Things You Might Have Missed in First Leaders Debate

Discover the key moments and heated exchanges from the first leaders’ debate between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer, including personal anecdotes, policy clashes and the one, lonely joke. Here’s the full story.

Revealing, Not Exciting

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The first televised debate between Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer was not exactly an exciting one, but parts of it were revealing. 

Bad Tempered and Shouty

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However, the bad-tempered and slightly shouty debate, which ITV’s Julie Etchingham tried her best to moderate, was marked with several important moments which could signal what’s to come as the election draws ever closer. 

1. Making the Personal Political

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Did you know that Keir Starmer’s dad worked as a tool maker in a factory, and his mum was a nurse? You might not have heard, but Sunak’s dad was a doctor, and his mum was a pharmacist. 

Ad Nauseam

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If you hadn’t heard this before, it was repeated ad nauseam throughout the day, so trust us, you’ll have heard it by the end of the election campaign. 

Boring Technocrats

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Though both these facts were regularly put forth to humanise the pair of slightly boring technocrats, at times the personal became less about empathising and more about attacking. 

Shying Away

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While Starmer used his parents background to empathise with an audience member who was struggling with the cost of living, Sunak tended to shy away from his background before entering politics, until Starmer reminded the audience that Sunak was a hedge fund manager, who perhaps wasn’t struggling as much with the cost of living as they were. 

2. Private Health as a Dividing Line

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A particularly revealing moment came when the leaders were asked if they would resort to private healthcare for a loved one facing long NHS waiting lists. 

Freedom of Choice vs NHS Commitment

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Sunak admitted he would consider it, emphasising freedom of choice, whereas Starmer firmly rejected the idea, underscoring his commitment to the NHS. 

Did You Know?

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Starmer’s response was emotionally charged, citing his family’s deep connections to the NHS. You might not know, but his mum was a nurse. Had he mentioned that? 

The One Joke

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Starmer also got one of the few jokes of the night at Sunak’s expense, when he responded to Sunak’s claim that NHS waiting lists were coming down. 

Not Adding Up

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Starmer stated, “Waiting lists have gone from 7.2 million to 7.5 million, and this is the guy who says he’s good at maths.”

Lower Is Less Than Higher

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Sunak didn’t help himself with his response, which received a rare laugh from the audience, “They are coming down from when they were higher.”

3. Liz Truss? Who’s She? 

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Sunak was on the attack throughout the night, adopting a combative approach typically seen in leaders of the opposition. 

Short and Disastrous

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However, Starmer seemed to put Sunak on the back foot any time he mentioned the hilariously short and disastrous premiership of Liz Truss, which Sunak tried his best to simply ignore, much like the world has done with her recent book. 

4. Taxes Are Labour’s Achilles Heel

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Throughout the debate, Sunak put forward the highly disputed figure of £2,000 as how much a Labour government would increase taxes by, which caused visible cringing from Starmer. 


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Though Starmer eventually called the plans “garbage,” Sunak definitely scored points when the Labour leader admitted “We will raise some specific taxes,” to which the audience responded with the icy silence of people who have heard the taxman coming down the front path.

5. No One Mentioned Brexit

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Seriously, not one mention of one of the most divisive and consequential decisions of the past 50 years. Though it may change later in the campaign, neither leader wants to go anywhere near that particular Pandora’s box. 

6. Immigration Worries

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Perhaps one of the most interesting moments of the debate was when the topic of small boats and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) was brought up.

“Foreign Court”

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When asked about the potential withdrawal from the ECHR if the Rwanda deportation policy failed, Sunak stated, to a smattering of applause, that, if forced to choose between “securing our borders and our country’s security, or a foreign court” he would “choose our country’s security every single time.”

“Not a Pariah”

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Interestingly however, when Starmer defended the ECHR by saying that he wanted the UK to be a “respected player on the world stage, not a pariah,” this also received a smattering of applause. 

No Immigration Please, We’re British

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It’s almost like immigration is a deeply divisive issue in the UK? But surely not. We hardly ever talk about it.

Evenly Split

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Following the debate, it seems as if the country is pretty evenly split, with a YouGov snap poll revealing that 51% thought Sunak had defeated Starmer, and 49% believing Starmer had triumphed. 

Evenly Split, but the Other Way

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However, a later Savanta poll revealed exactly the opposite, with 44% of people believing Starmer won, and 39% stating it was Sunak who had triumphed.

Political Nerd Heaven

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With the election drawing closer, it is highly unlikely that one single debate will shape the outcome of the election, though it will no doubt be poured over extensively by political nerds such as myself – after all, that’s what I’m doing right now.

Uncertain Future

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However, this was the first chance for the country to see the two potential next Prime Ministers go head to head and to set out their policies. Whether either has done enough to secure the country’s vote remains to be seen.

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The post 6 Things You Might Have Missed in First Leaders Debate first appeared on Edge Media.

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Grant Gallacher is a seasoned writer with expertise in politics and impactful daily news. His work, deeply rooted in addressing issues that resonate with a wide audience, showcases an unwavering commitment to bringing forth the stories that matter. He is also known for satirical writing and stand up comedy.

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