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May gets personal in UK election as Corbyn hogs limelight

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - 15:22

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UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is dominating the British election campaign - for good and bad - with just a week left before voters choose a government to negotiate Brexit.

[LONDON] UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is dominating the British election campaign - for good and bad - with just a week left before voters choose a government to negotiate Brexit.

A dramatic 24 hours culminated in a poll suggesting the election could produce no clear winner, pushing sterling lower. On Tuesday, Mr Corbyn forgot the cost of a key childcare policy during a live radio interview, a blunder on a potentially popular measure that led the BBC's influential evening news. Prime Minister Theresa May went on the attack with sharply personal criticism.

Yet despite his difficulties, the Labour leader appeared relaxed and good humored later, joking on television about his passion for drain covers and gardening, as he received another boost from pollsters.

"Did I ever set out in life to become prime minister? No," Mr Corbyn told BBC television's "The One Show," a popular evening program that typically attracts 5 million viewers.

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"I'm giving it everything I can to win."

The pound fell as much as 0.6 per cent against the US dollar and traded 0.5 per cent lower at US$1.2799 at 7.35am in London.

Pollsters in the UK have been battered by some high-profile misses, most recently in the Brexit referendum, and projections of the election result have swung around over recent weeks. Some polls earlier in the month showed Mrs May's Conservatives leading by 20 percentage points or more, while two surveys on Tuesday also gave Labour supporters reason to hope.

A poll by ICM for The Guardian showed the Conservative lead over Labour falling to 12 points, from 22 points three weeks previously.

Most striking, though, was an estimate of the likely result of the election in Wednesday's edition of The Times of London, compiled by YouGov with an innovative analysis of 50,000 interviews of 7,000 people over seven days.

This projection suggested May would lose 20 seats and be stripped of her overall majority in Parliament, with just 310 lawmakers in a hung Parliament, down from 330 before she called the election. Labour would gain 28 seats and finish with 257 members of parliament, under the YouGov model.

The YouGov result allows for a wide margin of error and the pollster acknowledged that its predictions would be controversial, even though the model correctly predicted Brexit. A so-called hung parliament, with no single party in overall majority control, would be hugely damaging for Mrs May and would seriously undermine her ability to rule.

Mrs May called the snap election last month with surveys suggesting she was on track for a landslide. She told voters she wanted a new mandate to strengthen her position ahead of Brexit negotiations.

Wednesday's newspapers may also pose a challenge for Labour and subject Mr Corbyn to fresh scrutiny over immigration.

The Telegraph and The Daily Mail reported that Labour has a secret plan to let thousands of unskilled migrant workers into Britain after the country leaves the European Union. A visa scheme would allow migrants to compete with British workers for jobs on farms and in factories, the two papers report.

On Tuesday, Mrs May sought to refocus attention on her rival's character, warning that he would not be prepared to take on the EU across the negotiating table. At a campaign event in Wolverhampton, England, the premier said Mr Corbyn would go "alone and naked" into talks starting next month.

"I know that's an image that doesn't bear thinking about, but actually this is very serious," Mrs May said.

"With the Brexit negotiations due to begin only 11 days

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