Starmer shines while Sunak stumbles in Sky News’ Leaders Debate

It was a tale of differing debate fortunes for the leaders of the two biggest parties on Sky News last night.

With less than a month to go until polling day, both major parties would have looked for a big performance.

But while Labour’s Keir Starmer shined on his education plans, Rishi Sunak stumbled on how he would support the young during Wednesday’s Sky Leaders’ Event.

The two men took turns answering questions over 45 minutes, first from Sky News Political Editor Beth Rigby and then from the assembled audience.

Seemingly flustered, Sunak struggled to explain why he was in support of the young, being challenged on announcing National Service plans for 18 year olds while at the same time announcing Triple Lock Plus for pensioners.

He said: “National Service will be exciting for my children.

“Parents are very excited it will happen for our kids.”

The Prime Minister struggled to answer whether or not he would create a generation of young people with criminal records for not taking up national service (he said that wouldn’t be the case), as well as whether he was alienating young voters with these plans.

When one audience member asked how the Prime Minister would help his daughter get a mortgage, Sunak replied the Conservatives were abolishing stamp duty for up to £425,000.

The man quipped to audible laughter: “She wouldn’t be looking at somewhere that expensive.”

Audible boos and groans could be later heard when Sunak admitted national debt had gone up, stating that it was meant to come down but it wouldn’t overnight.

Not even the announcement that the first flights to Rwanda would take off on July the 24th could give the Conservative leader a sure footing.

Rigby asked him whether people would trust him on migration, when previous Conservative Prime Ministers promised to reduce migration and had failed.

Sunak admitted: “The numbers are too high.

“We will have a migration cap which will be voted by Parliament, there will be for the first time there will be a migration cap voted on in Parliament.”

The Prime Minister was also forced to issue an apology regarding leaving early at the D-Day events in France last week, saying that he was incredibly sad and hoping people would find it in their hearts to forgive him.

Sunak also struggled when Rigby listed off a string of broken promises such as the £350m Brexit Bus and levelling up.

He conceded he understood people’s frustrations and it had been a difficult few years but said this election was about the future.

On the other side, the Sir Keir Starter will likely be happy with his performance.

The Labour leader improved throughout the evening, after claiming that he knew Labour would lose the 2019 Election when asked about supporting Jeremy Corbyn in the last two elections.

He said: “I was certain that we would lose the 2019 General Election, I openly said that we would campaign for colleagues but I was certain that we would lose.

“I would want to fight for the future of the Labour Party.”

One moment of concern was when Starmer said he would not scrap the two-child benefit cap, stressing that he could not make promises that he couldn’t deliver.

The Labour leader didn’t flinch when challenged by an audience member about removing the VAT tax break on private schools, stating the policy was for all, not for a few.

He said: “I recognise that parents work hard and save hard to send them to private schools. But in our state schools, we don’t have enough teachers to fill places in the most important subjects.

“It will become a lifelong problem because if they don’t get the skills at 15 or 16, they won’t be able to do what they want with their lives.

“We will introduce the VAT in order to fund 6,500 teachers in our state schools.”

One notable moment to indicate Starmer’s growing ease with the event’s format came when responding to Rigby’s claim that some people find him dull.

Smiling to himself, he simply responded : “Cheers!”

An immediate poll of 1864 respondents asked which leader performed better found 64% thought Starmer had performed better than Sunak.

It was the boost that Labour were looking for ahead of their manifesto launch on Thursday.

But for the Conservatives, who are trailing by over 20 points in the polls, the event was not the poll reducer they had hoped for.

Featured Image Credit: Marcin Nowak

Related Articles