Britain would be like Greece if Labour ruled, claims Theresa May

British PM rebukes Jeremy Corbyn criticism of austerity measures and low-pay ‘epidemic’

British prime minister Theresa May: “I understand that it has been hard for people working hard and making sacrifices over the years as we’ve been dealing with Labour’s mismanagement of the economy.” Photograph: PA Wire

British prime minister Theresa May: “I understand that it has been hard for people working hard and making sacrifices over the years as we’ve been dealing with Labour’s mismanagement of the economy.” Photograph: PA Wire

 

Theresa May has defended her government’s record of economic austerity, warning that Britain could turn into Greece if Labour took power. The British prime minister was responding to questions from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who accused her of exploiting the goodwill of public service workers to create an “epidemic” of low pay.

“I understand that it has been hard for people working hard and making sacrifices over the years as we’ve been dealing with Labour’s mismanagement of the economy,” she said.

“Let me remind the Right Hon Gentleman of what happens when you don’t deal with the deficit, it’s not a theoretical issue. In Greece where they haven’t dealt with the deficit, what did we see? Spending on the health service cut by 36 per cent.”

A senior Labour source dismissed the suggestion as “preposterous”, pointing out that Greece’s problems were linked to crises in the banking system and the euro zone. But the prime minister’s comments reassured Conservative fiscal hawks who have been alarmed by divisions in the cabinet over public sector pay.

The government’s policy is to limit annual public sector pay increases to 1 per cent, although inflation is running closer to 3 per cent. A number of cabinet ministers have suggested in recent days that the cap could be eased for some public sector workers but Downing Street insists the policy has not changed.

Health service

Warning that low pay was driving nurses out of the health service, Mr Corbyn drew attention to the cost of Ms May’s confidence-and-supply agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

“The prime minister found £1 billion to keep her own job; why cannot she find the same amount of money to keep nurses and teachers in their jobs? After all, they serve all of us,” he said.

The government announced on Wednesday that it was sending in a taskforce to take control of key functions from the London borough where Grenfell Tower is located. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has faced criticism over its response to the fire at Grenfell last month and its chairman and chief executive have both resigned.

Fire survivors

“The scale of the recovery effort needed on the Lancaster West estate in the months to come cannot be underestimated. Support to survivors, the families and friends of those who lost their lives and residents in the wider community must and will be ongoing. The challenge of providing that support is and will continue to be significant. I want to help the council meet that challenge,” communities secretary Sajid Javid said.

The home office announced a 12-month amnesty for any Grenfell survivors who are in Britain illegally or are otherwise in breach of immigration rules. Labour’s shadow home secretary Dianne Abbot welcomed the move but said it did not go far enough.

“Some victims have literally lost everything in this horrific tragedy: all their possessions, homes and loved ones. The idea that on top of this they could be deported later is grotesque. To access all the support they need without fear of deportation, any survivors concerned about their status must be given indefinite leave to remain. Otherwise, they may just disappear off the grid,” she said.