British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party said on Sunday it would not ditch proposals to reduce support for elderly voters, as opinion polls showing their lead ahead of the June 8 national election falling.
Polls published late on Saturday showed the Conservative lead over the centre-left Labour Party has narrowed after both parties set out their policy offerings last week — the first real sign that an expected victory for May could be less emphatic than many had predicted.
May has faced criticism from political rivals and pressure groups over her planned social care reforms, which include a making elderly homeowners – a core voter group for the Conservatives – pay more towards their old-age care
The criticism, including within the Sunday editions of usually friendly right-leaning newspapers, prompted senior ministers to defend the reform package in a series of television interviews.
“This is necessary … we have to do something about the huge costs of social care,” Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told ITV’s Peston on Sunday show.
The growing cost of caring for the elderly as the population ages is a problem that has bedevilled successive governments, with the current system widely seen as inadequate.
“I do understand people’s reservations and the questions that some people are asking about the detail of all this, but the broad thrust is right,” Johnson said.
Asked in a separate interview on the BBC Damian Green, pensions minister and a close May ally was asked whether the government would reconsider the planned changes. He said: “No”.
One poll showed Labour had halved the Conservatives’ lead to 9 percentage points; the first single-figure gap since May called the snap election hoping for a resounding victory that would strengthen her mandate to negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose manifesto launch set out plans for higher state investment and nationalisation of some services, said the Conservatives were betraying Britain’s elderly.
“Theresa May and the Conservatives won’t stand up for pensioners, their only concern is their billionaire friends,” he said.
The Conservatives have framed their election campaign as a personality battle between May and Corbyn by asking voters who they trust more to get a good Brexit deal, banking on May’s image as a tough negotiator to sway wavering voters.
Their campaign portrays Corbyn as an out-of-touch left-winger.
(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)