General Election 2017: Theresa May hits West Midlands campaign trail - with PICTURES and VIDEO

[gallery] Prime Minister Theresa May hit the campaign trail in the West Midlands today, just days after firing the starting gun for the general election.

General Election 2017: Theresa May hits West Midlands campaign trail - with PICTURES and VIDEO

She made a speech to supporters at Netherton Conservative Club after earlier door knocking voters in Dudley North, where the Tories are targeting the seat held by Labour's Ian Austin.

Mrs May insisted the Conservatives remain the party of "lower taxes" but refused to repeat their 2015 manifesto pledge not to put up income tax, VAT or national insurance.

The Prime Minister said voters faced a choice on June 8 between "lower taxes under the Conservatives or higher taxes under Labour".

But pressed by reporters she would not be drawn on whether the previous commitment under David Cameron not to raise taxes would be included in the party's manifesto for the forthcoming general election.

Her comments came after Chancellor Philip Hammond hinted he would like to ditch the pledge, suggesting he needed more "flexibility" when it came to managing the economy.

His remarks prompted shadow chancellor John McDonnell to claim that the Conservatives were planning a "tax bombshell" if they were returned to power.

However, Mrs May told supporters: "At this election people are going to have a very clear choice.

"They will have a choice between a Conservative Party which always has been, is and will continue to be a party that believes in lower taxes, in keeping taxes down for ordinary working people.

"Or the choice is a Labour Party whose natural instinct is always to raise taxes. That's the choice lower taxes under the Conservatives or higher taxes under Labour."

Despite the Conservatives' commanding 20-point lead over Labour in the opinion polls, Mrs May insisted there was no room for complacency going into the campaign.

Amid concern among some Tories that expectations about the likely result are getting out of hand - with predictions of a landslide - she said they still had to fight for every vote.

"I am not complacent about this forthcoming election," she said.

"The opinion polls got the general election wrong in 2015. They got the EU referendum wrong. And as Jeremy Corbyn has himself said, he was a 200-to-1 chance for Labour leadership and look at how that went.

"So we will not be complacent. We will be fighting for every single vote."

Express & Star reporter Jack Averty was at Netherton Conservative Club. Here's how he reported the visit.

The Prime Minister said: "It will be what I believe the most important election for this country in my lifetime because this is an election which is about the future for our country. It is about ensuring this country has a strong and stable government, strong and stable leadership in the national interest.

"Every vote that is cast for me and the Conservatives at this forthcoming election will strengthen my hand in the negotiations with the prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of Europe as we sit down for those all important negotiations over the coming months. Every vote that is cast for me and the Conservatives will be a vote for strong and stable leadership to take this country through Brexit and beyond and every vote that is cast for me and the Conservatives will be a vote for strong and stable leadership in the national interest.

"It is only the Conservatives who can provide that strong and stable government. If you just look at what has happened under the Conservatives we can show that is what we deliver. When I became PM there were claims and predictions that we were going to see an immediate financial crash, we were going to see economic damage but actually we have seen consumer confidence remaining high, record numbers of jobs and the economy actually growing past all expectations.

"When I took over as PM everybody said the country was divided and it would not be possible to bring it back together again. But what I am now seeing around the country is a real unity and purpose for us to get on with the job of Brexit and make a success of it. When I took over as PM what I think was needed was clear vision and strong leadership to get on with that job of delivering Brexit and that is exactly what the government has done and that is the security you get with a strong and stable government. I think it is what leadership looks like.

"At this election there is going to be a very clear choice, a choice between strong and stable leadership under the Conservatives or a weak and unstable coalition of chaos led by Jeremy Corbyn. Make no mistake that is what is on offer."

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