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Coffee House General Election 2017

Theresa May forced to defend U-turn in her most difficult interview yet

Today was not a day that Theresa May will want to repeat anytime soon. In the morning, she had to U-turn on one of the centrepieces of her election manifesto and in the afternoon, she faced the most difficult interview she has had as Prime Minister.

Theresa May never really got onto the front foot in her half-hour interview with Andrew Neil. She spent the first ten minutes of the interview claiming that the principles behind the Tories’ social care policy hadn’t changed, while Andrew Neil hammered the point that something has: there is now a cap whereas the manifesto had explicitly rejected one. May was also uncomfortable on the question of whether the £8 billion extra the Tories are proposing for the NHS is all new money or not. 

At every turn, May tried to pivot back to the question of who you want doing the Brexit negotiations: her or Jeremy Corbyn? The Tories know this is their strongest suit and are desperate to get the conversation back to it, hence the social care U-turn this morning. When it was put to her that repeating the tens of thousands immigration pledge despite repeatedly not meeting it was why people had lost faith in politics, May replied that she had called the election on a question of trust: who do you trust to get the best Brexit deal? This was the best moment of an otherwise difficult interview for her, and the deliberate way in which she said it made clear that this is the moment she’d like to see clipped on the news tonight.

But May got into a bit of trouble on Brexit later in the interview. She struggled to explain why no deal was better than a bad deal if not getting the best deal would have dire consequences. 

As always with this election, though, you have to remember that the Labour leader is Jeremy Corbyn. May struggled tonight and didn’t sound authoritative. But one has to wonder how Corbyn will fare when he faces Andrew Neil on Friday? This is why the Tories will, ultimately, not be too worried despite a properly bad day at the office for them and their leader.  


James Forsyth, Katy Balls and Lara Prendergast discuss Andrew Neil’s interview with Theresa May


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