Socialist Worker

Damaging debate adds to Tory woes as election campaign enters crucial final week

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2557

Jeremy Corbyn addressing supporters in Reading hours before the TV debate

Jeremy Corbyn addressing supporters in Reading hours before the TV debate (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Theresa May's cowardly refusal to appear on a BBC election debate last night, Wednesday, added to the scorn being heaped in the Tories' campaign.

It saw her stand-in, home secretary Amber Rudd, attacked from all sides over the Tories' disgraceful record and their programme of further misery forordinary people.

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Jeremy Corbyn, whose Labour campaign is gaining momentum, slammed the devastating Tory policy of austerity.

"Our schools are underfunded, our hospitals are overcrowded, our students are saddled with debt, there's a growing housing crisis," he said."At every single turn, their answer is to further reduce corporation tax and further reduce tax for the very wealthiest in society."

Rudd took the flak for May, and struggled to defend the Tories. “Just look at our record,” she said—to be met with howls of laughter. That record is of brutal cuts and racist repression.

Though she did give Ukip leader Paul Nuttall stiff competition when he tried to claim the mantle of racist Brexiteer-in-chief.

Rudd promised that the Tory assault on working class people, dressed up as “difficult decisions”, would not let up if they are re-elected.

Applauded

When Rudd tried to justify Tory cuts, Corbyn was applauded for challenging her. "Have you been to a food bank?", he asked.

Both the Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas and Scottish National Party deputy leader Angus Robertson backed up Corbyn's position of linking British foreign policy in the Middle East to terrorist attacks like that in Manchester last week.

Nuttall tried to lay the blame at the door of Muslims,citing "radicalisation within our Mosques". Most of the debaters then took turns voicing their disgust at his Islamophobia.

Though Corbyn last night toned down his position on British imperialism since last week, he rightly said, “If you intervene somewhere, the consequences are going on for a very long time.”

Corbyn's campaign has tapped into the anger people feel after seven years of Tory rule.Thousands of people have come to hear him speak over the past five weeks, including in Reading yesterday afternoon.

As the debate was being broadcast some 4,000 people joined a rally against NHS cuts in Bristol. Corbyn had been due to speak, before pullingout to attend the televised debates.

“The mood was buoyant,” Dave Merrick told Socialist Worker. “The first baby born under the NHS—who became a midwife—spoke about the devastating impact of the cuts.”

For the Tories, the debate capped off a disastrous day.

May was met with protests at a Tory event in Bath.

Recent polls show Labour continuing to eat into the Tories' lead.

One analysis released on Tuesday showed the possibility of a hung parliament, giving the Tories 310 seats compared to 257 for Labour.

Another poll published on Wednesday put Labour on 39 percent of the vote, just three points behind the Tories on 42 percent.

None of these forecasts are certain, and the result on 8 June is impossible to predict.

But the initial Tory boasts of an easy landslide victory now seem a distant memory. Their support has crumbled under May while Labour's has solidified behind Corbyn.

The debate consolidated this, and can be a launchpad for going on the offensive in the crucial final week.


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