Theresa May hits back at 'blowhard' criticism from Jeremy Paxman
Theresa May has deflected criticism of her handling of domestic policy and record in the Home Office as she urged voters to “trust” her to deliver on Brexit.
Members of the public at tonight’s televised election special challenged the Prime Minister on reductions to police numbers, the Conservative plans for social care, and cuts to school funding.
After seeing the Conservative polling lead dwindle to single figures in the wake of the Conservative manifesto and subsequent furore over social care, Mrs May ditched her “strong and stable” mantra and attempted to shift the focus back to Brexit during the Sky and Channel 4 broadcast.
She frequently referred to former Cabinet colleague Ken Clarke’s description of her as a “bloody difficult woman” and said she was ready to walk away from negotiations if there was only a “bad deal” on offer.
It was put to her by interviewer Jeremy Paxman that U-turns on National Insurance rises, a social care cap, and an early election would lead EU negotiators to conclude that she was a “blowhard who collapses at the first sign of gunfire”.
She responded: “I think you’ll find that what the people in Brussels look at is the record that I have of negotiating with them… on justice and home affairs, which people said we were never going to get and I got those [in the] negotiations.”
When Mr Paxman questioned when the Remain supporter had changed her mind and decided that leaving the EU was a good idea, she replied: “The British people were given the choice and the British people decided they wanted the UK to leave the EU…
“I’m delivering what I believe the British people want their government to deliver. It’s not just an issue about Brexit itself; it’s also an issue about trust in politicians.”
She added: “We have an opportunity now to really change this country for the better for the future. That is about Brexit, but it’s also about facing up to domestic challenges... If in order to address them and do the right thing by the country it takes being a difficult woman, that’s exactly what I’ll be.”
Mrs May was also tackled on the Conservatives’ plans to change who pays for social care, which have been dubbed a “dementia tax” by critics.
Despite being repeatedly asked, she refused to be drawn on what the overall cap on care costs would be and said it would be set by consultation.
“It’s not about not knowing [the level of the cap]; it’s about thinking about what the right approach is to get to that figure.”
She also declined to spell out which pensioners would lose the winter fuel allowance under the Tory plans.
Members of the audience grumbled and one heckled Mrs May when, in response to a question about the Conservative plan to cut school funding per pupil in real terms, she instead attacked Labour’s manifesto.
“Nobody can guarantee a real-terms per pupil increase. In the Labour party’s manifesto, we know the figures do not add up,” she said, as one person pointed out the Tories had no costings in their own manifesto.