As mentioned previously, there are still a couple of election debates scheduled over the coming fortnight, but I’ve decided to call it quits here – I don’t think you’re going to hear anything different in any of the other debates and they’ve all been sub-par.
It was ITV’s turn to hold a UK-wide debate last night, which you can watch at the ITV hub – though you’ll need an account.
The main topics included: security, Brexit, UK-US relations, spending plans and cross-party working.
Again, you know the drill – listed as they stood from left to right.
Richard Burgon (Lab): Candidate, Leeds East
How could convicted terrorists be let out after serving half their sentence? – It’s not true that automatic release halfway through a sentence was the only option available. We can’t avoid asking tough questions about the chaos in the prison system, part-privatisation of probation services and the loss of 20,000 police officers. We can’t do security on the cheap.
Can you honestly say your Brexit policy will bring a divided nation back again? – Jeremy Corbyn will be an honest broker and send it back to the public to choose between a “credible” leave option or remain and the result of that referendum will be respected. The Lib Dem policy of revoking Article 50 is neither liberal or democratic.
As Donald Trump arrives in the UK for a NATO summit, should the special relationship become more special? – Look at how Trump acts and, of course, he wants to conspire with Johnson and Farage to ensure his “fat cat friends” gain access to the NHS. We need a Prime Minister who thinks for themselves, as Jeremy Corbyn did by rejecting the Iraq War and bombing Libya. Labour would, however, renew Trident nuclear weapons.
Who is going to pay for your spending pledges? – Labour’s manifesto is fully costed. The UK is one of the richest countries in the world and their green industrial revolution could create well-paid skilled manufacturing jobs. The IFS is entitled to its opinion, but some economists have praised Labour’s economic programme. Labour won’t raise income tax for people outside the top 5% of earners. He denied Labour’s four-day week would apply to the NHS.
Why can’t you work together on long-term problems? – Labour could never work with the Tories based on what they’ve done to the most vulnerable. All parties need to make it clear they won’t do anything to put the Tories in power.
Verdict: 5/10 – A partisan nodding dog who started well but gradually got worse as the night went on to eventually be left humiliated by Adam Price in one of the few memorable moments. Oh, Jeremy Corbyn. You should’ve been here.
Nicola Sturgeon MSP (SNP, Glasgow Southside)
How could convicted terrorists be let out after serving half their sentence? – The London Bridge attacker shouldn’t have been out and lessons need to be learned, but we don’t do a service to the public by having knee-jerk reactions like that of Boris Johnson. Scotland ended automatic release for prisoners sentenced for more than 4 years.
Can you honestly say your Brexit policy will bring a divided nation back again? – Scotland voted to Remain by more than 60%. Although people across the UK are fed up with how Brexit has panned out, they need to be given another opportunity to have their say in another referendum. It’s not a sign of a strong union if Scotland is dragged out against its will. There’s no form of Brexit or Brexit deal better than staying in the EU. The Tories have created a hostile environment for immigrants.
As Donald Trump arrives in the UK for a NATO summit, should the special relationship become more special? – Trump needs to be kept at arm’s length and the last thing we need is a Prime Minister who wants to be like Trump. The NHS is clearly at risk from a future trade deal and should be protected in law. Nuclear weapons are a waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere.
Who is going to pay for your spending pledges? – The SNP will be pressing for extra spending on health, ending austerity and tackling climate change. The income tax system in Scotland has been reformed and higher-rate taxpayers pay more, while the lowest-paid have received a tax cut – but there are no tuition fees and social care is free. Tory spending plans would raise child poverty to record levels; how can they defend that?
Why can’t you work together on long-term problems? – The Scottish Government has introduced several policies on a cross-party basis on things like childcare and climate change and she’ll always try to work with others. The likes of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage block progress.
Verdict: 8.5/10 – A bit jaded maybe, but answered every single question with confidence and clarity.
Rishi Sunak (Con): Candidate, Richmond (Yorks)
How could convicted terrorists be let out after serving half their sentence? – The job of the government is to protect us and within weeks of taking office, Boris Johnson promised to toughen sentences. The London Bridge attacker was released under old laws passed by Labour. Under Tory rules passed in 2012, the terrorists wouldn’t have been released until they’ve served their full sentence.
