How Andrew Neil skewered Theresa May in five questions
The PM wasn’t exactly forthcoming with her answers.
When you’ve had a bad day as a politician, pretty much the last person you want to be sitting opposite is Andrew Neil. And yet that’s what Theresa May had to deal with in the first of a series of primetime interviews with the party leaders.
After the prime minister’s social care u-turn, Neil did not pull any punches, most notably by stating: “This must be the first time in modern political history that a party has broken a manifesto pledge before an election.”
As usual the prime minister wasn’t exactly forthcoming in her answers. She said the level for means-testing pensioners’ winter fuel allowance would be decided after consultation, she refused to be drawn on r new social care cap, she did not answer when asked where the money for the extra £8bn for the NHS would come from.
But while May was skewered on numerous occasions, she pivoted back to Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn at every opportunity – and managed to get through without any real clangers. Just...
1. What happened your poll lead?
Neil: "You started this campaign with a huge double-digit lead in the polls. It’s now down to single digits in some polls. What’s gone wrong?"
May: “Well, Andrew, there’s only one poll that counts in any election campaign, as I’m sure you know from your long experience, and that’s the one that takes place on 8 June.”
2. Why are you being dishonest?
Neil: "Your manifesto rejects a [social care] cap. It gives a reason why you don’t want a cap. Now you’re going to have a cap. You need to be honest, I would suggest and tell the British people you’ve changed your mind."
May: “What I’m doing – first of all, Andrew, I’m being absolutely honest with the British people about the big challenge that we face... What I’ve done today is I’ve seen the scaremongering, frankly, that we’ve seen over the weekend. I’ve seen the way that Jeremy Corbyn wants to sneak into No 10 by playing on the fears of older and vulnerable people, and I’ve clarified what we will be putting in the green paper which I set out in the manifesto.”
Neil: "I mean, this must be the first time in modern history that a party’s actually broken a manifesto policy before the election."
May: "No. What we have done, Andrew, I set out in my manifesto the challenges that we need to address as a government."
3. Where’s the money?
Neil: "Many people have said your manifesto is quite vague when it comes to how you’re going to pay for your spending pledges. How are you going to pay for the extra £8bn for the NHS?"
May: “When I go around the country and talk to people about what we’re going to do in government, what people want to know is are we actually going to have the strong economy that enables us to pay for the NHS and pay for the public services that people want?”
4. What happened to helping the JAMs?
Neil: "I want to come on to the 'just about managing'. They’re not the poorest of the poor but they’re not that affluent either. Life can be a bit of a struggle. You say you’re on their side but inflation is now rising faster than average pay so living standards are being squeezed and you’ve frozen their in-work benefits for almost 7 million people. In what way are you on their side?"
May: “Well, if you look at the issues around people who are – as you say I mean I talked about people who were ‘just about managing,’ who sometimes find life a struggle when I came into Downing Street last year and there are a number of ways in which I want to support those people. On the cost of living, what I want to see is building a strong economy with higher paid jobs. I always want to help them with things like energy bills and that’s why we’re going to cap rip off energy price rises.”
5. Why should we trust you?
Neil: "The Conservatives’ promise to end the budget deficit by 2015 is now going to be 2025 at the earliest. You promised to reduce migration to the tens of thousands. It’s still 273,000. On these two big issues you failed to meet your promises; why would we trust the Tories on anything else?"
May: “Well, as I say the election will be about trust. Yes, we have – we’re still the party that wants to ensure that we bring that deficit down. We’ve brought it down by three-quarters. So, we’ve been doing that work and we will continue to work on that. Sharp contrast with the Labour party that wants to significantly increase borrowing and with a leader who says that he doesn’t seem to mind about debt and the deficit.”