General Election

Tories step up assault on Corbyn as poll shows Labour closing gap to one per cent

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Telford
PICTURES: PA
Andrew Woodcock

WITH just two days to go to the June 8 General Election, Conservatives have stepped up their assault on Jeremy Corbyn, denouncing him as "muddled-headed" on terrorism and weak on Brexit.

Theresa May and Boris Johnson unleashed attacks on the Labour leader as a brace of opinion surveys suggested the UK may be heading for a hung Parliament on Friday.

And Conservatives highlighted a Labour manifesto promise to scrap marriage tax allowances, which they said could cost four million couples up to £230 a year.

Meanwhile, Labour sought to maintain their campaign momentum with six simultaneous celebrity-packed rallies around the country addressed by Mr Corbyn by satellite link yesterday evening.

Speaking from Birmingham to thousands of supporters in Barry, Brighton, Glasgow, London and Warrington, the Labour leader was set to say: "While the Conservatives promise five more years of a country run for the super-rich and cuts for everyone else, Labour will transform Britain by investing in infrastructure and new industries and rebuilding the NHS and our public services.

"On Thursday the British people will go to the polls and have the chance to vote for a government that will transform our country for the many, not the few."

In a high-profile speech in County Durham, Mr Johnson warned that Brexit talks due to start later this month would "founder" if Mr Corbyn wins power.

Labour's "herbivores" would be "eaten for breakfast" by Brussels bureaucrats, and Mr Corbyn's position would be fatally undermined by the "jabbering" of possible coalition partners Nicola Sturgeon and Tim Farron demanding Britain stays in the EU, Mr Johnson said.

"For 30 years, [Corbyn] has been soft and muddle-headed on terror. He has been soft and muddle-headed on defence. He has taken the side of just about every adversary this country has had in my lifetime, from the IRA to Hamas, from Soviet communism to General Galtieri," the foreign secretary warned.

"I don't mean to compare our European friends to any of these people, but it is psychologically impossible to imagine him having the grip or the firmness to get the right Brexit deal for this country.

"A Labour negotiating team would arrive in Brussels like a family of herbivores at a watering hole of lions. They would be eaten for breakfast."

Addressing supporters in Stoke-on-Trent, Mrs May said that the loss of six Tory seats in Thursday's poll would mean "Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street, Diane Abbott looking after our national security, John McDonnell at the Treasury with our economy and the strings being pulled by Nicola Sturgeon".

Warning voters that they could not risk supporting other parties, she appealed: "Give me your backing to lead Britain, give me the authority to speak for Britain, strengthen my hand as I fight for Britain, give me your backing and I will deliver for Britain".

But Liberal Democrat former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg accused Mrs May of a "spectacular failure of leadership" over Brexit by failing to prepare voters for the "huge, excruciatingly difficult, controversial" compromises she will have to make to secure a deal in Brussels.

As a result of her successful drive to woo back Eurosceptic supporters, Mrs May will effectively lead a merged Conservative/UKip party in the next Parliament, and will go into negotiations with "no room to manoeuvre", he said.

Mr Clegg's successor as leader Tim Farron stood by a prediction that he could double his tally of MPs to 18, telling the Press Association that the Lib Dems "look to be the only opposition party that will make progress in this election".

A Survation poll for ITV1's Good Morning Britain found the Conservative lead over Labour slashed from 17 points to just one over the course of the last month, with the Tories on 41.5 per cent compared with Labour on 40.4 per cent. The Liberal Democrats were on 6 per cent and UKip on 3 per cent.

Meanwhile, a daily constituency-by-constituency estimate by pollster YouGov suggested Tories could take 304 Commons seats – down 26 from the end of the previous parliament – compared with Labour's 266 (up 37), with the SNP on 46 (down eight) and the Lib Dems on 12 (up three), denying any party the 323 MPs they need for an absolute majority.

However, there remains wide variation between the findings of different pollsters, with the latest snapshots significantly more favourable to Mr Corbyn's party than other recent surveys.

A PA "poll of polls" taking in 11 results from the past week put the Conservatives on 44 per cent, seven points clear of Labour on 37 per cent, with the Liberal Democrats on 8 per cent, UKip on 4 per cent and the Greens on 2 per cent.

Mr Corbyn rejected Tory claims that Labour would not be ready for Brexit negotiations due to start on June 19.

"We have a very good team, very well aware and across the issues on the EU," he told The Big Issue magazine in a video interview.

"Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry and Barry Gardiner will be at the heart of that negotiating team.

"We will negotiate tariff-free access to the European market, we will protect those consumer rights and rights at work that we have got from the EU and we will work with the EU in the future.

"We won't threaten to turn this country into some sort of low tax haven on the shores of Europe."

The Labour leader ruled out a second referendum on the final Brexit deal, saying: "No, we will bring the issue back to Parliament. I think we have to accept the result of the referendum we had last year.

"It's up to us to deal with that and to negotiate with the EU. That's the hand that has been played."

Mr Corbyn joked that he was "coping" with the Tories' personal attacks on him and stressed the importance of running a positive election campaign.

Speaking to reporters aboard the Labour battle bus in Telford, Mr Corbyn said: "Well, they don't seem to like me very much, but I'm coping.

"In politics, you should really always be positive, if you've got something to say, something to offer, and a programme to put forward, say it and put it forward.

"I don't indulge in personal attacks and personal abuse, I don't do undermining of people because I think you should really set it out for what you want for people.

"Always be positive.

"I have never indulged in personal abuse and I never will."

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