Saturday, November 27

Who won debate: Johnson v Corbyn



As we reach the final stages of this bad-tempered election campaign, littered with half-truths, divisive politics and fanciful pledges, is it any wonder that the two main protagonists cannot even look each other in the eye?

The BBC leaders’ debate, likely to be the last TV campaign event before the polls open next Thursday, barring Andrew Neil doorstepping the Prime Minister this weekend, was a tetchy hour-long encounter between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.

Except for the first half hour they didn’t quite encounter each other, despite standing six feet apart on stage – instead they talked about their opponent in the manner of an estranged spouse at a marriage guidance session.

“Mr Corbyn doesn’t know what his Brexit policy is,” said the Prime Minister without looking at the Labour leader. “Mr Johnson wants to put the NHS on the table”, said Mr Corbyn to the studio audience.

In this nightmarish session of Relate, it is we, the voters, who must be the children. The problem is, we don’t fancy either of them taking custody of us.

Each candidate to be Prime Minister repeated their lines about Brexit, the NHS and security. At one point Mr Corbyn produced the leaked Treasury document he had unveiled earlier in the day that contradicts the PM’s claim that there will be no customs checks between Northern Ireland and Britain after Brexit. To credit Labour strategists, this earlier event had allowed Mr Corbyn to frame the final debate a little.

Mr Johnson received applause when he spoke of locking up terrorists for longer. Mr Corbyn was at his most irritated when answering questions about anti-Semitism in his party.

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But, like so many of these occasions in the last five weeks, it did not feel like there was an outright winner. There was no game-changer that Mr Corbyn needed to close his poll deficit.

Will this debate have changed anyone’s minds ahead of next week? It is unlikely. But maybe their minds are already made up.