THE LEADERS’ first TV debate ended without an obvious victor after a snap poll put Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn virtually neck and neck.
The two men clashed over Brexit and domestic issues in a low-wattage confrontation as both failed to land a knockout blow.
Corbyn’s high point was the production of a heavily redacted document that he claimed showed the government had secret meetings about opening up the health service to the US – which Johnson claimed was an “invention.”
The Prime Minister was strongest on Brexit, repeatedly asking Corbyn whether he would back Leave or Remain in a second referendum – a question the Labour leader failed to answer throughout. Johnson said if he couldn’t answer that question nor rule out another Scottish referendum, Corbyn wasn’t “fit to run the country.”
The Conservative leader also landed a few punches on the economy. Asked about spending, Johnson quipped that his rival had found “a magic money forest”. He claimed the rate at which Labour would borrow “would push up interest rates for everyone in the country”.
Corbyn was most comfortable on the NHS as he continued to claim that the Tories would accelerate privatisation as part of a trade deal with the US.
“There are no circumstances whatever in which this government or any Conservative government would put the NHS on the table in any trade negotiation,” Johnson said. “Our NHS will never be for sale and I am amazed how often this comes up. The only reason is does is because Mr Corbyn is trying to conceal the void at the heart of his Brexit policy and is refusing to answer which side he would take.”
A YouGov snap poll after the debate revealed that the country remains divided. Some 51 per cent of respondents backing Johnson’s performance, while 49 per cent said Corbyn did the best job, once those responding ‘don’t know’ were excluded.
Chris Curtis, YouGov’s political research manager, said: “Our snap poll shows that the public is divided on who won the debate, with most Labour voters thinking Jeremy Corbyn won, most Conservative voters thinking Boris Johnson won, and very few people changing their minds. But given the Conservatives went into this debate in the lead, they will hope the lack of a knockout blow means they can maintain this until voting day.”
Main image: Getty