Theresa May was laughed at, jeered and heckled over Tory cuts and manifesto U-turns in her first live TV grilling of the general election.
Exactly a week after suffering a verbal mauling by the BBC’s Andrew Neil, the Prime Minister was subjected to a series of barbs from the audience on the SkyNews/Channel 4 special on Monday night.
Here are the five times the voters burned the PM, with or without the help of Jeremy Paxman and Faisal Islam.
1. Elderly fears
Pensioner Philip laid into May about the “dementia tax”, and fears that relatives will have pay a form of death duty to pay for social care.
Philip, who grew up in a council house in Wigan, explained how he and his late wife came to own their own home after years of hard work.
“I don’t like the prospect of being unable to leave it to our family with a greatly eroded value which I fear is what would happen if you were to introduce your so-called ‘dementia tax’. So why, Prime Minister, should we in my generation vote for you?”
The PM could only thank him for raising ‘a really important issue’ which ‘I know a lot of people have been thinking about’.
May’s Tory manifesto originally ruled out any cap on social care costs, but she U-turned last week to announce a cap would apply.
However, in the TV election special she refused to say what the cap level would be, saying it would have to be decided by ‘consultation’ after polling day.
Pressed by Paxman on what the cap would be, she replied: “It’s not about not knowing Jeremy….it’s about thinking what the right approach is.” Some in the audience simply laughed.
May was also asked why the Tories thought it right to means test winter fuel allowance, which is worth up to £300 a year, in England but not in Scotland.
Asked who would lose out, May just replied: “We need not just pull out a figure in an election campaign….we are hearing from charities and others….about the right level to set that threshold for winter fuel payments”.
2. Education cuts
Nicola said that Tory school budget cuts were causing ‘damage’ across the country, even with the extra £4bn included in the party manifesto.
Pressed by Faisal Islam, May was asked if she could confirm that under her plans school funding per pupil would go down, a point made by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies last week.
The PM said “Nobody can guaranteed a per pupil funding increase. The Labour party’s manifesto, we know the figures don’t add up…”
At that point members of the audience laughed, heckled and shouted “It’s costed!” “Look at your own figures!” And Nicola said “You’ve clearly failed”.
May said ‘people are focusing on funding’ but she wanted more good or outstanding schools. But she failed to mention her own plan for more grammars.
3. NHS cuts
A midwife from Devon asked May how she could justify the “chronic underfunding that I see at work”, given that there was now one of the lowest health budgets in GDP terms.
May said that by 2020 the UK will be spending half a trillion on the health service, and will increase that in the future. Curiously, she didn’t specify the £8bn announced in her manifesto, perhaps because its details and funding have been queried by several experts.
“We all rely on the health service,” the PM said. “That’s why we are ensuring we do increase spending in real terms.”
But one audience member, clearly unimpressed by her answer, appears to mouth the word “bollocks”.
And the midwife was scathing in her verdict. “I see a lot of efficiency savings that are actually cuts. I see hospitals closing, I see staff that are at their wits’ end because they can’t give the care that they want to give. I’ll believe it when I see it.”
The folks at fact-checkers FullFact.org pointed out that the decade from 2010 to 2020 will see the smallest annual increases in UK healthcare spending than any previous period, according to experts at The King’s Fund and Health Foundation.
4. Police cuts
On what was meant to be May’s strongest suit, policing and security, she faced a tough question from a serving police officer, Martin, asking about cuts and exactly how many officers she plans to recruit.
“As a police officer I have been witness to the devastating effects of police cuts in your time as Home Secretary,” Martin said.
The PM went through the numbers of police and army involved in Operation Temperer, which deployed troops on the streets in the wake of the raised terror threat after the Manchester bombing.
But when asked about cuts in police numbers since 2010, she is forced to admit they are 20,000 less. She doesn’t deny too that the number of armed officers was cut before having to be raised again.
May said instead that the issue was not always “about the numbers”, it’s about what the police are able to do on our streets. She adds that cuts took place after 2010 to tackle the government deficit.
5. Immigration broken promise
With the Tories having not once met their 2010 pledge to cut net migration to less than 100,000 a year, May was subjected to more ridicule, this time at the hands of Paxman.
“We didn’t achieve that,” she said, to which Paxo replied “That was your job!”. The audience laughed once more.
The PM had to admit the level now stood at 248,000 a year. Paxman pointed out that 175,000 of the numbers comprised of non-EU migrants - who won’t be affected by Brexit.
May battled on, saying there would “no single moment” when the numbers would hit the magic figure and admitting “there’s more work to be done”.
“You still don’t have any idea?” Paxman jibed. “We have a set of rules…” May replied.
Paxo also delivered his main zinger of the night when he said May’s U-turns on NI tax rises, the snap election and social care would all leave Brussels thinking she was just “a blowhard who collapses at the first sign of gunfire”.
May recovered well, however, to say five times - to applause from the audience - that she would rather walk away from the EU with no deal than a bad deal.