Tories the only alternative to 'chaos and disarray', Theresa May says
Theresa May has said the Conservatives are the only party capable of standing up for "ordinary working people" as she accused Labour of abandoning the political centre ground to pursue its "ideological obsessions".
Launching the Tory campaign for the May local elections, the Prime Minister denounced Labour for "betraying" the Jewish community by letting Ken Livingstone "off the hook" over allegations of anti-Semitism.
Speaking in Calverton village hall in Nottinghamshire, she said the Conservatives were now the one party in the UK which had put itself "unashamedly at the service of ordinary, working people".
"As we leave the EU, our Conservative government will act to protect and indeed to enhance workers' rights, and guarantee that in a modern, flexible economy people are properly protected at work," she said.
"These are the priorities of the British people, and they are the priorities of our party. Don't let anyone tell you that Conservatives don't care about working people.
"We are the party of people who work hard and play by the rules.
"And for that reason, we must and will ensure that hard work is decently rewarded, and that the rules are properly adhered to by everyone, without fear or favour."
Mrs May used her speech to frame the local elections as a choice between the competence of Conservative councils and the "chaos and disarray" of the rest.
She said the Liberal Democrats were only interested in securing a second EU referendum, Ukip were too divided to stand up for ordinary people while the SNP and Plaid Cymru offered "divisive, tunnel-vision nationalisms".
She said the decision that Mr Livingstone could remain a member of the Labour Party after claiming Hitler had supported Zionism showed the extent to which it had moved away from the centre ground of British politics.
"In fact, when you look at it closely, these local elections present a clear and informative choice.
"The competence of a strong Conservative council, focused on the priorities of local people, keeping local taxes down and delivering high quality local services," she said.
"Or the chaos and disarray of the rest, political parties motivated not by what is best for local areas, but what best for their own partisan political interest, and without a plan for our country or our local communities, just a recipe for chaos and failure.
"A Labour Party totally out of touch with the concerns of the British people, which ignores the priorities of local communities and instead indulges its own ideological obsessions.
"A Labour Party which just this week revealed the depths to which it has now sunk, betraying the Jewish community in our country by letting Ken Livingstone off the hook.
"It could not be clearer that the Labour Party is now a long way away from the common, centre ground of British politics today."
Local government elections will be held across England, Scotland and Wales, alongside a number of mayoral elections in city regions such as Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.
Election expert Professor John Curtice has predicted a 12-point swing from Labour to the Conservatives, with Mr Corbyn's party at risk of losing control of councils in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
Labour's elections co-ordinator Andrew Gwynne dismissed Mrs May's claim to represent working people, saying her drive towards a "risky Brexit" was threatening jobs, growth and workers' rights.
"The Tories cannot give Britain the change we need. Theresa May talks of a country that works for everyone, but for the last seven years the Tories have failed ordinary working people and plunged our public services into crisis," he said.
Mrs May told the audience she would be heading to London this afternoon for talks with European Council president Donald Tusk after she invoked Article 50 last week.
The meeting between the two leaders is being presented as a means of discussing Brexit after the UK formally started the process of leaving the bloc of 28 countries.
The Prime Minister said: "We will be talking about the start of the negotiations and how we are going to be taking those negotiations forward.
"I have obviously sent the letter to invoke Article 50, we have said very clearly we want to maintain a deep and special partnership with the EU and I think that has been reciprocated.
"I'll be talking with President Tusk about how we can ensure, within the timescale we have got, that we can deliver a deal that is going to work for the people of the United Kingdom, but I believe that will also be a deal that will work for the EU as well."