” about her plans, Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s election coordinator, said in an email. “The Tory manifesto has plunged pensioners and working people into insecurity and left our public services facing the risk of further crisis.”
As the June 8 election looms, May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn are attempting to focus on issues where they believe their parties are strongest. The Conservatives’ lead has shrunk in some surveys to single digits over Labour, from as many as 24 points earlier in the month. May is attempting to drive home the message that she’ll provide “strong and stable” leadership while Labour can’t be trusted to defend the country.
Corbyn and May will be interviewed separately on Sky News on Monday evening, as close as voters will come to seeing them in a head-to-head television debate. An Opinium poll for the Observer newspaper published on Sunday found 46% of voters trust the Conservatives to tackle terrorism, compared with just 11% for Labour. Some 42% of respondents said May is able to keep Britain safe, compared with 24% for Corbyn.
Labour saw a bump in support after May 18, when the prime minister released a plan to make elderly people pay for the costs of their own care until their total assets dwindled to 100,000 pounds ($130,000). She altered the policy, which opponents derided as a “dementia tax,” four days later to add a cap on payments, after Tory activists reported negative responses from voters.
Returning to the issue on Monday, Labour accused May of “ducking” questions over the proposals and highlighted uncertainty over her plans for heating subsidies for retirees, free school meals, tax for the self-employed, and funding for the National Health Service.
The suicide bombing in Manchester, Britain’s worst terrorist attack in more than a decade, led to a three-day campaigning pause. When the campaign resumed on Friday, May told reporters at the Group of Seven meeting in Sicily that Corbyn “frankly isn’t up to the job,” after he suggested Britain’s foreign policy had made the country less safe.
‘Cannot Be Trusted’