General Election 2024: Sunak and Starmer clash over tax in first debate

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer faced off in heated exchanges on tax, the NHS and immigration in the first televised debate of the election.

Conservative and Labor leaders broke into a row at times, forcing the host of the ITV event to intervene and urge the pair to “lower your voices”.

Mr Sunak said Labor wanted to increase the tax by £2,000, which Sir Keir dismissed as “absolute rubbish”.

And both leaders took the opportunity to pitch their personal stories to voters, talking about how their childhood experiences shaped their political views.

video title, ‘Lower your voices’: Sunak and Starmer debate immigration

Mr Sunak went into the debate with current polls predicting a record victory for Labor and pledges on the economy and his flagship Rwandan exile policy.

As the audience’s first question focused on how each party would tackle the cost-of-living crisis, the Tory leader was keen to throw punches at his opponent.

The Conservatives set up the furlough program during the pandemic, Mr Sunak said, insisting his plan to boost the economy was starting to work.

In contrast, he said Labor would pay for its spending plans with “£2,000 in higher taxes for every working family in our country, after all our hard work and sacrifice”.

The Labor leader suggested his opponent was out of touch: “Paula, I don’t know how you feel when you hear a prime minister say what you’re doing, the plan is working. .”

Both Mr Sunak and Sir Keir were asked to raise their hands, excluding income tax, national insurance or labor policy on private schools, VAT.

Neither raised their hand, prompting questions about how they would pay for their policies.

The debate continued to heat up as the pair explained their parties’ policies on immigration, which has gained attention since the return of Nigel Farage as leader of a reformist UK.

Mr Sunak has challenged Sir Gair directly over his plans on immigration, often talking about his opponent and chair, Julie Etchingham.

Sir Gair responded: “We need to crack down on the gangs who operate this vile trade, making huge sums of money, ferrying some of the most vulnerable people across the canal to applause from the audience.”

At one point, Mrs Etchingham was forced to intervene: “Fathers, we lower our voices.”

The audience grumbled loudly when Mr Sunak blamed health workers’ strikes for some of the problems when asked how to reduce NHS waiting lists – but he won the debate’s first round of applause when he added taxes to fund the NHS.

video title, Party leaders clashed over taxes and the economy

When asked what the Conservatives were offering Britain’s young people, there were further cries for Mr Sunak’s continued support for his national service plans.

Mr Sunak said the move – with every 18-year-old participating in 25 days of community service and some opting for a year of military service – was “transformational”.

Sir Keir dismissed the idea as “desperate” and said the UK did not need an “army of teenage dads”, but Mr Sunak hit back: “All he can do is look at it and scoff at it because you have no idea”.

Asked if he would pull Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) if his Rwanda extradition policy didn’t work, Mr Sunak said he would “choose our country’s security every time”, which was applauded. .

But Sir Keirin defended the ECHR and said the UK “should be a respected player on the world stage, not a pariah”.

The night became clearer when Ms Etchingham asked the couple if they would use private healthcare to avoid a long waiting list for a loved one.

Mr Sunak replied “yes”, while Sir Kiir said “no”, adding that he does not use private healthcare.

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