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UK opposition leader calls on PM to quit

June 5, 2017

Britain's opposition Labour Party chief has backed calls for Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May to step down over police cuts. The latest opinion poll shows the Conservative lead down to one percentage point.

Großbritannien Labour Chef Jeremy Corbyn
Image: Getty Images/I. Forsyth

As the UK election campaign resumed on Monday, Corbyn told a crowd in Carlisle, northern England, that Theresa May had cut police numbers during her time as Home Secretary, and repeated his pledge to recruit 10,000 new police officers, including armed officers.

Asked by Sky News if he would back calls made by others for May to resign, Corbyn told the program: "Indeed I would. Because there have been calls made by a lot of very responsible people on this who are very worried that she was at the Home Office [interior ministry] for all this time, presided over these cuts in police numbers and is now saying that we have a problem."

"Yes. We do have a problem - we should never have cut the police numbers," he added.

May was at the Home Office under Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron from 2010 to 2016, and oversaw the cutting of some 20,000 police officers during this period.

Removal by vote?

Later in the interview, Corbyn said the upcoming election might be a better way of removing May. "We’ve got an election on Thursday and that’s perhaps the best opportunity to deal with it," he said.

His remarks came in response to a question on comments by Steve Hilton, a former adviser to Cameron, who said in a series of tweets that May should resign for "security failures" that were behind the three recent terrorist attacks in Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge.

Read: Police seize huge amount of forensic material in London attack raids 

Corbyn has chosen to attack May in what is traditionally a strong area for Conservatives, security, in a sign of increasing confidence as the May campaign continues to falter. Corbyn has also focused on protecting public services more widely.

Read: Corbyn riles Tories over anti-terror policy

May called the snap election on June 8 in a bid to strengthen her hand in negotiations on Britain's exit from the EU, but has come under criticism for her election campaign, both over its style and substance.

A protester holds up a placard during a demonstration in support of the NHS in  London in March.
The Conservative government has also been slammed for cuts to the National Health ServiceImage: Getty Images/J. Taylor

Mayday, mayday!

May's record on security as former home secretary is now also under scrutiny.

When May was asked by reporters on Monday whether she regretted cutting police numbers during her time in the job, she said counterterrorism budgets had been protected and that police had been given the powers they need.

Recent polls put Labour just slightly behind the Conservatives, after the party started the campaign in April trailing by about 20 percent.

In a poll of 1,103 people for ITV television on Monday, Survation reported the Conservative lead over Labour had narrowed to one percentage point: 41.5 percent over 40.4 percent. 

May and Corbyn face voters during 'question time'

jbh/jm (Reuters, AFP, dpa)