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British parliamentary election: Sunak goes on the attack in TV debate in Great Britain

British parliamentary election: Sunak goes on the attack in TV debate in Great Britain

In the first televised duel before the general election, Prime Minister Sunak and his rival Starmer are engaged in a heated debate with roles reversed. Will the narrow point victory really help the incumbent?

At times it was impossible to understand a word. In their first TV duel before the British general election on July 4, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his challenger Keir Starmer engaged in a loud debate.

In particular, the conservative head of government, who is around 20 points behind in the polls, repeatedly interrupted his social democratic rival. ITV presenter Julie Etchingham had a hard time with the two fighting cocks.

In fact, with his back against the wall, Sunak managed to launch several attacks on the leader of the Labour Party. In a snap poll by the Yougov polling institute, he landed a razor-thin victory: 51 percent saw the Prime Minister as the winner, 49 percent the opposition leader. That should at least be a little balm for the conservative soul, after everything recently pointed to a historic defeat for the Tory Party.

The mood in the ITV studio in Salford near Manchester seemed tense. Sunak in particular repeatedly talked over his challenger, Starmer repeatedly rolled his eyes and raised his arms in irritation. The impression: The former investment banker Sunak and the former head of the law enforcement agency do not like each other personally either.

The incumbent is under enormous pressure

Especially since the populist party Reform UK, led by Brexit advocate Nigel Farage, is putting him under increasing pressure from the far right.

The 44-year-old started off aggressively. Sunak barely answered questions from the audience. Instead, he claimed a dozen times that Starmer’s Labour Party wanted to increase the tax burden of every working household by £2,000 (€2,348) a year. This accusation did not stand up to fact-checking by the BBC and the British news agency PA. In fact, the sum is based on a number of unproven assumptions. But commentators believe that the Labour leader left the claim unchallenged for too long before finally dismissing it as “rubbish”.

Duel with reversed roles

It almost seemed as if the roles were reversed. The incumbent approached the opposition leader as if he were the prime minister. “Apart from raising taxes and stealing your pensions, nobody knows what Labour would actually do,” said Sunak. Starmer is demanding a blank cheque and is concealing the true costs of his policies. “I have a clear plan for a more secure future for you and your family.”

Sunak asked Starmer several times about specific plans, but the Labour leader remained vague. The 61-year-old was more emphatic and received more applause. He knew from his own youth what it was like when bills could not be paid and the phone was turned off, Starmer reported.

A Pyrrhic victory for Sunak?

No unfulfillable promises, no mistakes and, above all, a reference to the Tory government with changing prime ministers and numerous scandals – the Labour strategy is simple. “Either we continue with the chaos and division that we have experienced over the past 14 years, or we turn a new page and make a fresh start with Labour,” said Starmer. Re-electing the Conservatives means giving the matches back to the arsonists.

Sky News correspondent Beth Rigby saw a “fierce debate with more heat than light”. Ultimately, the outcome of the duel seemed pretty much undecided. That would be bad news for Sunak. Given Labour’s huge lead, the Prime Minister would have needed a resounding victory, Rigby wrote at X.

Source: Stern

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