Can you honestly say your Brexit policy will bring a divided nation back again? – It’s time we respected the 2016 referendum and left the EU. The Conservatives can deliver it by the end of January. It’s time for the country to move forward, not remain stuck in neutral. Labour can’t tell us who would support their renegotiated deal – it’s ridiculous. We must have control of immigration too, replacing it with an Australian-style system.
As Donald Trump arrives in the UK for a NATO summit, should the special relationship become more special? – The US is an important ally and will always remain so. We’re kept safe by intelligence sharing and US investment keeps people in jobs. Any Prime Minister has to maintain our most important alliances.
Who is going to pay for your spending pledges? – The economy has transformed and we can now start to see extra investment whilst keeping taxes low. The alternative is Labour’s “reckless” spending plan which will hit ordinary working families. National debt will be lower and taxes for the lowest paid will come down through a cut to national insurance under Tory plans. Credit ratings have been reduced because of uncertainty over Brexit – so it needs to get done.
Why can’t you work together on long-term problems? – Children are setting an example for politicians on things like climate change and the UK is a leader in some aspects.
Verdict: 6/10 – He’s consistent, I’ll give him that, as he said exactly the same things as last Friday’s debate. Same mark too. Where’s Boris?
Nigel Farage MEP (BXP)
How could convicted terrorists be let out after serving half their sentence? – The liberal elite gave us this system and if you’ve committed mass murder or planning such you’re not an ordinary criminal and should never be released. Both Labour and Tories have been soft on sentencing for 40 years.
Can you honestly say your Brexit policy will bring a divided nation back again? – We’ve had three years of MPs not accepting the 2016 referendum and a second referendum would result in another Leave vote which won’t be accepted. Brexit has to be delivered or democracy is dead. Labour’s policy would be a choice of “Remain or Remain”. A massive increase in population has made access to public services more difficult.
As Donald Trump arrives in the UK for a NATO summit, should the special relationship become more special? – The special relationship is more important than ever because NATO is threatened by an EU that wants to do defence by itself via an EU Defence Union. Boris Johnson has to choose one of them. Trump’s style isn’t to everyone’s taste, but the US is our most important friend; Trump doesn’t want to “buy the NHS” either. It would be madness to unilaterally get rid of our nuclear weapons.
Who is going to pay for your spending pledges? – He agrees that many parts of the UK felt ignored for decades and there’s a clear demand for increased infrastructure spending. Labour wants to borrow money as do the Tories; instead, we should cut things like High Speed 2. The Tories aren’t cutting debt, they’re only cutting the spending deficit.
Why can’t you work together on long-term problems? – There are areas where people want the same thing and there’s a broad agreement so parties can work together. Climate change policies, however, are resulting in the poor giving more to the rich through higher energy prices.
Verdict: 7.5/10 – All the anti-establishment tropes. Some might say it’s a broken record, but I’d say it was a convincing performance (not for reasons I necessarily like).
Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr)
How could convicted terrorists be let out after serving half their sentence? – There are serious questions which need to be answered. This question has been looked at before, but the majority of the recommendations haven’t been implemented despite being raised directly with Boris Johnson. At a time when terrorists are trying to divide us, a Prime Minister needs to be one for all of us.
Can you honestly say your Brexit policy will bring a divided nation back again? – We were already a divided nation due to a chasm in wealth between different regions. Many people voted for Leave as the Westminster political establishment has never delivered for them, but Brexit will make things worse. The Tories have a No Deal policy while Labour has no policy at all. Where’s the leadership?
As Donald Trump arrives in the UK for a NATO summit, should the special relationship become more special? – We see the access between Trump, Farage and Johnson and it’s a frightening thing; the president stands accused of using political influence in Ukraine, and here our Prime Minister threatens Channel 4 after showing him up at a debate. Trump and Johnson are creating an environment where abuse of minorities is acceptable. You can’t support weapons of mass destruction either – we unilaterally gave up biological and chemical weapons.
Who is going to pay for your spending pledges? – Spending within the UK needs to be rebalanced, particularly infrastructure spending, as it shouldn’t all go to the south-east of England. We can’t fix things by putting faith in Labour either, citing the example of a crisis in mental health and maternity services in the Welsh NHS.
