Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak go head-to-head in the first UK election debate

LONDON – Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer in the first debate of Britain’s general election campaign on Tuesday night, facing tough questions from an audience frustrated by the high cost of living and long waits. Get the deplorable state of health and education.

None of the men vying to lead Britain after the July 4 vote has offered a particularly promising outlook.

Wait, Sunak said, things will get better, the full dividends of his policies are yet to come, and he will add some new “bold” ones.

Starmer pointed to the past and asked voters if the Conservatives could survive another five years in power – “the arsonists gave back the contests.”

It was an opportunity for the party leaders to grab the attention of the people with the general election just a month away. As in the United States, many voters in Britain don’t follow campaigns fighting daily social media battles, but they might catch a few lines from a prime-time TV debate.

If the polls are right, Labor is heading for a big win. So the party doesn’t want any drama. Starmer should appear as Prime Minister, calm, commanding, delivering “change” but not much change. Labor is trying to downplay extremism and focus on pocketbook issues.

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Conservatives had much riding on the debate. Trailing in the polls, the Sunak Prime Minister was praying for a game-changing night.

A A snap poll conducted by YouGov 51 percent said Sunak won the debate, compared to 49 percent for Starmer. In conservative circles it might be considered an honorable ride. But that may not be enough.

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Many voters are fed up with the Tories after their 14-year rule and want to try something new.

The polling average is 45 per cent for Labour, 24 per cent for the Conservatives and 11 per cent for the relaunched Reform UK Party. A YouGov poll It was revealed on Monday that Starmer’s Labor could win a bigger majority than the party got under Tony Blair in 1997 – and the Conservatives could see their worst performance since 1906.

Such a result would represent a reversal of what happened in Britain’s last general election in 2019, when Boris Johnson’s conservatives defeated Labor’s leftist Jeremy Corbyn under the banner of “Get Brexit Done”.

In Tuesday’s debate, Starmer accused Sunak of trying to distance himself from his party’s record.

“I know the Prime Minister has already said in the first minutes of this debate that he has had nothing to do with the last 14 years, and I’m sorry, Prime Minister, you might want to push that aside. But everyone lives with it,” Starmer said.

Sunak accused Labor of looking only to the past because it had no plan for the future. “If we want to change our country for the better and provide a secure future, you have to have leaders who are willing to take bold actions,” he said.

There was a rare moment of agreement when they were asked if they would “want a special relationship” with “convicted felon Donald Trump.”

“If he is elected president of the United States, we will deal with him,” Starmer said. “Whoever fills the office of Prime Minister and President violates the special relationship because it is an important strong relationship.

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Sunak agreed. “Yes, because having a strong relationship with our closest partner and allies in the United States is critical to keeping everyone in our country safe.”

The remaining 60 minutes are a toss-up.

The two talked to each other, almost out of breath. The ITV moderator asked them to pause.

They kept quiet when they promised not to raise taxes. Neither could promise. Britain is in a hole financially.

Starmer accused the Conservatives of having “lost control” of the economy and Sunak’s predecessor, Liz Truss, had “destroyed” it.

Lines about “fairness” received applause. Sunak said it would not be fair to raise taxes beyond what is already paid to young doctors. Starmer insisted it was fair for the super rich to pay more taxes.

Audience member Paula raised a question about the cost of living. She said she spends her weekends cooking so she doesn’t have to turn on the stove during peak hours.

Starmer emphasized, “My dad worked in a factory, he was a tool maker, and my mom was a nurse, and when I was growing up we didn’t have a lot of money, we were in a situation where we couldn’t pay our bills, I know what it’s like. In our particular case, we We have hung up our phone … I think the Prime Minister has misunderstood the position you and others are in.

Sunak said he would help curb inflation and raise taxes for all Labor by £2,000.

There were differences in immigration. Both said they were considering sending and outsourcing illegal entrants to the UK. But they differed on the issue of human rights and international law.

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Sunak said he would withdraw from the convention if the European Court of Human Rights tried to block his planned deportation flights – which Britain helped write. “If I’m forced to choose between defending our borders and the security of our country or defending a foreign court, I’m going to choose the security of our country every time,” he said to applause.

Starmer received a standing ovation – in return.

“We will not depart from international agreements and international laws that are respected around the world,” he said. “Because I want England to be a respectable player on the world stage, not a pariah.”

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