It has been a running theme of the campaign – Theresa May’s refusal to give straight answers to crucial questions about the Conservatives’ plans if they win the general election.
Accused of evasion in robotic performances in front of the TV cameras, the Prime Minister earned herself the unwelcome nickname of ‘Maybot’.
Here are 12 key questions Ms May has failed to answer, during the long campaign:
* What would be a “bad deal” in the Brexit negotiations?
After insisting “no deal is better than a bad deal,” Ms May was repeatedly asked what could be worse than crashing out of the EU with no agreement – threatening an enormous hit to trade, massive queues at Calais, planes unable to fly, etcetera. Answer came there none.
* What are the “dire consequences” of not getting a deal?
At other times, Ms May warned of the “dire consequences” of failing to get a good deal – but just how dire would they be? In one excruciating BBC interview, she failed to answer five times, although she did offer: “We need to get Brexit right” and “We want to make sure that we get a good deal”.
* What size of “divorce bill” would you accept?
The EU has insisted it will not talk about future trade until the UK has agreed to pay many tens of billions of pounds for past and future liabilities. Privately, Ms May is believed to have said the UK owes nothing, but her manifesto conceded she would agree a “fair settlement”. We were not told what a “fair” sum might be.
* What economic damage would you accept for curbing immigration?
The independent Office for Budget Responsibility is crystal clear: lower immigration makes Britain poorer by cutting tax revenues, in an ageing country with labour shortages. Asked if that was a price worth paying, Ms May simply stuck to her pledge to cut net migration to “tens of thousands”.
* What will be the cap on lifetime social care costs?
After her spectacular ‘dementia tax’ U-turn, announcing there would – after all – be a cap, the Prime Minister was asked over and over to give worried pensioners a clue about the level at which it would be set. Instead, she pointed to a post-election consultation, promising “to take people’s views”.
* How many pensioners will lose winter fuel payments?
When the Tories said the popular payments would be restricted to “the poorest,” it was estimated that ten million older people would lose them. Asked if that was correct, Ms May said: “We will ask people, charities, organisations at what level that should be set.”
* Can you rule out increases in income tax and national insurance?
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said he could – for the richest few – but was slapped down by the Prime Minister who stuck to her mantra that she had “absolutely no plans” to raise taxes. That, of course, is politicians’ speak for “you bet your life we might!”
* Will Philip Hammond still be Chancellor?
Mr Hammond was dubbed the “Lord Lucan” of the campaign, going missing after one painful appearance with Ms May and convincing reports of a bust up. So will he survive at the Treasury? “We’ve worked together over the years, for many years...” she said. Note the past tense.
* Will the promised £8bn for the NHS be new money – or require other cuts?
Suspicions were raised when one Cabinet minister said the Tories would be “re-targeting money from elsewhere in the NHS”. Is he right? According to the Prime Minister, voters aren’t bothered. “What people want to know is are we actually going to have the strong economy that enables us to pay for the NHS...”
* Will there be further disability benefit cuts?
A promise, last year, of no further raids on the social security budget was missing from the manifesto, which instead ruled out only “further radical welfare reform”. Put on the spot by The Independent, Ms May refused to look forward, saying: “We are spending more on disability benefit payments than has been done by any government in the past.”
* How will the UK retain access to EU terror-fighting databases?
After two terrorist atrocities, Ms May was asked how she could guarantee Britain would not fall out of Europol and the Schengen watchlist, with its 8,000 suspected terror suspects. The EU says oversight by the European Court of Justice is a must – which the Prime Minister has ruled out. There could be “appropriate oversight” of the data swaps, she said – vaguely.
* Did you watch the TV debate you refused to take part in?
Ms May was dubbed “the lady not for turning up” after ducking out of a BBC leaders’ debate, but did she tune in from her No 10 sofa? A simple yes-no question, surely? “Amber Rudd did an absolutely excellent job,” she replied.
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