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Sunak edges poll after first televised election debate

04 Jun 2024 4 minute read
ITV photo of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (right), host Julie Etchingham and Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during the ITV General Election debate at MediaCity in Salford. Photo Jonathan Hordle/ITV/PA Wire

YouGov polling indicated 51% of people thought Rishi Sunak performed best overall in the first televised election debate on Tuesday night (4 July) with 49% voting for Sir Keir Starmer.

Sunak and Starmer traded blows on the economy and the NHS as they faced off for the first time in the general election campaign.

In his opening pitch to voters on ITV, the Prime Minister sought to draw dividing lines with Labour as he claimed the party would “raid” pension pots and hike taxes.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir questioned the timing of the July 4 vote, arguing Mr Sunak had called a summer polling day because he “knows” inflation and energy prices will take a turn for the worse in winter.

The Labour leader mockingly dubbed the Prime Minister “the British expert on tax rises” after Mr Sunak’s repeated insistence that Sir Keir would raise the burden.

First blood

First blood was drawn when the Tory leader challenged Sir Keir to say how he would resolve the long-running dispute with junior doctors, earning a round of applause as he said he would not offer a 35% pay rise.

But Sir Keir drew audience laughter as he ridiculed the Prime Minister over his claim that NHS waiting lists were improving, saying: “They were 7.2 million, they’re now 7.5 million. He says they are coming down and this is the guy who says he’s good at maths.”

Mr Sunak then blamed industrial action, eliciting groans from the audience of the ITV debate.

“It’s somebody else’s fault,” Sir Keir said.

In his initial statement, Mr Sunak said: “Beyond raising your taxes and raiding your pensions, no one knows what Labour would actually do.

“But you know what I would do? I’ll cut your taxes, protect your pension and reduce immigration.”

‘Choice’

Sir Keir said: “This election is all about a choice. More of the chaos and division we’ve seen for the last 14 years or turning the page and rebuilding with Labour.

“I have ambition for our country. I have a practical plan to deliver it.”

Mr Sunak will be hoping to move the dial against a backdrop of dire opinion poll ratings for the Tories, with recent YouGov analysis suggesting the party is heading for an electoral wipe-out.

The Prime Minister pointed to his record as chancellor during the pandemic as he asked people to judge him by his actions.

“Every week when I’m out and about, someone comes up to me and tells me how furlough saved their family, saved their home, because that’s who I am,” he said.

Sir Keir suggested the wealthy Prime Minister did not understand the plight facing hard-pressed households.

Referring to his own childhood, he said: “I do know the anguish of worrying, when the postman comes with a bill, what is that bill going to be, can I pay it?

“I don’t think the Prime Minister quite understands the position that you and other people are in.”

The Tories insisted the debate would expose Labour’s “complete absence” of new ideas.

In a statement sent out minutes before opening statements, a Conservative spokesperson said: “Tonight will expose the Labour Party’s complete absence of any new ideas, any principles and ultimately, that they do not have a plan.

“Handing Labour the keys to No 10 would hit every working family with a £2,094 tax bill, punish pensioners with the retirement tax, bring in an amnesty for illegal immigrants and take our country back to square one.”


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Adrian
Adrian
10 days ago

I’ve no love for Sunak, but Starmer’s as thick as a bull’s knob.

CapM
CapM
10 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

Your intelligence appraisal skills are as lacking as your knowledge of bovine anatomy.

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
10 days ago
Reply to  CapM

His message is crystal clear tho.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
10 days ago
Reply to  CapM

If you are trying to be a comedian then please don’t give up the day job.

Annibendod
Annibendod
10 days ago

UK tax/GDP currently around 36%. EU average is over 40%. When will someone stand up and tell the truth? The UK is not a high tax State. The rich do not contribute enough and should pay more in tax so that services can be funded properly and capital expenditure increased where poverty is highest and the economy rebuilt go eliminate inequality. Truth is that the UK belongs to the capitalist class. Westminster is in hock to it. Until the Tory State is dismantled we are stuck with this doom loop for decades to come.

hdavies15
hdavies15
10 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

The tax burden is TOO high on those who inhabit the lower reaches of the taxation scales. However there is a falling off once a certain ( undefined) threshold is crossed and beyond that point the seriously rich get off lightly as do corporate entities. And that’s before we take into account all the allowances, legal loopholes and downright evasive schemes that are available for those with the wealth to steer through them.

John Ellis
John Ellis
10 days ago

I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. Neither of these two party leaders has really inspired me, and from the start by the time the election was called, I’d already reached the conclusion that my vote would go to the party which struck me as the ‘least worst’. And I’d already come to a conclusion around that.

If we subsequently get a debate which includes spokespeople from all the different political factions which will be contesting the election, I may well feel differently. But watch these two? No, not for me.

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
10 days ago
Reply to  John Ellis

I agree mate, this election is stale and dull, there’s no spark from either of the main candidates. Starmer will win but not because of his charisma or constructive policies.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
10 days ago

If Sunak edged this debate, Starmer had better come back next time with a pile of whopping lies if that’s what wins these things.

Why vote
Why vote
10 days ago

It must be so embarrassing for labour this morning.

Algie
Algie
10 days ago

Two people with nothing to say in shouting match !!!

Gareth
Gareth
10 days ago

What a joke, as soon as the debate ended, many media outlets were saying the main Sunak attack point, was a lie, that the £2,000 tax hike was based on figures provided by Tory party advisers, and was confirmed to be so by James Bowler, the chief treasury civil servant. What is the point of this, if you just stand there and tell lies.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 days ago

Bare faced liar like his mate Fat Shanks and his mate Trump and his mate Steve Bannon…

Just Lies @Slash, Burn and Pillage UK…

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