A polling station sign which is hung on a white wall.

Sunak and Starmer: reactions to the first 2024 leaders’ debate 

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer have taken part in the first television debate of the 2024 general election, with both party leaders challenged over key policies.

With voters set to head to the polls in five weeks time, the leaders of the Conservative and Labour parties have been challenged on their political plans in a live ITV debate.

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer were quizzed on their stance on the NHS, education, immigration, the environment, tax and pension policy.

The debate opened with questions over healthcare policy, during which the Prime Minister secured an unintentional burst of laughter from the audience.

As the discussion continued, the leaders’ debate quickly became the number one trending topic for the United Kingdom on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Immediately following the conclusion of the programme, ‘Toolmaker’, ‘Taxes’ and ‘Shouting’ appeared as some of the top discussion points in the X politics section.

Throughout the debate, both leaders emphasised their familial ties to public service industries, with Starmer referencing his mother’s nursing career and Sunak his father’s role as a pharmacist.

It had been predicted that both party leaders would reference their parents’ roles, with the repetitious phrases used by each leader included in numerous ‘debate bingo’ sheets.

Tax policies dominated much of the discussion, with Sunak keen to emphasise how voters could expect an increased tax burden under the Labour Party.

On X, users questioned if Starmer had managed a strong defence to Sunak’s claims that Labour would impose a £2,000 tax increase on workers.

However, Starmer also highlighted Conservative failures to expand economic growth and argued the Tories had left tax loopholes open to exploitation.

Elsewhere, smaller political figures took the opportunity to propose their own tax changes.

While Julie Etchingham worked to focus the leaders on audience questions and limit raised voices, social media users questioned the effectiveness of the head-to-head debate format.

The leaders will have time to reconsider their approach to television debates as they continue their campaign throughout the week.

Labour and the Conservatives are set to face-off again on Friday as part of a seven-party BBC debate hosted by Mishal Husain.

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