UK Election 2019: BBC Debate

I’m only covering two of the final few election debates, starting with last night’s BBC debate which was held at the Senedd.

You can watch the whole thing on BBC iPlayer – here.

The main topics included: security (in light of yesterday’s London Bridge terror attack), spending plans, Brexit, climate change, NHS privatisation and immigration.

You know the drill – listed as they stood from left to right.

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr)

What do you propose to do to tackle security issues? There are several answers as no one solution will keep us safe; police resources are part of it. Wales has seen a 9% decrease in police officers and Plaid propose an additional 1,600 officers. Knife crime is becoming “normal” to the point of the public being desensitised and ultimately a preventative approach to crime is needed.

What guarantees can you give that your spending plans will be delivered? – The share of the cake coming to places like Wales is what matters, with mere crumbs coming from both Labour and Conservative UK governments. He used an example of Wales having 11% of the rail network, but receiving 1% of funding.

What are your opinions on a second referendum or revoking Article 50? – He criticised Jeremy Corbyn’s neutral stance on Brexit, so no wonder people don’t have faith in politicians when one of the most senior ones doesn’t make his views known on an issue which will cast its shadow for a generation.

What changes do you propose on climate change? – Labour in Wales could have introduced several measures but the Welsh Government was taken to court for poor air quality. Increasing local food procurement instead of importing food could help the economy and improve the environment.

What would you do to ensure the NHS isn’t sold off? – The NHS is in its deepest crisis, including in Wales – citing the Cwm Taf maternity scandal. Labour has planned for privatised parts of the NHS in north Wales and paid consultants £2,000-a-day to come up with ideas such as scrapping paid breaks for nurses (which were called off). If the Tories have questions to answer, Labour does too.

Should EU and non-EU immigrants be treated the same? – Wales should be a welcoming society for EU citizens and those from other parts of the world. He accepted that under Freedom of Movement rules we couldn’t apply the same rules to non-EU citizens.

Verdict: 7.5/10 – Sidelined on more than one occasion by shouting matches and poor moderation, but his contributions seemed to go down well with the audience. Didn’t answer the spending question properly.

Caroline Lucas (Green): Candidate, Brighton Pavilion

What do you propose to do to tackle security issues? – Political leaders have a responsibility to ensure incidents don’t divide communities. Any number of police can’t prevent crime happening, but it’s still important.

What guarantees can you give that your spending plans will be delivered? – Neither the Tories nor Brexit Party can make promises due to the impact of Brexit. The Greens are proposing a significant investment of £100billion a year for ten years, with £94billion coming from borrowing due to low interest rates.

What are your opinions on a second referendum or revoking Article 50? – If we go along with the Brexit plan we’ll be locked into the process for years to make new trade agreements. The best way to end this is through a second vote – though she doesn’t support revoking Article 50 unilaterally.

What changes do you propose on climate change? – Insulating every home in Britain will create a million jobs and reduce domestic emissions, so not all lifestyle changes are negative. The Tory track record on climate change is abysmal.

What would you do to ensure the NHS isn’t sold off? – Why would we trust Boris Johnson? They could’ve explicitly ruled out including the NHS in future trade deals but haven’t.

Should EU and non-EU immigrants be treated the same? – Freedom of movement with the EU has been an extraordinary gift and she’s proud to support it. Minimum income rules for migrants and alike are unfair.

Verdict: 6.5/10 – A bit gloomy, but gave clear answers to questions if not sparking into life on anything except climate change.

Rebecca Long-Bailey (Lab): Candidate, Salford & Eccles

What do you propose to do to tackle security issues? – We can’t ignore that over recent years we’ve seen increases in violent crime and cuts to front-line policing, which has had a direct impact. We have to invest in policing and counter-terrorism, as well as defence generally, but there has to be investment across society to prevent problems.

