PMQs and general election live: Theresa May faces Jeremy Corbyn amid accusations of 'opportunism'

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Labour and SNP get first chance to grill May - 24 hours after she called a snap election

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Welcome to The Independent's live blog on a big day in UK politics, with Theresa May set to face Jeremy Corbyn for Prime Minister's Questions one day after she called for a snap general election.
Green Party co-leaders Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley have written to Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron this morning asking for talks over a possible electoral pact between the left-leaning parties. Mr Corbyn has previously ruled out such a pact, while Mr Farron earlier this year vowed not to join forces with the Labour leader, who he called "electorally toxic". 
 
Meanwhile former Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable, who announced yesterday that he would be seeking to recapture the Twickenham seat from the Tories, told the BBC's Today programme he thought the chances of Labour holding the balance of power were "so remote" that a pact was unlikely.
 Hartlepool MP Iain Wright has announced he won't seek re-election on 8 June, becoming the fourth Labour MP to say he is standing down. More are expected to follow suit in the coming days, with some party figures warning of an exodus of MPs. 
 
Hartlepool could emerge as a key target seat for Ukip, which finished just 3,000 votes behind Labour at the 2015 election.
 
An eighth of the Liberal Democrats' current MPs have now announced they are standing down - that is, one. While Nick Clegg triggered speculation after scheduling a 9.30am announcement, the former deputy prime minister simply said he would be seeking re-election. He won't be joined, though, by Southport MP John Pugh, who local media reports suggest is stepping down.
 
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is receiving some stick after telling the BBC he considered anyone earning over £70,000 to be "rich". Others, however, are pointing out that someone with that level of income is comfortably in the top ten per cent of UK earners. 
 
Mr McDonnell was speaking about Labour's plans to raise taxes on the "rich" to fund investment in public services. 
Theresa May's decision to call a snap general election sent shockwaves across Europe, but Germany has insisted the Prime Minister's move will not hold up Brexit. 
 
"The German government does not expect the election to interfere with the process of negotiations with Britain on leaving the EU," said German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer on Wednesday. Ms May held phone conversations with Ms Merkel and several other world leaders on Tuesday. 
 
More on the speculation about a possible electoral pact between the left-wing parties aimed at stopping the Conservatives securing a majority. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said she would be open to the idea of joining forces with Labour and the Liberal Democrats to form a 'progressive alliance'.
 
That is not likely to make pleasant hearing for Jeremy Corbyn and his team, who have already found themselves on the receiving end of Tory warnings, echoing those made in 2015, about the prospects of the SNP propping up a Labour government. 
 
Both Mr Corbyn and Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has dismissed talk of a progressive pact.
The pound soared in value on Tuesday after Theresa May's shock announcement, but has dropped slightly today as traders concluded the initial surge was overdone. 
One interesting sidenote to the election is what happens about the by-election in Manchester Gorton, which was scheduled for 4 May. The assumption was that the by-election would simply be cancelled, and a new MP chosen on 8 June as in every other constituency. However, the constituency's returning officer has just said he has received legal advice saying he has no legal power to cancel the by-election.
 
That means voters in Manchester Gorton would have to elect a new MP after Parliament had been dissolved for the general election. That MP would not be able to be formally sworn in or sit in Parliament before the 8 June election, where voters in the constituency would have to vote for an MP for the second time in just over a month.
 
The returning officer has written to parliamentary authorities "as a matter of urgency" in the hope of finding a solution to the problem.
Prime Minister's Questions is coming up at midday, with Theresa May likely to face a grilling over her refusal to take part in television debates during the election campaign. 
 
The Prime Minister has followed David Cameron's 2015 lead in dismissing talk of a televised debate, much to the fury of Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who see the debates as an opportunity for their leaders to speak directly to the public and gain ground on Ms May. 
Corbyn now about to deliver the first 5.555556 per cent chunk of his last ever questions to the Prime Minister.
Good Q Alberto Costa: who else in this House could provide strong leadership. Will start to compile a list. #PMQs
PMQs is underway. First up is a friendly question from Tory backbencher Alberto Costa about which other parties could offer the leadership the country needs. May repeats her new soundbite about the Conservatives providing "strong and steady leadership".
 
She says Jeremy Corbyn would "bankrupt our economy, weaken our defences and is simply not fit to lead".
The Tory joke of sarcastic cheers for Corbyn gets funnier every time. #PMQs
A long and slightly rambling question from Jeremy Corbyn begins with mention of May's failure to agree to TV debates and ends with him asking why people in Britain are getting poorer. The Prime Minister says she will be taking to the country with "a proud message" about Conservative achievements in government.
Corbyn asks a good follow-up Q, if her record is so good why won't she debate it? And then fails to sit down, burbling on about the deficit
Corbyn is straight into campaign mode, focusing on what he calls the Conservatives' failures in government rather than Westminster-centric political matters about the election process itself. 
 
He pushes May on the Tories' broken promises on cutting the deficit. 
 
"I know it's taken the Right Honourable gentleman a little time to get the hang of these questions", May mocks, repeating her claim that Labour's economic policy would "bankrupt this country". Ordinary people would pay for this "with their taxes, their jobs and their childrens' futures", she adds.
 
Corbyn continues pushing May on the Tories' record since 2010, asking about their failure to cut the deficit as much as promised.
 
May responds by claiming Labour would double income tax, national insurance, council tax, and VAT. "That's Labour's plan for the economy", she says.
 
Sticking to the same tact, Corbyn says the Conservatives' record is "more debt and less funding for schools and hospitals".
 
Now he's back to a familiar topic: schools funding. "Why are there tax giveaways to the richest corporations while our children's schools are starved of the resources they need?", he asks.
 
May says there are "record levels" of funding going to schools and to the NHS.
 
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko watching #PMQs from gallery. He won his election with 55%. May wouldn't mind that

Speaking ahead of PMQs today, Theresa May claimed that victory in the snap general election would strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations with EU leaders.

The Prime Minister said that if she had not performed a U-turn on calling an early vote, the "crucial part" of the Brexit talks would have occurred in the build-up to a general election, which EU negotiators could have exploited as a "weakness".

Ms May appealed for the British people to trust her to handle Brexit and rejected claims the decision to go to the country on 8 June was motivated by political opportunism at a time when the Tories enjoy a healthy opinion poll lead.

She said she wanted a stronger mandate because, with a slim working majority of just 17 MPs, opposition parties were intent on "frustrating" Brexit, even though she has yet to lose a vote on the issue in the Commons.

MPs are today expected to back Mss May's demand for an early ballot, three years ahead of the next scheduled general election.

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