Candidates for Thursday’s general election in the U.K. made their final appeals to voters on Wednesday, emphasizing their varying approaches to the economy, Brexit, and national security. As of last month, current Prime Minister Theresa May was widely favored to win the snap election, which she commissioned three years ahead of schedule, hoping to ensure a conservative majority in parliament ahead of Brexit negotiations. But more recent polls anticipate a close race between May and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose campaign experienced a sudden surge in the last few weeks.
At the beginning of June, a poll from Opinium and The Observer found that 38 percent of British adults held a more negative view of the prime minister than at the start of the campaign, while 40 percent held a more positive view of Corbyn. Mounting disapproval of May comes on the heels of her decision to reverse her position on social care from requiring the elderly to pay more for their at-home care to placing an “absolute limit” on how much people will have to spend. Many prospective voters were also unhappy with May’s refusal to debate Corbyn in person prior to the election.
The U.K.’s recent string of terrorist attacks has added another layer of gravitas to both the election and its campaigning. While it’s unclear how much Saturday’s attack on the London Bridge or last month’s attack on the Manchester Arena will influence the election’s results, the tragedies have at the very least emphasized the stark divides between the U.K.’s two leading candidates. On Wednesday, May echoed her earlier promise to crack down on Islamist extremism. “We are seeing the terrorist threat changing, we are seeing it evolve and we need to respond to that,” she said. Earlier in the week, May incited criticism when she said she would consider changing human rights laws to restrict the freedom and movement of terrorist suspects. Amnesty International called the comments “reckless and misinformed.”