Poll dive deals a blow to British PM's election battle
May 31 2017 05:59 PM
Theresa May
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a question and answer session during a general election campaign rally at Cross Manufacturing in Bath, south-west England, on Wednesday,

AFP/London

British Prime Minister Theresa May was fighting to shore up her general election campaign on Wednesday after a shock projection suggested she could lose her parliamentary majority, leaving the pound wobbling.
The landslide victory May hoped to seal by calling a snap election for June 8 seemed much less likely with eight days to go, with the polls narrowing and her Conservative party's manifesto coming under scrutiny.
The opposition Labour party, led by veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, has gradually nibbled away at the Conservative lead in the polls, with the campaign back in full swing after the Manchester terror attack.
But May insisted she had the best plan for taking Britain into negotiations over its exit from the European Union, which start 11 days after the election.
"The only poll that matters is the one that's going to take place on June 8," she said on a campaign visit to Plymouth in southwest England.
"Then people will have a choice as to who they want to see as leader, who they want to see as prime minister taking this country forward in the future: me or Jeremy Corbyn.
"I have the plan for the Brexit negotiations but I've also got a plan to build a stronger and more prosperous Britain and I'm confident we can do that."
Polls tightening  
May called the election three years early in a bid to strengthen her slender majority in parliament going into the Brexit talks.
But the 20-point opinion poll lead of the time is now into single figures.
"The movement in the polls over this campaign is bigger than in any election I've covered since 1945," veteran poll watcher David Butler said on Twitter.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper's rolling average of the last eight polls now puts the Conservatives on 44%, Labour on 36%, the centrist Liberal Democrats on 8% and the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) on 5%.
But a shock new projection in The Times newspaper forecast that the Conservatives could lose their majority in the 650-seat House of Commons.
Using new constituency-by-constituency modelling, the projection by pollsters YouGov said the party could lose 20 seats to end up with 310.
However, the model -- based on 50,000 interviews over one week -- has a very wide margin of error, saying the Conservatives could get anywhere between 274 and 345 seats, meaning they could also increase their majority.
Corbyn on Wednesday did not rule out forming a coalition or doing a deal with the Scottish Nationalists and others to get into government in the event of a hung parliament. 
TV debate challenge  
The British currency dipped by as much as 0.5% overnight on the back of the YouGov poll.
It recovered ground early Wednesday, trading broadly flat at 1.28 against the dollar and up 0.1% against the euro at 1.14.
"There is a slightly more cautious attitude as a result of those narrowing polls," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.
Sensing the momentum, Corbyn made a last-minute decision to attend a live television debate Wednesday with other party leaders -- and challenged May to join him.
May had ruled out any face-to-face debates during the campaign and Corbyn had followed suit, before changing his stance.
"The prime minister seems to have difficulties in meeting anyone or having a debate," Corbyn said.
But the Conservatives confirmed that interior minister Amber Rudd would represent the party as planned at the BBC hustings.
Rebutting questions from journalists during a visit to factory workers in Bath, southwest England, May denied she was scared of the scrutiny.
"The sort of campaign I want to do is about meeting people and taking questions," she said.
"Debates where the politicians are squabbling among themselves doesn't do anything for the process of electioneering.
"It's actually about getting out and about, meeting voters and hearing directly from voters."

Last updated: May 31 2017 06:07 PM


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