Tory Lead Narrows as Labour Attacks May's Pensioner Plans

  • Aged care, fuel subsidies, fate of triple lock hang in balance
  • May takes to Facebook to warn against a Corbyn government

Theresa May

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s hopes of boosting her parliamentary majority suffered a blow on Saturday, as 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 Corbyn’s party nine points behind. The last time Labour managed a single-digit deficit in the YouGov series was in September.

Jeremy Corbyn in Birmingham on May 20.

Photographer: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The tightening polls mark a setback for May as she seeks to strengthen her position ahead of upcoming Brexit negotiations. In another blow, 47 percent of respondents in a Survation poll said they opposed May’s plan to require people to tap into assets above 100,000 pounds ($130,000), excluding the value of their homes, to pay for the costs of their old-age care.

Attacking May’s social care pledge and manifesto promises to pensioners, a demographic that traditionally votes Conservative, Corbyn labeled the Tories a “nasty” party in a speech in Birmingham on Saturday. He reiterated the accusation in an emailed statement and set out five pledges for how his party would help older voters.

For a look at the party manifestos, click here.

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

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 percent. The Tories say they’ll drop the 2.5 percent provision starting in 2020.

Corbyn’s party also says it will guarantee winter fuel subsidies for all pensioners, and will not raise the state pension age beyond 66. The Conservative manifesto, unveiled by 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 Saturday, May warned that a lot is “at stake” in the election and said the U.K. 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,” May wrote. Labour’s leader would “bring chaos to Britain,” she said.

Separately, U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond warned of a tax “bombshell” should Labour win the election, slamming their stance on inheritance tax in an emailed statement Saturday. Hammond said their proposed reversal of the Conservatives’ increase in the tax threshold would cause “ordinary families” across the country to “suffer.”

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