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Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer clash in UK election debate

The two candidates to become Britain’s next prime minister clashed angrily over tax, immigration and health policy Tuesday in a televised debate that at times descended into heated exchanges. Political opponents argue with each other.

The confrontation comes exactly a month before a crucial general election that will decide whether the opposition Labor Party can capitalize on its strong lead in opinion polls and close out. 14 years of turmoil government led by the Conservative Party, in which the party has had five different prime ministers.

Almost immediately after the debate began, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that his opponent, Labor leader Keir Starmer, would increase taxes on Britons by £2,000 a year if he won the election, repeating this statement many times. “Rubbish,” Mr. Starmer finally replied.

Labor says the figure is based on faulty assumptions and Jonathan Ashworth, a senior party lawmaker, claimed in an interview with Sky News after the debate that Mr Sunak lied. But Mr. Starmer’s failure to explicitly refute the claim at the outset of the broadcast set the stage for what came later: a solid but defensive performance by the opposition leader against an opponent. Energetic and sometimes cruel.

A quick poll of viewers declared Mr Sunak the narrow winneralthough Mr. Starmer is considered more lovely and more reliable. Although the debate is unlikely to attract a significant number of votes, Mr Sunak’s performance may have calmed some worries in his jittery party.

With the Conservative Party trailing in the opinion polls for more than 18 months, the broadcast is a chance for Mr Sunak to revive his stalled campaign. After one The beginning is easy to be carelessThe prime minister’s prospects appeared to take a turn for the worse on Monday when Nigel Farage, a right-wing rebel, issued an appeal suddenly decided to participate in the election.

For Mr Starmer, the main aim is to avoid losing momentum ahead of the July 4 general election which opinion polls show he is on track to win, perhaps comfortably.

There were no knockout blows in Tuesday’s hour-long debate, filmed before a studio audience in Salford, near Manchester, and the first of two scheduled televised contests between Mr. Sunak and Mr. Starmer.

Animated but at times scathing, Mr Sunak was more forceful in making his case, accusing Labor of having no plan to manage the government and regularly bad-mouthing Mr Starmer, despite pleas Calm from Julie Etchingham, moderator.

But Mr Sunak has struggled to defend the Conservative Party’s 14-year record in power, and Mr Starmer mocked his failure to cut the waiting list for more than seven million procedures in the healthcare system as he did. promised.

“It used to be 7.2 million, now it’s 7.5 million. He said they were going down – and here was someone who said he was good at maths,” Mr Starmer said of the prime minister.

“They are coming down from a higher position,” Mr. Sunak replied, making the audience laugh.

In a familiar exchange of claims and counterclaims, Mr Starmer said the government had “lost control” of the economy, adding that it was ordinary people “who are paying the price”. Mr Sunak argues that his plans are helping to revive economic growth and says Labor would jeopardize that progress.

Televised general election debates are a relatively recent phenomenon in the UK, first taking place in 2010. The onus this time is on Mr Sunak to make an impact, in a program broadcast was described as “one of the last chances the prime minister has to change the political fortunes of his party,” said Lee Cain, who worked for Boris Johnson in Downing Street, one of his predecessors. Mr. Sunak, wrote.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Farage, who has taken over as leader of Reform UK, a small far-right party campaigning to cut immigration, spoke to a crowd of several hundred people in Clacton-on- Sea, part of the area where he plans to contest the general election.

Taking advantage of his reputation as a political troublemaker, Mr Farage urged voters to elect him to Parliament “to become a bloody nuisance”. However, not all bystanders were friendly and one protester threw what appeared to be a large milkshake on him. A woman was later arrested.

A leading Brexit supporter, Mr. Farage has tried and failed seven times to become a member of the British Parliament. But analysts believe he has a fair chance this time in Clacton, an area that voted strongly in favor of Britain leaving the European Union and that was once represented by a Labor Party lawmaker. UK Independence, the pro-Brexit party that Mr. Farage once represented. command.

Nationally, Reform UK is unlikely to win more than a handful of seats in Britain’s electoral system, which favors the two largest parties and makes it very difficult for small parties to overcome.

But Mr Farage’s party tends to get more votes from the Conservatives than from Labor and could take away the thousands of votes that Mr Sunak’s party won in the 2019 general election, potentially potentially causing this party to lose dozens of seats.

Mr Sunak on Tuesday made a fresh attempt to appeal to potential Reform voters, pledging to limit immigration by setting an annual cap on entrants.

Under his plan, a committee of experts would recommend a maximum number of immigrants allowed each year, which would then be voted on by Congress.

Labor dismissed the promise as meaningless, noting that previous Conservative election pledges to limit immigration had not been honored and that net migration had increased about three times since the last election in 2019.

At one point in Tuesday’s debate, Mr Sunak accused Labor of not having a plan to limit the number of asylum seekers crossing the English Channel in small boats. And he hinted that he would be prepared to take Britain out of international agreements if he remained prime minister and was stymied in his efforts to get some people arriving on British shores on one-way flights to Rwanda.

Mr Starmer described that plan as an “expensive gimmick” and attacked Mr Sunak over the surge in legal immigration since the 2019 general election. Mr Starmer said: “The Prime Minister said ‘It too high’ and added, “Who’s responsible?”


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