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Coffee House General Election 2017

Confident May tells audience, I had the balls to call this election

2 June 2017

9:56 PM

2 June 2017

9:56 PM

Theresa May turned in what, I think, was her best TV performance of the election tonight. May engaged with the questions more than she has in previous TV events, and was more confident and fluent than she had been on Monday night. After a prolonged Tory wobble, her performance will have steadied jangling Tory nerves.

May pitched hard for the Brexit vote. She said that she had called the election ‘for Brexit’ and that if you voted Leave, you needed to make sure you got it. When she was accused of calling the election for political gain, she hit back saying that she had had the balls to call an election rather than just serving out the term the Tories had won in 2015. Her deliberate use of the word balls was very Thatcheresque, deliberately flipping the language of gender.

In a sign of where the Tories intend to go in the final week of the campaign, she was eager to get in her attacks on Labour’s fiscal plans. She repeatedly said that there is ‘no magic money tree’ that can fund all of this extra spending. This is the preparatory work for a coming Tory attack on how Labour will raise your taxes.

The audience asked May a string of tough questions. Perhaps, the most emotionally charged moment of the night came when a partially sighted woman with mental health problems asked about the work capability assessment, and how she had reduced to tears by being questioned about her suicide attempt. May handled this difficult question well, saying she would make no excuses for the woman’s treatment before returning the discussion to the issue of mental health.

What was less impressive was May still trying to suggest that the Tories were always planning to consult on a cap on social care costs. This was not the impression given by either the manifesto or the Health Secretary on the morning of the manifesto launch. As one questioner pointed out, if May can tell people what the asset floor is, why can’t she say what the cap will be?

There was also a rather embarrassing moment when May didn’t appear to know that UK aid money has gone to North Korea. There is a case to be made for the 0.7 percent target, but this kind of spending does undermine public trust in the whole aid budget.

Overall, however May turned in one of her strongest performances of this election. If she had been like this throughout, the Tories wouldn’t be this fretful with 6 days to go to polling day. But tonight, will have steadied the Tory campaign.

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