Election 2017: BBC Leaders Debate


The final “proper” televised debate of the 2017 general election campaign took place last night in Cambridge (you can watch it here).


The topics included: supporting people on low incomes, post-Brexit immigration, public spending plans, national security, climate change and leadership qualities.

Again, as usual I’m listing the participants from left to right as they appeared on stage – and it was more crowded than normal.

Tim Farron (Lib Dem)

“Where’s Theresa May?” She may be sizing up your house to pay for social care (in England). She thinks you’re going to hand power to her with no effort, and that’s a rubbish offer. Imagine if her Brexit deal is as poorly thought through as the “dementia tax”?

It’s not about figures, it’s about people. He knows what it’s like not to pay the bills. A strong welfare state is essential, and he’s helped people with disability payments who were former company directors – everyone is only one or two steps from being in need. The Lib Dems will end benefit freezes and pay freezes in the public sector.

Barmy bogus targets have been set for immigration, we need a policy that’s good for farmers, the NHS and the economy. Labour didn’t show up when it came to ensuring rights for EU citizens when triggering Article 50.

What we have is a general election with Theresa May threatening to take people’s homes without letting people know how much the Tories intend to raise or spend. It’s important income tax is raised by 1p to pay for health and social care.

The Lib Dems stand by their policy to roll back surveillance powers. Pre-existing security powers should be better used. An extra £300million will be used for community policing, and communities will be re-engaged to nip extremism in the bud.

Climate change is a bigger threat than immigration or Brexit. There should be a UK-wide effort to become energy self-sufficient in renewables by 2050.

How dare Theresa May call an election then run away from the debate. When he grew up he saw what happens when people are taken for granted. Good leadership means being honest with people and gaining their trust.

7.5/10 – A guy with the popular touch. Pretty good, but dented what was an otherwise great performance by proselytising about the EU and single market all the time.

Jeremy Corbyn (Labour)

Do we want a country for the many or just the few? The Conservatives want five more years to make cuts to public spending and hand out tax cuts for the rich.

Living standards have fallen for 7 years and 6 million people are living on less than the living wage. Pay caps on the public sector will be lifted and Labour will introduce a living wage. People who generate the wealth for the country should benefit from that wealth.

Every EU national who’s resident in the UK should be given a permanent right of residence, with a concurrent arrangement for UK nationals living in the EU. He refused to make any promise on immigration numbers, but wants a “fair”system like free movement of labour.

Labour have made clear spending commitments in their manifesto. The Conservatives have made many choices: schools are underfunded, students are in debt, there’s a housing crisis. Their answer is to keep cutting taxes for the wealthy.

There are questions over the number of police officers; 20,000 have lost their jobs over the last 7 years, Labour want to recruit an extra 10,000. We need to recognise that leaving large places like Libya ungovernable creates space for people to cause us harm. There has to, however, be proper judicial oversight of what’s done to bolster counter-terrorism in our name.

America should be pressed to stick to the Paris climate change agreement. Levels of air pollution aren’t being addressed by the Conservatives, and they’ve damaged the solar industry by cutting feed in subsidies.

Leadership is about understanding the people you represent and not being so high and mighty that you can’t take advice. The government should care for everyone, not walk by when people are homeless and starving.

7/10 – It’s the first time I’ve seen him in this situation and I don’t get the Corbynista hype. It felt like getting a lecture from a geography professor who’s been on one too many CND marches, but he does know his stuff and came across as sincere.

Caroline Lucas (Green)

Voters can lay the foundations for a new type of politics. The UK can be on the side of the good guys by leading the way in clean energy and re-prioritising funding towards public services not nuclear weapons.

She thought it was insulting for Amber Rudd to claim the Conservatives stand up for the most vulnerable – as an MP she’s dealt with the pain austerity inflicted on the most vulnerable people.

It’s unbelievably cruel to be using EU citizens as bargaining chip. Free movement has been a wonderful gift and it’s sad Labour no longer supports that. Problems with housing and waiting lists are due to spending cuts not migrants – you’re more likely to be treated in hospital by an immigrant than behind a queue in one.

The Greens would stop spending money on things that are of no use – including Trident nuclear missiles, releasing £130billion. Those with the broadest shoulders should pay more; corporation tax cuts should be reversed and a wealth tax should be introduced.

The best form of defence against attacks is intelligence-led policing, but the violence isn’t representative of Islam. We should review interventions overseas, and foreign policy shouldn’t be closed out of the debate – why are we selling arms to countries on the human rights watch list like Saudi Arabia?

Climate change is the greatest threat we face. We should ignore Donald Trump, because we know renewables will soon be cheaper than fossil fuels – but we need to do far more. We haven’t seen the sort of energy transition we need and fracking should be banned.

The first rule of leadership is to show up. You don’t call an election and say it’s the most important in a lifetime then can’t be bothered to debate.

9/10– Excellent, standing ovation worthy.

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda)

Theresa May called the election because she’s taken the electorate for granted and didn’t turn up because her campaign of soundbites is “falling part”. Voting Labour hasn’t stopped Tory rule and they’ve tried to airbrush Jeremy Corbyn out of their campaign.

What kinds of jobs are people being placed in? Numbers of people on zero hour contracts have gone through the roof; attempts to ban them in Wales have been voted down by Labour. Immigrants are scapegoated for wage squeezing when austerity is the real problem.

Ending freedom of movement presents risk to the Welsh economy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean higher immigration it’s just as much about retaining the workers we have. UKIP are trying to whip up hatred and fear.

She was mostly overlooked on the spending question, but said Labour aren’t delivering many of their UK pledges in Wales on things like scrapping tuition fees.

