UK Conservatives slip in opinion polls ahead of election | News | DW | 21.05.2017
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United Kingdom

UK Conservatives slip in opinion polls ahead of election

Prime Minister Theresa May's lead in opinion polls has narrowed after her Conservative party announced their platform for the June election. The opposition has said her policies would create "war between generations."

The Conservative lead over the Labour opposition in the run-up to the UK election has halved to nine points, down from 18 points one week ago, the Sunday Times newspaper reported.

The Conservatives were forecast a vote share of between 44 and 46 percent, pointing to a projected majority of about 40 seats, in four polls published late on Saturday.

While that would be comfortable for the Conservatives, it's far less than the 150-seat majority thought possible a month ago when Prime Minister Theresa May announced the snap election on April 18.

The Conservative party manifesto announced on Tuesday had some unwelcome news for pensioners.

There were plans to scrap the guarantee that the state pension will rise at least 2.5 percent a year and to change the terms for social care, dubbed a "dementia tax" by opponents.

May has scrapped the previous government's cap of 72,000 pounds (83,750 euros/$93,860) on social care bills with a plan that those whose savings and property are valued at 100,000 pounds or more will need to pay for their care.

House prices in the UK have risen 6.9 percent a year since 1980, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Prices of houses in London have risen so much in relation to wages that it would take a person on an average income living in the city almost 29 years before they would have enough to make a deposit for a house or flat.

The Conservative manifesto also abandons the winter fuel payments for all but the 2 million poorest pensioners.

The Conservatives have a strong base of support among voters aged 65 and above. That age group also voted in larger numbers than any other group to leave the European Union in last year's referendum. They are a third more likely to vote than the rest of the population, and half of them usually vote for the Conservatives.

YouGov found that 40 percent of the public were opposed to the policy changes for the elderly, while 35 percent were supportive, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

Labour responds to policies

The opposition Labour Party manifesto had been unofficially released earlier this month, but its official launch this week confirmed the plans to renationalize mail, rail and water services, increase taxes on the highest earners and clamp down on corporate excess.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Conservative policies would set the young against the old in a "war between generations."

The Conservatives have also reached out to the center ground, with substantial infrastructure investment promised in transport, broadband networks and housing. The plan also proposes a higher minimum wage and representation for workers on workplace boards.

An end to Thatcherism?

May's program has been seen as signaling an end to the Conservative policies from the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher which had planned a European version of Hong Kong, a low-tax, low-regulation economy with only a minimal social safety net.

The focus of the Conservative campaign has been to present Corbyn as incapable of leadership. "The cold hard fact is that 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 said in a Facebook post on Saturday.

May purportedly called the election to strengthen her hand in talks with the 27 other EU members over the next two years as the UK prepares to leave the bloc.

jm/cmk (Reuters)

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