Why can you work together on long-term problems? – We have a 19th Century political system which doesn’t work in the 21st Century. We have to consider things like Citizens’ Assemblies to have proper conversations with each other. He laid into Labour for promising things in government at UK level which they’ve never delivered in Wales where they’re in charge (leaving Richard Burgeon speechless).
Verdict: 8.5/10 – A little ranty and went on the attack at the expense of answering questions. Nonetheless, a memorable performance.
Sian Berry AM (Green, List Member – London Assembly)
How could convicted terrorists be let out after serving half their sentence? – The way to prevent and protect from these offences is not to have communities feeling prejudiced and pushed towards extreme ideologies. We need stronger community policing and community-based intelligence, as well as education and rehabilitation.
Can you honestly say your Brexit policy will bring a divided nation back again? – She understands the motivation behind the question and believes the best way to finish off this process is more democracy via a second referendum. We can’t trust another Tory government after they’ve made a hash of it after three years. We can never negotiate a trade deal by the end of 2020. You’re far more likely to find an immigrant doctor than someone ahead of you in the queue for treatment too.
As Donald Trump arrives in the UK for a NATO summit, should the special relationship become more special? – You look at what’s happening to children in US detention centres and she hopes that once Trump is removed from office trust can be rebuilt. We can reconsider things like Trident nuclear weapons too.
Who is going to pay for your spending pledges? – There’s barely any investment in the Labour and Lib Dem plans for dealing with climate change. Green policies pay for themselves and is a “win, win, win”. Credit reference agencies have downgraded the UK’s rating because of a lack of clarity on Tory borrowing plans.
Why can you work together on long-term problems? – Greens are very rarely in power, but where they are working, as in Scotland, they make a difference and hold government to account.
Verdict: 6.5/10 – Decent enough but didn’t land many verbal punches.
Jo Swinson (Lib Dem): Candidate, East Dunbartonshire
How could convicted terrorists be let out after serving half their sentence? – It’s wrong the London Bridge attack was able to happen and no terrorist should be released without being properly assessed on their risk to the public. The father of one of the victims said that it shouldn’t be used as a reason for draconian laws.
Can you honestly say your Brexit policy will bring a divided nation back again? – The chaos of Brexit needs to end and it’s costing people more than it thought and is taking longer. For too many people it’s too hard to get by and those things need to be solved, but remaining in the EU will mean more money to invest in services. The Tories are aiming to rip up workers’ rights.
As Donald Trump arrives in the UK for a NATO summit, should the special relationship become more special? – Our relationship with the US is important but the current occupant of the White House has nothing in common with us. We should be careful with that relationship and we should never have offered a state visit. A nuclear deterrent should be kept whilst working for nuclear disarmament.
Who is going to pay for your spending pledges? – The Lib Dems would increase corporation tax and change capital gains tax to provide free childcare. Staying in the EU would boost the economy to bring in extra tax revenues. We all have to pay more so income tax should rise by 1p. Lib Dems would spend £11billion on mental health over the next parliament.
Why can’t you work together on long-term problems? – Behind the scenes, there’s a lot of co-operation. There is cause for optimism in the form of the Unite to Remain alliance. She’s worked with Tory Andrea Leadsom on how to deal with harassment of women as well.
Verdict: 7/10 – Better than last time; sidelined a bit but came to life occasionally. Not bad.
Of the debates I’ve seen, this was the best one – so at least one of them was worth sitting through.
Again, Nicola Sturgeon and Adam Price were the best performers. As said, like it or not, Nigel Farage did pretty well in this format too despite being an oaf. It will have gone down well with the right people (if they were even watching).
Once again Labour’s record in Wales came under attack and they couldn’t do anything about it other than Tweet impotently. We’ll no doubt see Mark Drakeford come out fighting in FMQs tomorrow and you can predict what he’ll say now (“talking down the NHS”, “letting the Tories off the hook”, “poorer with independence” etc.) but that’s going to get a fraction of the coverage.
The warning to Plaid is that Nick Clegg, Caroline Lucas, Kirsty Williams and Leanne Wood have all performed well in these debates previously and reaped absolutely no electoral reward for it. They don’t matter that much. It’s another manufactured triumph.
I also have to say that Julie Etchingham did an excellent job moderating the debate with interruptions kept to a minimum and panellists strictly timed – though like last time it seemed some of the panellists were given more opportunities to speak than others.