Theresa May: Calling election shows I have 'balls'

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Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are returning to the election fray after taking a pummelling from voters in their final TV showdown before polling day on June 8.

The Prime Minister came under fire over public sector pay, social care and mental health, as one member of the BBC1 Question Time audience berated her for "a known track record of broken promises and backtracking".

But she denied she regretted calling a snap election which has seen her opinion poll lead slip from 25 points to five or less, saying the decision showed she had "balls".

Her Labour rival Mr Corbyn was heckled as he refused to say whether he would launch a retaliatory nuclear strike and denied supporting terrorism.

One man accused the Labour leader of speaking with the IRA "when they were killing our people - our women and children".

Audience members also challenged Mr Corbyn over his promises to raise £48 billion in tax to pay for public services, with one man telling him Labour's manifesto read like "a letter to Santa Claus".

Mr Corbyn said it was "a shame" that he and Mrs May were questioned separately in the 90-minute broadcast in York, because the Prime Minister refused to debate other leaders head to head.

But Mrs May insisted she was not ducking a debate, saying she preferred to take questions direct from voters.

She fielded angry questions from nurse Victoria Davey, who said her pay slips had not increased since 2009, and asked: "How can that be fair, in the light of the job that we do?"

Mrs May said public sector staff were "working very hard on jobs we want them to do", but added: "We have to make sure that we are managing our money carefully because at the end of the day there isn't a magic money tree that suddenly delivers all the money everybody wants for the spending everybody wants."

Ukip member Abigail Eatock won loud applause as she told the PM: "You said you wouldn't call an election and you did.

"You are refusing to take part in debates, refusing to answer people's questions, refusing to talk to Jeremy Corbyn.

"And you've backtracked on your social care policy. Your entire manifesto has holes in it, and everyone else can see that."

But Mrs May said: "I'm not refusing to take part in debates, because I'm here answering questions from you.

"That's what I think is important in an election campaign - not politicians arguing amongst each other, but actually listening and taking questions from voters."

Mr Corbyn faced demands from the audience to say whether he would be ready to use Britain's Trident deterrent.

"I would view the idea of having to use a nuclear weapon as something that was resulting in a failure in the whole world's diplomatic system," he said.

"There has to be no first use, there has to be a process of engagement to bring about, ultimately, global nuclear disarmament. It's not going to happen quickly, it's not going to happen easily, but we have to have that wish."

One questioner asked how he could expect the British people to vote him into office when he had "sat down and supported" the IRA and Hamas.

Mr Corbyn said: "I have not supported any of those organisations.

"If you are to bring about a peace process anywhere ... there has to be a coming together."

The Labour leader attacked Mrs May for failing to sign a joint letter with leaders of Germany, France and Italy condemning President Donald Trump's decision to pull the US out of the Paris Accord on climate change.

"I utterly deplore Donald Trump's decision," he said.

"I would sign a letter with any other leader that would deplore that, straight away."

But the PM said: "I haven't because I actually have spoken to Donald Trump and told him that the UK believes in the Paris agreement and that we didn't want the United States to leave the Paris agreement."

Mrs May was confronted by a partially-sighted woman who fought back sobs as she told how she had waited over a year for NHS mental health counselling and had been reduced to tears by personal questions in a Work Capability Assessment.

The PM said she would make "no excuses" for her treatment, but insisted she was determined to improve the handling of mental health in the NHS.

She came under fire over her plans to pay for social care by taking money from the estates of those who have run up bills, with one disabled man asking if her plans would leave him and his wife bankrupt.

But she said taxpayers should not have to subsidise the social care of elderly people who have a "very significant value" property.

Mrs May insisted that the election should be about choosing the best team for the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, warning that some UK politicians would be willing to "accept any deal for the sake of getting a deal", adding: "I think the danger is they'd be accepting the worst possible deal at the highest possible price."

But Mr Corbyn insisted Labour had a "great team of very experienced people" who could be trusted to negotiate Brexit, insisting that the UK would "not necessarily be poorer" following withdrawal.