A new poll shows the Tories’ lead over Labour has been slashed to a record low, as party leaders launched blistering attacks on Prime Minister Theresa May for failing to show up at Wednesday night’s live election debate.
With just a week to go before Brits cast their vote, Labour is rapidly closing the gap with the Conservatives, now standing just three points behind, a new YouGov poll commissioned by the Times shows.
The Tories now show 42 percent support, with Labour close behind at 39.
The poll points to a remarkable change in fortune for the Tories, who had enjoyed a 24-point lead over Labour when the snap general election was called in April.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are struggling to maintain the momentum of their “fightback,” as they have slipped two points to just seven percent support. UKIP is backed by four percent.
The PM has struggled since she was recently forced to make an embarrassing U-turn on plans to reform social care laid out in the party’s manifesto.
She has also faced criticism for refusing to take part in any televised debates.
May sent Home Secretary Amber Rudd to speak on her behalf at a seven-way BBC TV debate on Wednesday night, even though Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had thrown down a challenge by deciding to attend at the last minute.
May was repeatedly slammed by her political rivals, who accused of lacking “guts,” “running away from the debate,” and not being “bothered” to take part. She was also accused of being “complacent” and taking the public for granted.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron condemned May’s decision, saying “good leaders don’t run away from a debate.”
“Whatever we’ve discussed this evening, her absence is the shadow that hangs over this election. How dare you call a general election and then run away from the debate?” he added.
During his final pitch to the nation at the end of the program, he advised viewers to change the channel to watch the Great British Bake Off rather than listen to Rudd.
“Amber Rudd is up next. She is not prime minister. The prime minister is not here, she can’t be bothered, so why should you. In fact, Bake Off is on BBC2 next, why not make yourself a brew? You are not worth Theresa May’s time, don’t give her yours.”
It’s not clear what May was doing instead of participating in the debate, but she said on Wednesday she preferred “taking questions and meeting people” on the campaign trail rather than “squabbling” with other politicians.
Despite the shift, polls show the Tories are still likely to win. Data from polling companies ICM, Ipsos MORI, ComRes, Opinium, Survation and YouGov still show that May is better positioned to win the general election than Corbyn.
May’s rating for leadership and economic competence are ahead of Corbyn’s, gauges that have a better track record of predicting the outcome than vote-share forecasts, according to Bloomberg.
No-show May roasted on social media
Although May skived off the debate, that didn’t stop her becoming the focus of attention on social media.
Twitter users launched a search for the missing prime minister, with the hashtag #wherestheresa trending. Some tweeted pictures of Where’s Wally cartoons captioned “Where’s Theresa?” Others posted pictures of a “missing” Theresa’s face on a milk carton.
Among those to scold her for not showing up was the official Twitter account for House of Cards. “Theresa May. They respect you more when you show strength. Or show up.”
Some suggested the prime minister was setting an example by skipping a job interview.
“Theresa May is my inspiration. I’ve decided to apply for a new job but send a friend of mine to the interview,” one user tweeted.