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UK Conservatives kick off formal election campaign with tax 'bombshell' poster

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s governing Conservatives sought to move the election campaign on to the economy on Wednesday, taking aim at opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with a poster warning of a tax “bombshell” if his Labour Party wins next month’s vote.

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Parliament will be formally dissolved on Wednesday, kicking off the campaign period ahead of a June 8 election which Prime Minister Theresa May has said she called to help strengthen her hand in upcoming Brexit negotiations.

The poster, featuring an image of Corbyn in front of a bomb emblazoned with the words “more debt, higher taxes”, warned voters that under the anti-nuclear Labour leader they would face “No bombs for our army. One big bombshell for your family.”

It echoed a poster used by the Conservatives in the 1992 election campaign which also featured an image of a large bomb under the words “Labour’s tax bombshell”.

Wednesday’s poster was published alongside a document in which the Conservatives said Labour had made spending and tax commitments which would cost the public finances at least 45 billion pounds ($58 billion) by 2019/2020.

“His economic policies are a recipe for chaos, instability, uncertainty and insecurity. Britain simply cannot take the risk of Jeremy Corbyn ... unleashing economic chaos on the country,” finance minister Philip Hammond said at a campaign event.

Labour disputed the figure, saying their plans were fully costed and would be set out in their election manifesto.

“In common parlance, people would call what the Tories (Conservatives) have published today lies, absolute lies,” Labour’s economic spokesman John McDonnell told BBC Radio.

“It is shoddy that the Tories have produced it.”

Opinion polls give May’s Conservatives a double-digit lead over Labour, with a Panelbase survey on Wednesday putting them on 47 percent, down two percentage points from a week earlier but still 17 points ahead of Labour.

Despite seeking to focus on Labour’s economic credentials, questions from journalists to Hammond and Brexit minister David Davis at the campaign event focused largely on reports of EU negotiators hiking the bill that Britain could face when it leaves the European Union.

Both said they did not recognise the figures published in the media.

Editing by Stephen Addison