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UK parliamentary elections 2017

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May’s Battle for Britain downed by London attack

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Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks outside 10 Downing Street after an attack on London Bridge and Borough Market left 7 people dead and dozens injured in London, Britain, June 4, 2017 REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

Theresa May’s expected landslide victory looked less likely on Monday, after criticism of her record on police cuts in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack. The country will vote for a new leader on Thursday.


On June 8 the United Kingdom goes to the polls – again, after Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap general election last month urging voters to “put their trust” in her to lead Britain out of Europe.

The election is not just about securing a strong mandate to simplify negotiations with the EU.

It’s also a personal contest for Theresa May who was voted in last year by her party following the Brexit vote, but not by the people.

This is the first time the public gets to vote for her as prime minister. Her party stands to gain almost 60 seats, which would give them 60% of the seats in the House of Commons and enough to give May increased support to push a hard Brexit through Parliament.

Her critics accuse her of opportunism. Labour MP Kerry McCarthy said in April the prime minister was being “shamelessly opportunistic” in pushing through with the snap election.

Labour is pushing for a soft Brexit with a commitment to retaining access to the single market and membership of the customs union.

Rise of Corbyn

For a while, it seemed that even long-time Labour supporters would be tempted to abandon traditional party loyalty in protest at leader Jeremy Corbyn whose leadership has often been ridiculed by the Conservatives.

The Labour opposition leader has since seen his approval ratings soar. He has narrowed Theresa May’s 20 point lead in the polls to less than 5 points.

This is partly due to a backlash against Theresa May over her u-turn on the party’s policy on social care for the elderly, which could force many to sell off their homes to pay for care under the disputed dementia tax.

Yet there are also concerns that Corbyn’s plans to raise corporation tax to fund welfare costs are nothing more than a trumped up wish-list.

But this doesn't mean he can't still do well on election day.

Security back on top of agenda

His recent criticism of Theresa May for protecting the public ‘on the cheap’, in reference to Tory plans to slash police numbers by 20,000, has drawn support from a public recovering from its third terrorist attack in three months.

On Saturday, seven people were killed in a van and knife attack on London Bridge and neighbouring Borough market.

In March, a similar attack took place, just around the corner on Westminster Bridge. And two weeks ago, the Manchester Arena was attacked by a suicide bomber, killing 22.

May has acknowledged that a review of the country’s counter-terrorism strategy is needed. She has pledged to further champion Britain’s strong values to defeat the ideology of those who try to divide us.

Enough of austerity

The UK’s first past the post voting system, which tends to squeeze out smaller parties, will guarantee that the Conservatives have a strong voice in the House of Commons, but May might not be the one to carry it.

“May was betting on obtaining a large majority but it’s not sure she’ll get it now” Tony Travers, Director of LSE told RFI.

“Conservative polling is showing that Labour’s more optimistic message on spending is and anti-austerity is probably getting through."