The neck-and-neck battle to be British prime minister turned increasingly nasty as both main party leaders seized on slip-ups by the other.
With the polls predicting a photo-finish next Thursday, Labour contender Ed Miliband insisted that Tory incumbent David Cameron’s description of the general election as “career-defining” revealed how he is focused on his CV and legacy rather than the needs of voters.
The Labour leader said the apparent slip showed that the prime minister “puts himself first” and joked that after weeks of criticism that the Conservative campaign had been subdued, he had finally found something he is passionate about.
Cameron made the slip in a question-and-answer session with supermarket workers before immediately correcting himself, saying it was a “country-defining” election. The move followed a bruiser TV event for the leaders when they faced an audience of hostile voters who laid into their record.
Miliband stumbled slightly as he left the podium, prompting the Tories to insist it was a fitting metaphor for his performance during which one questioner branded him a “liar” for insisting that Labour had not spent too much last time it was in power.
In a bid to paint the Tory leader as out of touch and regain the political initiative, Miliband insisted Cameron was only concerned about himself. “After weeks of people saying that he lacks passion he has finally found something he is passionate about, it’s his own career.
“That tells you the difference between us. He thinks this election is about him. I think it’s about you the British people. He thinks it’s about his CV. I think it’s about child benefit and whether we keep child benefit for the British people.
“He thinks it is about his legacy, I think it’s about working families. And, that is the big choice at this election. For me, this election is how we put working families first. For David Cameron it’s how he puts himself first. That is what he has revealed this morning about his priority.”
Cameron made the slip as he was urging people to get out and vote. He said: “Whatever your views and whichever party you support, please make sure you do vote on May 7. This is a real career-defining... country-defining election that we face now in less than a week’s time.”
Cameron just described election as a "career defining moment" Tells you all you need to know. For Cameron it's about career, not country.— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) May 1, 2015
Labour adviser and former Obama campaign chief David Axelrod described it as a “Freudian slip”.
He tweeted: “The PM’s Freudian slip showing? In speaking to crowd, Cameron describes next week’s vote as ’career defining’, before subbing word ’country’.”
The PM's Freudian slip showing? In speaking 2 crowd, Cameron describes next week's vote as "career defining," before subbing word "country."— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) May 1, 2015
Ukip campaign chief Patrick O’Flynn tweeted: “Cameron says GE2015 is a ‘career defining’ election. Nice to know who he is thinking of at this important time for the country.”
Cameron says GE2015 is a "career defining" election. Nice to know who he is thinking of at this important time for the country.— Patrick O'Flynn (@oflynnsocial) May 1, 2015
Asked about the apparent slip, chief whip Michael Gove said: “I think it is a defining election for the whole country.
“I think the careers that matter are the careers of the two million who have got jobs now who didn’t have jobs before... of the three million people we want to give apprenticeships to.
“This election will define the careers, the job prospects, the prosperity of everyone in the UK, which is why it is so important that we make sure we have a majority Conservative government instead of the instability that would follow Ed Miliband relying on the SNP vote by vote, day by day.”
Cameron later denied that he had made a slip.
“I meant both,” he told ITV News. “I was looking out at that big audience at Asda and for them it is career-defining... I meant both country-defining and career-defining.”
He added: “It is not about me, it is about people’s jobs in this country. That is what I was thinking about.”
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