Theresa May tries to shift focus as rivals capitalise on social care U-turn

General Election 2017
General Election 2017

Theresa May will attempt to get her election campaign back on track as rivals continue to pile pressure on the Prime Minister after her dramatic U-turn over her social care policy.

She used a television interview to attempt to shift the focus on to Brexit, saying the choice facing voters was a "question of trust" about who could get the better Brexit deal - her or Jeremy Corbyn.

But Labour and the Liberal Democrats continued to pile on the pressure over the Tory manifesto's centrepiece policies on social care and pensioners' benefits.

General Election 2017
General Election 2017

The Lib Dems produced analysis suggesting that households across England would still face the "dementia tax" despite Mrs May committing to a cap on the total costs people will face for their care.

Labour challenged the Prime Minister to rule out targeting other pensioner benefits after the Tory manifesto commitment to means-test the winter fuel payment worth up to £300 to older voters.

The battle for the so-called "grey vote" is crucial as older people are more likely to turn out at elections and Mrs May's decision to accept a cap on care costs followed signs that controversy over the policy was damaging the Tories in the polls.

Mrs May refused to give details of the cap, or the number of pensioners who would face losing up to £300 a year in winter fuel payments under another aspect of her shake-up.

In a major BBC interview she blamed Mr Corbyn for "scaremongering" about the social care policy which formed the centrepiece of last week's manifesto launch.

She said the promised consultation document will include the "concept of an absolute limit on the cost that people have to pay" so "we're protecting people for the future and we're providing a system that provides sustainability in our social care for the future".

Mrs May warned that without taking action to reform the social care system it would "collapse".

The Prime Minister, who denied the change of position on a care cap amounted to a U-turn, tried to make Brexit the central issue in voters' minds on June 8.

She said: "I called an election on this whole issue of trust, because the question that people face is, who do they trust to take this country though the Brexit negotiations?

"Who do they trust to face up to the presidents, the prime ministers, the chancellors of Europe and the European Commission?"

Mrs May will be back on the campaign trail in south-west England as she attempts to put the row over social care behind her.

But the Lib Dems said the proposed cap would still leave many homeowners liable to having the value of their house used to cover care costs after their death and warned the problem would grow as property prices increased.

A cap of £72,000 was due to be placed on care costs in England in 2020, but Mrs May has said the limit under her plans was yet to be decided.

Lib Dem analysis suggested that if the cap was £85,0000, at least a quarter of the value of the average home would be at risk of being liable for the "dementia tax" in 335 constituencies in England - 63% of seats in the country.

If Mrs May set the upper limit at £200,000, more than half the value of the average home would be at risk of being wiped out by the "dementia tax" in 212 constituencies in England, 40% of the total.

Former cabinet minister Sir Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Treasury spokesman, said: "These figures show Theresa May's dementia tax could hit families hard even if a cap is introduced.

"Across the country, people risk seeing over half the value of their homes taken to pay for care costs.

"More could be dragged into paying the dementia tax as house prices rise. It is a stealth dementia tax."

Labour warned that after committing to means-test winter fuel payments and axing the state pension triple lock, the Tories could go further.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: "Given the gaping hole in the Tory plans, and the dumping of their existing promises, the risk is now that the Tories could have other nasty surprises for pensioners up their sleeves.

"There's a real possibility that other hard-earned benefits like bus passes and free TV licences could be next.

"The promises in the Tory manifesto are clearly no longer worth the paper they're written on. So we are today calling for Theresa May to come clean, set out what exactly she's planning and rule out definitively further attacks on pensioners' living standards."

Mr Corbyn will be campaigning in the West Midlands while Lib Dem leader Tim Farron will make a flying visit to Gibraltar to highlight his commitment to preventing a hard Brexit.

Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will face the BBC's Andrew Neil for the latest in his series of big election interviews.