What guarantees can you give that your spending plans will be delivered? – Labour’s plans deliver a high investment economy to improve people’s lives. There’s a human element to it, with 8 million people in working households living in poverty. Labour outlined the most detailed cost and spending plans of all the parties paid for through borrowing and tax revenues.

What are your opinions on a second referendum or revoking Article 50? – The Tories have failed to deliver Brexit and the deal on the table will lead to multiple elongated trade talks. Brexit has to be brought to a conclusion sensibly, with a renegotiated deal and a second referendum.

What changes do you propose on climate change? – The Tories are led by someone who has denied climate change in the past. Labour has a very detailed green industrial plan.

What would you do to ensure the NHS isn’t sold off? – Documents have been released showing Conservative discussions with US trade officials which put the NHS on the table and discusses drug prices. If the NHS is privatised people could face large bills for cancer treatment.

Should EU and non-EU immigrants be treated the same? – She wants a reciprocal arrangement with the EU on the right to remain. Immigration has to work for public services and the economy. No arbitrary targets should be set.

Verdict: 7/10 – Shouting matches aside, I was pleasantly surprised. A credible performance.

Rishi Sunak (Con): Candidate, Richmond (Yorks)

What do you propose to do to tackle security issues? – The first duty of any government is to keep people safe and the Conservatives will give the police powers and resources to do their job.

What guarantees can you give that your spending plans will be delivered? – Labour left the country on the brink of bankruptcy, but now the economy is stronger and the UK is in a position to invest in public services again. The Tory’s plan is fully costed and national debt will be lower; Labour’s spending plans are “reckless” and would result in massive tax increases for ordinary working families.

What are your opinions on a second referendum or revoking Article 50? – The Tories could leave the EU in weeks through the new deal. It’s time for the UK to move forward and not end up going around in circles with new referendums.

What changes do you propose on climate change? – The most important thing for the government is a strong economy to boost innovation in things like electric vehicles. The UK is now the global leader in offshore wind.

What would you do to ensure the NHS isn’t sold off? – It’s not for sale, never has been, never will be; anything else is a conspiracy theory and scaremongering.

Should EU and non-EU immigrants be treated the same? – Yes. He’s living proof that the UK is a welcoming and meritocratic country, but borders need to be controlled through an Australian-style points system based on what immigrants have to offer. Unlimited immigration has depressed wages.

Verdict: 6/10 – Very confident, but a bit too sixth-form debate society/over-rehearsed and kept shouting over others. If you close your eyes, it was a passable Tony Blair impersonation.

Richard Tice MEP (BXP): Candidate, Hartlepool

What do you propose to do to tackle security issues? – All of us have to remain vigilant despite investments in police and technology.

What guarantees can you give that your spending plans will be delivered? – People no longer trust and respect what politicians say, with manifestos becoming synonymous with fibs. That’s why the BXP called theirs a “contract”. Over £100billion has to be invested in regions which have been left behind and with a “proper Brexit”, the economy would grow faster.

What are your opinions on a second referendum or revoking Article 50? – The Tories have promised three times to get Brexit done; the Brexit Party will respect the people’s wishes and it’s the only reason it’s still on the agenda. A second referendum would be a “disaster”.

What changes do you propose on climate change? – We should lead the world in planting millions of trees to capture carbon as well as technological carbon capture and recycling more of our waste.

What would you do to ensure the NHS isn’t sold off? – The NHS buys products from private companies all the time, it doesn’t mean it’s for sale. Waste needs to be cut out.

Should EU and non-EU immigrants be treated the same? – Yes. Immigration used to be carefully controlled, we need an Australian-style system based on skills.

Verdict: 5/10 – Completely breezed over me; surprisingly aggressive and dreary. Where’s Farage?

Nicola Sturgeon MSP (SNP, Glasgow Southside)

What do you propose to do to tackle security issues? – We have to ensure security services have access to the best intelligence and that’s one of the reasons why leaving the EU is a mistake; the SNP has increased and maintained police numbers in Scotland, but that hasn’t happened elsewhere.

