Thursday 23 November 2017

May insists British election result is 'not certain' as she makes foreign aid pledge

‘Watch this space’: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
‘Watch this space’: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

William James

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said that she is not taking anything for granted as she gears up for a snap election in June, in which polls suggest her Conservative Party is heading for a landslide victory.

Mrs May called the national election in a surprise move on Tuesday, saying it was necessary to boost her majority and provide stability as Britain gears up for two years of negotiations with the European Union about its departure from the bloc.

Polls give the Conservative Party a lead of around 20 percentage points, enough to potentially give her a parliamentary majority of more than 100 seats, but Mrs May yesterday said she was not complacent.

"The election campaign has only just begun. I'm not taking anything for granted. The result is not certain," she said.

The Labour Party has been riven by divisions over its leader Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit, while Mrs May's commitment to a clean break with the EU has undermined support for Ukip.

While many specific policy positions have yet to be filled out, both Mrs May and her finance minister, Philip Hammond, gave the first indications on how the party's spending plans on key voter issues such as foreign aid, pensions and tax will look.

Mrs May reaffirmed a commitment on foreign aid spending - a pillar of predecessor David Cameron's attempts to soften the image of the Conservative Party.

She said that the pledge to spend 0.7pc of national income on foreign aid would remain.

Media reports had said it would be scrapped in the Conservatives' election manifesto amid opposition from some lawmakers and newspapers who said it should be spent at home instead.

"Let's be clear - the 0.7pc remains, and will remain," she said. "What we need to do, though, is to look at how that money is spent, and make sure that we are able to spend that money in the most effective way."

Mrs May avoided committing to renew the UK government's policy of increasing old-age pensions by a minimum of 2.5pc each year, when asked to do so by a reporter. That position was echoed by Mr Hammond, speaking in Washington, who said the government had solved the problem of pensioner poverty.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour was "gaining a huge amount of ground" on the Conservatives in the battle to win the general election.

The Labour leader urged voters to "watch this space" despite opinion polls.

He continued efforts to shift the focus of the campaign away from Mrs May's call for voters to give her a Brexit negotiating mandate and on to Labour's aim of tackling inequality.

Mr Corbyn said: "We're gaining support, we're gaining a huge amount of ground. Watch this space. We are putting a message out there - this country does not have to be so divided, (there) does not have to be such appalling levels of poverty and unachieved ambition because of people growing up in poverty. That's our message."

Irish Independent

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