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Prime Minister in Edinburgh

Tories lead narrows as social care worries troops

Theresa May Scots Tory manifesto launch
Theresa May at Scots Tory manifesto launch

Theresa May was facing a growing challenge from Labour this weekend as polls appeared to show a narrowing of voting intentions.

A YouGov, which was conducted after the Conservative manifesto was released last week, has the Tories on 44% and Labour up to 35%, the smallest lead recorded by the pollster this year.

It follows a week of polling showing the Tories holding a clear lead.

A YouGov poll published on Friday put the SNP on 42% of the vote, the Conservatives second on 29%, with Labour on 19%.

YouGov put support for independence on 45%, with 55% saying Scotland should remain in the United Kingdom, indicating no change since the vote in 2014.

An Orb poll of UK voting intentions published on Saturday shows the Conservatives with 46%, unchanged on last week, while Labour is up 2% to 34%.

The Prime Minister admitted in a weekend article that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could still replace her in Number 10.

“Make no mistake, it could happen,” Mrs May wrote in a piece for the Daily Mail.

“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.”

A Conservative minister told The Sunday Times the party’s manifesto plans on care were going down badly with voters and urged Mrs May to “quickly change the subject”

The unnamed minister said: “We need to get off care and pensioner benefits and start talking about the calamity of Corbyn again.”

Mrs May, in Edinburgh on Friday to support the launch of the Scottish Conservatives’ manifesto, insisted that talk of a Scottish independence referendum would weaken her negotiating position in the Brexit talks.

She  urged voters to send a clear message that they did not want to split up the UK.

She said the Conservatives were the “only party” that could stand up to the SNP.

Her party has been buoyed by recent polls suggesting it could win up to 14 seats in Scotland compared to the one it secured in 2015.

Mrs May said she had a “credible, deliverable programme for government around which the whole country can unite”.

Speaking alongside Scottish party leader Ruth Davidson in Edinburgh, she repeated her attack on the SNP ‘s “tunnel-vision obsession with independence”.

However, she refused to elaborate on Conservatives manifesto pledge that a referendum should not take place “unless there is public consent for it to happen”.

She would not say what was meant by “public consent” and when this would take place.

“As long as I am Prime Minister I will never stand by and let out union drift apart,” she said.

Ruth Davidson: appealed to Labou
Ruth Davidson: appealed to Labour

In view of Labour’s continued poor showing in the polls Ms Davidson has urged Labour supporters to fall behind her party in order to take the fight to the SNP.

She said the election on 8 June was about “bringing the SNP down to size”. In one diversion from UK party policy she said the Scottish Conservatives would not introduce a mean test for winter fuel payments.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said the Conservatives were to blame for the constitutional turmoil.

“It is the Tories’ reckless Brexit gamble that has given the SNP the excuse it has been looking for to try to force another divisive independence referendum,” she said.

“Rather than fix the problems they have created in our country, the Conservatives are intent on continuing to divide our country and increase the risk of a second independence referendum.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “Their cuts to pensions, social care and free school meals shows that the Conservative Party is mean spirited and cold hearted. It is lurching to the right to capture votes from UKIP.

“The Conservative-UKIP pursuit of a damaging hard Brexit will be damaging to our security, jobs and the NHS.”

Alex Salmond, the former First Minister and SNP leader, accused the Tories of “complete and utter confusion” over the constitution.

He said: “There is already a cast-iron democratic mandate for Scotland to have a choice, based on last year’s Holyrood election and the subsequent vote of the Scottish Parliament.”

Scottish Conservative manifesto highlights

  • Education: A review of the national curriculum in Scottish schools – Curriculum for Excellence.

  • Energy, the party says it would give “support” to the shale gas industry in Scotland.

  • Local government: directly elected provosts for cities, councils or regions in Scotland who could drive economic policy.

  • Tax: raise the threshold for the higher rate of income tax to £50,000.

  • Transport: a Road Maintenance Fund in Scotland, inviting local authorities to bid for money to fix potholes.

  • Welfare: Protection of universal winter fuel payments for all older people, with no means-testing in Scotland..

  • Housing: 100,000 homes built in Scotland over the next five years.

    Comment: Could Mrs May become Mrs May Be Not?

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