We need to look at foreign policy and the prevent strategy; policing has been cut by 20%. Cuts to things like youth work and other public services also fuel extremism as the qualified people aren’t there to challenge it on the ground.

There’s terrible leadership on climate change from Donald Trump and Theresa May. Trump is wrong and the world needs to tell him he’s wrong.

Leaders should walk the walk and stick to their guns – Theresa May has had u-turn after u-turn. Plaid will stick to its manifesto promises and will lead for Wales.

One of the highlights of the night was when Leanne challenged Paul Nuttall over walking away from the EU, comparing it to a divorce without paying his dues – “We know all about blokes like you!”

6/10 – Sidelined and was often left repeating what others said. She got through it unscathed but it was a bad idea for her to do all of the debates, especially back to back ones. I hate to say this, but until the Paul Nuttall quip Leanne was anonymous.

Amber Rudd (Conservative)

It’s a choice about who you want to lead the country: Theresa May’s team with a plan and a successful track record on the economy? Or Jeremy Corbyn and his “money tree”?

Her party has ensured that people on low incomes can keep more of what they earn and they’ve also managed to rebuild the economy – something the Tories will continue. The offers from the other parties are “fanciful”. We need the investment to ensure people have the dignity of work.

Immigration is important for the economy, but it needs to be controlled and numbers should be reduced. There’ll be a policy in place to attract the best, and we also need to protect the rights of UK citizens in the EU.

The Tories should be judged on their record; they’ve cut the deficit, reduced taxes. The only way they can have money to invest in public services is a strong economy, which means making difficult choices the other parties won’t face up to.

The first job of any government is to keep people safe. As Home Secretary she’s seen the evidence of extremism crossing her desk. You stop them by supporting the security and intelligence services, and their budget has increased. Crime has fallen, so national security isn’t down to police numbers.

It’s disappointing the Americans are pulling out of the Paris agreement, but the UK can use its influence.

Negotiations with the EU will determine the future of the economy, and Theresa May has the support of her MPs; Jeremy Corbyn has had no-confidence votes against him.

6/10 – Started well but the wolves were circling. Absolutely battered, but withstood it and did a reasonable job under difficult circumstances, both personal and professional. The damage was done though and she was left hung out to dry by Mrs Weak & Wobbly.

Paul Nuttall MEP (UKIP, North West England)

UKIP will always put British interests first and will stand up for those let down and left behind by Westminster. Money isn’t everything and politicians must show leadership and ensure our way of life is secure.

We have an oversupply of labour in working class communities that’s squeezed wages. You don’t put money in people’s pockets through envy and spite, you do it by cutting taxes – like raising the personal income tax allowance and scrapping green levies.

The UK will be able to control its borders and reduce immigration. Introducing an Australian-style points based system will ensure skilled people are still able to come here; if we don’t have controls the UK population could hit 80million by the middle of the decade. UKIP are the only party willing to deliver what the British people want on immigration.

UKIP would look at scrapping HS2, the Barnett Formula and cutting the foreign aid budget. The English NHS would then be given £9billion in extra funding.

It’s quite clear that what was going to come after Iraq and Libya was bad, but it should be called what it is – Islamist extremism. UKIP will recruit 20,000 more police officers, recruit more prison officers and tighten borders to prevent jihadis returning from places like Syria.

India and China have large coal-fired energy programmes and Donald Trump is looking to reduce the cost of energy. The UK is only to blame for 2% of global emissions.

He doesn’t flip flop. You don’t join UKIP for a career but because you have principles. The UK needs to take back control.

5/10 – Loud, surprised he didn’t have a frying pan. Went full “man in pub car park” towards the end and certainly left an impression. UKIP’s final bow?

Angus Robertson (SNP)

This election is about what kind of country we want to be and the SNP will promote fairness across the whole UK and stand against an extreme Brexit. The SNP is the only party in Scotland strong enough to stand against the Tories.

The Tories introduced austerity measures which have hit the lowest incomes the most – it’s time that ended. Those who have the most should pay a little bit more; the highest rate of income tax should rise to 50%. Disabled people should no longer be benefit sanctioned and the bedroom tax should be abolished.

The debate on immigration shames and demeans us all. There’s nobody who doesn’t understand the contribution people have made by moving to the UK. Scotland’s problem hasn’t been immigration but emigration. EU citizens should be guaranteed a right to stay. He was astonished Labour was using the same arguments as UKIP.

The SNP’s plans amount to a £120billion investment from a mix of policies on taxes and borrowing. People haven’t been told what the Conservative policies cost. He challenged Amber Rudd to give the public hard numbers – she didn’t.

It’s right to question the UK’s interventions in the world. It’s not wrong to intervene as such, but what was wrong was spending 13 times more on bombing Libya than rebuilding it – and that’s how extremism thrives.

He’s appalled Trump is walking away from a multilateral agreement on a serious problem. If the UK has a special relationship with the US, what kind of influence was used by Theresa May? More than 50% of electricity in Scotland is from renewables and that should grow.

This was a totally unnecessary election, and it was called because Theresa May thinks she would get a massive majority, she’s also not the “Iron Lady, but the U-turn Queen” – that’s not the leadership we require.

8/10 – Seemed a bit affectedly grand but a very assured performance. Didn’t put a foot wrong.

Conclusions

I’ve gone on long enough so I’ll keep this short.

That was one of the better debates and although I don’t think it’s going to make much difference, it was right for Jeremy Corbyn to take part as the big loser is – and all the talk’s ultimately about – the woman who couldn’t be bothered to turn up.