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Key takeaways from the first 2024 election leaders debate

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer went head to head for the first time tonight on ITV with both parties demonstrating more jabs than plans. 

The 70-minute debate went live at 9pm hosted by Julie Etchingham tackling the topics of tax, immigration, defence, education, and the NHS. 

Etchingham had a difficult time keeping the leaders’ voices down and demanded that they answer a simple question: “Where is the money coming from?”

Sunak mentioned five times that, if voted in, Labour would raise taxes by £2,000 for each family which Starmer denied profusely throughout the debate.

The Labour leader fired back that the Conservatives have put tax up 26 times while in their 14 years of power.

Tax became a hot topic from the beginning and was threaded through answers throughout each candidates answers of renewables, education, and healthcare.

In terms of defence, Sunak admitted, when on the topic of The Rwanda Bill, that if the policy is rejected by the European Convention of Human Rights then he would choose to remove the UK from the ECHR. 

Sunak explained he would choose the UK’s security ahead of membership of a foreign court, and demonstrated clearly that he feared for the UK’s security under Labour. 

Starmer was quick to point that there are over 10,000 people who arrived this year and developed his own plan to tackle people smuggling gangs.

When questioned on the NHS, Rishi Sunak was groaned at when he tried to shirk accountability for waiting times, blaming industrial action. 

Starmer argued that the Prime Minister has pledged to bring waiting times down but they have since increased from 7.2 million to 7.5 million.

This comment was received well by the audience, suggesting the audience was more on Starmer’s side despite not answering more than the top line. 

Both party leaders were keen to mention their familial ties with the NHS which followed a previously emotive question about struggles during the cost of living crisis.

When warning about Labour tax hikes, Rishi Sunak said: “Mark my words.

“Labour will raise your taxes, it’s in their DNA.”

This followed Starmer’s promise to cut immigration earlier this week when he told The Sun: “Read my lips.”

The polls state the audience is largely divided on whether they are marking words, or reading lips, but it seems that both have more to prove in the coming debate, next Friday.

Image credit: Number 10

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