Theresa May clashed with Jeremy Corbyn today in their last Commons set-piece confrontation before loal elections tomorrow – but both avoided talking about Brexit.
Mrs May squared off against the Labour leader at Prime Minister’s Questions less than 24 hours before the polls open in elections in England and Northern Ireland.
The Prime Minister was grilled over social mobility, poverty and the use of food banks and when she tried to respond was so loudly heckled by Labour MPs that Speaker John Bercow had to call for order.
But both she and Mr Corbyn have been badly damaged by internal party fights over Brexit and neither mentioned the topic during PMQs.
The Prime Minister’s party is expected to lose as many as 800 seats in their worst local election result for 20 years as voters vent their fury over the handling of the UK’s departure from the EU – which has been pushed back to October 31 at the latest.
It came after the Prime Minister was handed a ‘silver lining’ of good news today ahead of tomorrow’s local council elections – before clashing with Jeremy Corbyn in their last Commons set-piece confrontation before the polls open.
The Prime Minister might not receive the massive hammering predicted in the elections because a lack of alternatives mean disgruntled Brexiteer Tories might stay at home, leading political academic Sir John Curtice suggested.
But he warned that it still may be difficult for the embattled leader, who is facing widespread anger for failing to deliver Brexit as planned on March 29.
Mrs May clashed with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions in their last set-piece confrontation before the local elections tomorrow
Mr Corbyn attacked the Prime Minister for the Government’s record on poverty and the use of food banks
Sir John, Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde, told LBC radio that many of the seats were in ‘Tory Shires for the most part – so this is an area where there are plenty of Tory seats to be won over.’
He added: ‘We have to remember that the Brexit Party is not on the ballot paper tomorrow. And Ukip are only fighting around one in six of the seats.
‘So those leave voters who are unhappy with the Conservatives over Brexit frankly face the choice tomorrow in most of the local elections of either turning out to vote and still voting for the Conservatives – because I doubt that they’ll consider voting for Labour or the Liberal Democrats – or staying at home.
‘Therefore, probably, the results won’t be quite as bad for the Conservatives as perhaps some of the impression you might have from the headline opinion polls.’
Nigel Farage has landed some high profile defections to his new Brexit Party, including former shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe, but they are standing in Euro elections
Former Ukip leader Mr Farage has attracted some high profile candidates to his new party.
They include Tory former shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe and Annunziata Rees-Mogg, the sister of Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and herself a former general election candidate for the Conservatives.
But they are all standing in the European elections widely expected to take place in May, after the EU gave the UK a Brexit delay until October 31 to try to get a deal through Parliament.
The party is not standing candidates in the local elections, although they are tipped to run a candidate for a new Peterborough MP if incumbent Fiona Onasanya is booted out tonight, after being jailed for perverting the course of justice.
Some 8,374 council seats are up for grabs in England and 460 in Northern Ireland on Thursday.
The Tories currently have 4,628 seats and is contesting 95 per cent of all the seats up for grabs, more than any other party.
In contrast Ukip, which has been hit by a slew of defections to the Brexit Party and controversy over its links with English Defence League co-founder Tommy Robinson, is contesting just 16 per cent of seats.
At PMQs Mr Corbyn claimed Theresa May’s Government had ‘completely failed’ to take action to tackle ‘burning injustices’ in the UK, according to Jeremy Corbyn.
The Labour leader began by highlighting a Social Mobility Commission report, which warned inequality will remain entrenched in Britain ‘from birth to work’ without urgent Government action.
Touching on Thursday’s local elections, Mr Corbyn said: ‘For many people this Government has delivered nothing but failure.’
He recalled Mrs May’s pledge to fight against ‘burning social injustices’ on her first day in office, but then flagged the commission’s report.
Mr Corbyn asked: ‘Can the Prime Minister now admit that her Government has completely failed to take action to tackle the burning injustices?’
Mrs May said the commission’s chairwoman, Dame Martina Milburn, had highlighted a ‘real commitment in Government to try to make a difference in this area’ before telling MPs: ‘I want everyone to have the opportunity to reach their potential, whatever their background.
‘And that’s why we’re improving education, helping to create higher paid jobs, we’re boosting home ownership.’
Sir John Curtice told LBC: ‘The Brexit Party is not on the ballot paper tomorrow. And Ukip are only fighting around one in six of the seats’
Mr Corbyn said that a ‘record 1.6 million food parcels were given out last year alone’, attacking the Government’s policies for creating a situation where ‘in one of the richest countries on this earth food banks are now handing out 14 millions meals a year to people, some of whom are in work, who simply haven’t got enough to eat’.
Mrs May began her response by saying the ‘best route out of poverty…’ before she was roundly heckled.
She then continued to say that the best route was through work, and that her Government had seen ‘record numbers of people in employment’ and was helping people ‘keep more money in their pockets’ with tax cuts and wage increases.
But Mr Corbyn said: ‘Many of those people receiving food parcels, which has increased by 600,000 in four years, are actually people in work because of the low wages that they are on.’
He added that even the PM’s ‘own Secretary of State admitted that Universal Credit has caused people to rely on food banks’.