London: With less than a week until Britain votes in a national election, Prime Minister Theresa May faced tough questions from voters Friday about her Conservative government's cuts to welfare and health spending.
She was also accused by opponents of failing to stand up to the United States over its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. May and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared before a live audience on prime-time TV but consecutively, rather than side by side.
May has refused to take part in any TV debates, saying she prefers to answer questions directly from voters. Friday's show may have tested that preference, as audience members accused the prime minister of presiding over stagnant wages for nurses and cuts for those needed physical and mental care.
May said the government had "had to take some hard choices across the public sector" to curb spending and reduce the country's deficit. She also denied breaking promises, including her vow not to call an early election.
May said she "had the balls to call an election" because it was important to give the government a stronger mandate to negotiate Britain's exit from the European Union.
May spoke after President Donald Trump's announcement that he would pull out of the Paris accord sent the issue of climate change and May's attempts to bolster the trans-Atlantic "special relationship" to the top of the agenda in campaigning for Britain's June 8 election.
May's office said she spoke to Trump by phone and "expressed her disappointment with the decision." But Britain did not sign a joint statement by the leaders of Germany, France and Italy, who said they regretted Trump's decision and insisted that the accord cannot be renegotiated.
May's office would not say whether she had been asked to sign it. May noted that Japan and Canada - fellow members of the G-7 group of rich industrialized nations - also were not signatories, but like Britain remain committed to the Paris agreement. "I made the UK's position clear to President Trump last week at the G-7 meeting, as did the other G-7 leaders, and I made the position clear to President Trump last night," May said Friday.
Corbyn accused May of "subservience" to Trump. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron urged May to use whatever influence she has to urge Trump to reverse his decision.
"You have gone to Washington to hold Donald Trump's hand, now is the time to hold his feet to the fire," Farron said, referring to a brief hand-holding moment during May's trip to the White House in January....