Tory support wobbles as Labour hits out at social care plans

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking to supporters at the beach in West Kirby, west of Liverpool, on Saturday as campaigning continues in the build-up to the general election on June 8.
Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking to supporters at the beach in West Kirby, west of Liverpool, on Saturday as campaigning continues in the build-up to the general election on June 8.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Blow for UK PM's bid to boost parliamentary majority as opposition edges closer in polls

LONDON • Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May's hopes of boosting her parliamentary majority at elections on June 8 suffered a blow on Saturday, as Mr Jeremy Corbyn's opposition Labour Party edged closer in the polls and Conservatives faced a backlash over proposed changes to social care.

Labour cut the Tories' lead in the latest Opinium Research survey to 13 points from 15 points a week earlier, and a new YouGov survey in the Sunday Times put Mr Corbyn's party nine points behind. The last time Labour managed a single- digit deficit in the YouGov series was in September.

The tightening polls mark a setback for Mrs May as she seeks to strengthen her position ahead of upcoming Brexit negotiations.

In another blow, 47 per cent of respondents in a Survation poll said they opposed the British Prime Minister's plan to require people to tap assets above £100,000 (S$180,500), excluding the value of their homes, to pay for the costs of their old-age care.

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Attacking Mrs May's social-care pledge and manifesto promises to pensioners, a demographic that traditionally votes Conservative, Mr Corbyn labelled the Tories a "nasty" party in a speech in Birmingham on Saturday.

He reiterated the accusation in an e-mailed statement and set out five pledges for how his party would help older voters.

"Theresa May and the Conservatives won't stand up for pensioners," Mr Corbyn said in the statement. "Their only concern is their billionaire friends."

  • 13 the number of points which the Tories have over Labour in the latest Opinium Research survey. A week earlier, their lead was 15 points.

Labour's pledges to older voters include preserving a so-called triple lock on pension payments for five years, under which the government guarantees pensions will rise annually by whichever is greatest: the rate of inflation, the rise in earnings, or 2.5 per cent. The Tories say they will drop the 2.5 per cent provision starting in 2020.

Mr Corbyn's party also said it will guarantee winter fuel subsidies for all pensioners, and will not raise the state pension age beyond 66. The Conservative manifesto, unveiled by Mrs May on Thursday, would scrap the fuel payments for well-off pensioners, and said the state pension age should reflect increases in life expectancy.

In a lengthy Facebook post on Saturday, Mrs May warned that a lot is "at stake" in the election and said the UK has "great challenges," including the need to provide "security for older people while being fair to the young".

"If I lose just six seats, I will lose this election, and Jeremy Corbyn will be sitting down to negotiate with the presidents, prime ministers and chancellors of Europe," Mrs May wrote. Labour's leader would "bring chaos to Britain", she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'Tory support wobbles as Labour hits out at social care plans'. Print Edition | Subscribe