What guarantees can you give that your spending plans will be delivered? – The IFS said neither the Tory’s or Labour’s plans are credible. If the SNP held the balance of power, they would want to see reversals to welfare cuts and austerity based on reforms introduced in Scotland. We shouldn’t be spending money on the wrong things like nuclear weapons.

What are your opinions on a second referendum or revoking Article 50? – She understood why people are frustrated with the Brexit process, but Scotland is being taken out of the EU against its will. There’s the prospect of another No Deal cliff-edge at the end of December 2020.

What changes do you propose on climate change? – People’s lifestyles have to change, but government and industry have to take the lead – including moving away from oil. 75% of Scotland’s electricity comes from renewables and 80% plus of all trees planted in the UK were done so in Scotland.

What would you do to ensure the NHS isn’t sold off? – She doesn’t trust Boris Johnson saying the NHS isn’t on the table. Scotland will introduce an NHS Protection Act to block any moves to privatise it.

Should EU and non-EU citizens be treated the same? – EU citizens shouldn’t lose any rights that they have, but it should be easier to attract talent from non-EU countries. Immigration doesn’t cut wages and one of the reasons she wants independence is to prevent damaging decisions being forced on Scotland.

Verdict: 8/10 – Managed to balance Scottish issues and UK issues far better than Adam Price did with Wales. Gets half a mark taken off for joining in the shouting.

Jo Swinson (Lib Dem): Candidate, East Dunbartonshire

What do you propose to do to tackle security issues? – We need to have more police and the Lib Dems would increase numbers by 20,000. Safety on the streets is a big concern for too many people, particularly knife crime. It’s important police work across public services to tackle violent crime.

What guarantees can you give that your spending plans will be delivered? – Labour and Tory plans don’t add up because they’re not accounting for the negative economic impact of Brexit. They’re both saying “you can have this” without taxes going up. Lib Dems have set out very clearly they would raise income tax by 1p.

What are your opinions on a second referendum or revoking Article 50? – Does anyone seriously think Brexit is going well? In 2016, nobody was straightforward about what it would mean. It’s right for people to choose a different path now we know what would happen. Lib Dems would unashamedly stop Brexit.

What changes do you propose on climate change? – Some of the things we can do are things we know best, such as home insulation and taking fossil fuels out of electricity generation; offshore wind is now the cheapest form of energy generation. Frequent fliers should pay more.

What would you do to ensure the NHS isn’t sold off? – If you can cut waiting lists, there’s nothing wrong with private involvement. The best way to protect the NHS from a US trade deal is to not have a trade deal with the US by remaining in the EU.

Should EU and non-EU immigrants be treated the same? – The whole immigration debate has to be changed from hushed tones to being a “brilliant thing” and celebrated.

Verdict: 6.5/10 – I was expecting something worse given what I’ve seen and heard about her, but she had good spells and bad spells. Definitely not the next Prime Minister though.

Conclusions

Given the hoo-ha over who’s involved in these debates and the number and timing of them, they’ve all been crap so far.

This time, I don’t think that’s the fault of the speakers, but the presenter. Nick Robinson didn’t do a very good job moderating the debate and gave far too much time to the Tories, Labour and SNP to attack each other and failed to stop them all shouting over each other which made the debate difficult to follow at times.

Nicola Sturgeon was probably the best overall, closely followed by Adam Price, and given her government experience you would expect her to be – but this wasn’t a vintage debate. You won’t miss anything by not watching it.

The biggest loser was arguably someone who wasn’t even in the building – the (Welsh) Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth). Labour’s record on health in Wales was taken apart on the UK stage and one of the frontrunners to succeed Jeremy Corbyn (at some point in the future) seemed to agree on a need for a full public inquiry into the Cwm Taf scandal.

I suspect the chances of a Welsh Government reshuffle in the new year have increased.

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