Theresa May urges British voters to reject ‘coalition of chaos’

British prime minister attacks Labour and the SNP as MPs approve general election

Denis Staunton

Theresa May kicked off seven weeks of campaigning on Wednesday with a promise of strong and stable leadership after MPs overwhelmingly backed her call for a general election on June 8th.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Democratic Unionist Party joined the Conservatives to deliver 522 votes in favour of an early election, with just 13 against.

Within hours of the vote, the prime minister was in Bolton, outside Manchester, to deliver her first stump speech of the campaign.

She portrayed the election as a choice between five years of stability and strong leadership under the Conservatives and a “coalition of chaos” under Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, propped up by the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party (SNP).

With polls pointing to a Conservative landslide, the Labour leader will use his first campaign event on Thursday to cast himself as an underdog facing powerful vested interests.

 ‘Doffing your cap’

“Much of the media and establishment are saying this election is a foregone conclusion. They think there are rules in politics, which if you don’t follow by doffing your cap to powerful people, accepting that things can’t really change, then you can’t win. But of course those people don’t want us to win. Because when we win, it’s the people, not the powerful, who win,” he will say.

Mr Corbyn agreed on Wednesday to allow all sitting Labour MPs to fight the election in June without facing reselection by local activists.

Facing criticism from within his own party over his leadership style, Mr Corbyn will on Thursday seek to make a virtue out of his refusal to conform to political norms.

“They say I don’t play by the rules – their rules. We can’t win, they say, because we don’t play their game. They’re quite right – I don’t. And a Labour government elected on June 8th won’t play by their rules.

“These rules have created a cosy cartel which rigs the system in favour of a few powerful and wealthy individuals and corporations.

“It’s a rigged system set up by the wealth extractors for the wealth extractors,” he will say.

Hardest possible Brexit

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said a bigger Conservative majority would bring the hardest possible Brexit and more public spending cuts. Speaking outside the Palace of Westminster, she claimed that Ms May’s resistance to a second Scottish independence referendum would “crumble to dust” if the SNP won the election in Scotland.

“It is a vote to ensure that the future of Scotland – the kind of country we are – will be decided, not here at Westminster, but in Scotland, by the Scottish people,” she said.

Former Conservative chancellor George Osborne said on Wednesday that he was leaving parliament to concentrate on his new role as editor of the Evening Standard.

 

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