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Kam Sandhu of Real Media says ‘strong and stable’ May is showing her incompetencies and polling is beginning to reflect that as UK heads to an election on June 8th
SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network, I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. In the UK, opposition labor party’s candidate Jeremy Corbyn is closing in on the conservative party’s lead of Theresa May. The conservative’s lead in election polling is down from a 20 point lead they had when Theresa May announced this snap election back on April 18th. But now they’re only five points spread or five points apart. This comes at a time when the prime minister, Theresa May, has made an embarrassing u-turn on a key Tory party manifesto pledge. If you remember, we did the interview on the manifesto last week so if you haven’t seen it, please go back and watch that with Kam Sandhu. Anyway, this particular part of the manifesto pledge that she has now made a u-turn on is dubbed the dementia tax. According to the independent newspaper, in another poll that was conducted after the Tory manifesto was launched, it found that 28% of voters said they were less likely to vote conservative because of the manifesto and the social care policies in that manifesto. Joining us today to discuss the u-turn in the conservative party’s election pledges is Kam Sandhu. Kam is an investigative journalist and editor and she’s also the co founder of the UK based independent outlet, Real Media. Thank you so much for joining me, Kam. KAM SANDHU: It’s great to see you again, Sharmini. SHARMINI PERIES: Kam, can you start off, first of all, describing what the dementia tax is? Along with the apparent u-turn in terms of Theresa May and why this is significant for this election? KAM SANDHU: It was the conservative party manifesto that we released last week. Within four days, the party and its leader, Theresa May, who had called this snap election, six weeks we have in the time of her announcement to the election happening on June 8th. She felt this would furnish her legitimacy in terms of her going into making these Brexit deal negotiations. She basically thought that she would be able to walk it. She was 20 points in the lead, as you said. However, that manifesto that they released seems to be a turning point in their popularity. Within four days, Theresa May announced that she would be undoing one of those aspects, which is the social care part of that bill. The reason this is really significant is because she went after her own voter base. This is older people. This is homeowners, people who always turn out and vote for the conservatives, were now being affected by these quite severe policies that she was implementing in terms of the social care that she was proposing. She was suggesting a lift on the cap on social care costs which David Cameron had put at £72,000 for people in their later life. She did away with that and said there could be no cap on the amount that it could cost you and that they would extract that money back from people who are receiving home care who don’t have their houses put into their assets for their social care bills, they would start removing home equity as a part of their care costs to pay for them. That means that after they die, their homes would be repossessed by the government and they would take that as a kind of payment. This is what’s seen lots of their voters turn around and say, “Actually, this is definitely a step too far for us.” Yes, since then, and notably it was after the Manchester attack, which we’ve all been reeling from and it’s only today that these parties have got back to campaigning that we saw a poll that saw, yeah, the conservatives only have now a five point lead over labor. It is just one poll however it is promising and I think for the first time we can say that Jeremy Corbyn is certainly providing an opposition and I don’t think people can say he’s unelectable anymore. SHARMINI PERIES: Let’s park the Manchester attacks and the implications that might have on the election for our second segment, but let’s take up more of these social care issues that you mentioned. There was another point we discussed last week, a sticky point, which is the governing conservative party was removing the free lunch program from schools and had proposed some sort of a breakfast program. Give us a sense of how this is going over in the public arena and had this contributed to the shrinkage in the polling and the 5% spread now? KAM SANDHU: Certainly, I would hope there would be some kind of backlash once you’re going after food from children. But Theresa May did announce in that manifesto that they would be removing school lunches for infant children. She said that she would replace that with a breakfast program. However, that breakfast program was … There wasn’t many cost things in that Tory manifesto if you remember as we spoke about last week. However, there was a figure of £60 million to pay for this new breakfast program for children. When the conservative government were challenged on the fact that this would only allow 7p per child to feed them on this breakfast program, they said that they had got the figures wrong but they had no idea what it would actually cost to implement this breakfast program. Not only are we seeing them take these lunches away from children, they now don’t really have the resources and don’t know what it will cost to implement any kind of food that they’re offering to school children and infants. SHARMINI PERIES: To what extent, should the latest poll numbers be taken seriously in terms of real world outcomes, in terms of electing members of parliament in particular? KAM SANDHU: As I said, it’s one poll and it’s certainly something that labor supports and, perhaps, people who lean more towards the left in this country are taking as a positive thing. The amount of hostility that Corbyn has received from both press and other politicians and the way that he’s been derided, all that seemed to be about him and his personality and whether he was strong enough to carry us through. We had Theresa May saying she was strong and stable and really we’ve seen all that come undone with her incompetency or these u-turns. She looked pretty unable to deal even with the public at the places where she’s turned up to do her rallies. She’s banned certain employees from certain workforces from attending those rallies in their own workplace. She clearly has a problem dealing with people day to day. I think as the campaign goes on, and it is just a short amount of time, we’re not sure whether this will make the difference we need to. However, as I said, labor supporters will take this as a positive thing. But it’s broken through all of the unelectability talk that they’ve said about Corbyn. These policies have struck a chord with people. To say that tuition fees will go and he’ll remove them by September compared to Theresa May who’s painted a rather bleak picture about the future. Perhaps his policy ideas are winning out. The point is, with Jeremy Corbyn, is that he’s instated this manifesto which, as I said, no tuition fees, increases in minimum wage, greater worker rights, protecting the NHS which will remain as labor strategy whether he stays or goes after the election. He’s succeeded on many counts and now proving that he’s polling higher than what Tony Blair won with which was 35%. SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Kam. Let’s wrap up this session and start a segment two where we’re going to talk about the foreign policy of each of the candidates and how that is impact the elections. Thank you so much for joining me, Kam. KAM SANDHU: Thank you. SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.