General election: Starmer and Sunak clash over taxes, the NHS and immigration in head-to-head TV debate – as it happened | Politics

Starmer says Sunak’s claim he would raise people’s taxes by £2,000 is ‘nonsense’

Etchingham sets the leaders a challenge.

Put your hands up if what I’m saying is wrong, she says.

She then puts three statements to them: they won’t raise income tax, they won’t raise national insurance, they won’t raise VAT.

Sunak and Starmer keep their hands down.

Sunak goes back to the £2,000 tax claim.

Starmer says it’s “nonsense”.

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\n \n\n<div class=\”atom svelte-he6tkg\”><section class=\”section-polltracker page-section svelte-ibuurz\”><div class=\”section-heading-line svelte-1ld4rkb\”><h2 class=\”headline-main svelte-1ld4rkb\”><span slot=\”main-heading\”>Westminster voting intention over time</span></h2>\n <h3 class=\”headline-light svelte-1ld4rkb\”><span slot=\”sub-heading\”>Latest average of all polls over a moving 10-day period, showing Great Britain voting intention\n </span></h3>\n</div>\n\n\n <div class=\”hold\” style=\”width: 100%; height: 430px; background-color: var(–primary-bg-color\”><p style=\”margin-top: 20px;\”>Loading…</p></div>\n\n</section>\n</div>\n</div>”},{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”<p>On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Farage said the UK should aim for “zero” net migration – the difference between numbers of people arriving and leaving. We will have more for you on this shortly.</p>”,”elementId”:”60f32778-43d4-4f1d-9379-6072479fdcbe”},{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”<p>Suank’s campaign suffered a damaging blow yesterday after Farage, the former Ukip and Brexit party leader, called a surprise press conference in London to <a href=\” he intended to stand as an MP in Clacton, Essex</a> and lead the Reform party for the next five years. Farage had previously said he would not stand in July’s general election.</p>”,”elementId”:”0a8df07a-50ce-4b96-b597-18e66af537b0″},{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”<p>In a further blow to Sunak, YouGov’s first MRP constituency projection, before Farage’s announcement, showed Keir Starmer could win a 194 majority, bigger even than Tony Blair’s 179 majority in 1997.</p>”,”elementId”:”fab63a69-d5dc-4f91-a068-be26cb123c3a”},{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”<p>It put <a href=\” data-component=\”auto-linked-tag\”>Labour</a> on 422 seats (+222 from the 2019 election, based on new constituency boundaries), the Tories on 140 (-232), the Lib Dems on 48 (+40) and the SNP on 17 (-31). One senior Tory described Farage’s return as an “existential” risk.</p>”,”elementId”:”54fe377a-01e7-43ac-8858-a270678c02b9″},{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”<p>Farage has suggested his long-term aim was to effectively take over the Conservative party, which has been in damage limitation mode since the announcement.</p>”,”elementId”:”b60ee6a0-f057-4c57-a1c5-8a99d6a211b8″},{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”<p>He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Tuesday that he could not stand for or seek to lead the Conservative party “as they currently are”.</p>”,”elementId”:”fd2f104a-ac03-4b6d-b91c-d3bb6d693ec8″},{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”<p>But he added:</p>”,”elementId”:”d267c7ea-da98-4ead-b455-87b669b9d378″},{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.BlockquoteBlockElement”,”html”:”<blockquote class=\”quoted\”>\n <p><em>You can speculate as to what’ll happen in three or four years’ time, all I will tell you is if Reform succeed in the way that I think they can, then a chunk of the Conservative party will join us – it’s the other way around.</em></p>\n</blockquote>”,”elementId”:”866848f2-13f9-4347-bde7-297483879f45″},{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”<p>Here is a list of what is on today’s agenda:</p>”,”elementId”:”617f5e46-d3db-4349-adce-47cec5127a72″},{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”<ul>\n <li><p>Keir Starmer is to make energy policy announcement on a campaign visit to the north-west.</p></li>\n <li><p>Labour’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee, is expected to meet to endorse the party’s candidates for the general election.</p></li>\n <li><p>James Cleverley and <a href=\” data-component=\”auto-linked-tag\”>Nigel Farage</a> are answering broadcast questions on the morning rounds.</p></li>\n <li><p>Nigel Farage to launch general election campaign in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex.</p></li>\n <li><p>Lib Dem leader Ed Davey campaign visits to Cheadle this morning and North Shropshire this afternoon.</p></li>\n <li><p>Rachel Reeves and Anas Sarwar will hold a Q&amp;A in Edinburgh with staff working in financial services.</p></li>\n <li><p>Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer will face each other in the ITV general election debate at 9pm. The debate will be followed at 22:10 by interviews with leaders of other parties. The Liberal Democrats, SNP, Reform UK and the Greens have been invited.</p></li>\n</ul>”,”elementId”:”fa9bd270-b39e-4560-9f7b-a66be3762d86″},{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”<p>It is Yohannes Lowe here for the next couple of hours. If you want to get my attention then please do email me on <a href=\”mailto:martin.belam@theguardian.com\”>yohannes.lowe@theguardian.com</a>.</p>”,”elementId”:”1c2c187f-78f9-45cc-8a84-5a7a41a8c5ad”}],”attributes”:{“pinned”:false,”keyEvent”:false,”summary”:true},”blockCreatedOn”:1717487163000,”blockCreatedOnDisplay”:”03.46 EDT”,”blockLastUpdated”:1717495082000,”blockLastUpdatedDisplay”:”05.58 EDT”,”blockFirstPublished”:1717487163000,”blockFirstPublishedDisplay”:”03.46 EDT”,”blockFirstPublishedDisplayNoTimezone”:”03.46″,”title”:”Opening summary”,”contributors”:[],”primaryDateLine”:”Tue 4 Jun 2024 18.26 EDT”,”secondaryDateLine”:”First published on Tue 4 Jun 2024 03.46 EDT”}],”filterKeyEvents”:false,”id”:”key-events-carousel-mobile”,”absoluteServerTimes”:false}” config=”{“renderingTarget”:”Web”,”darkModeAvailable”:false,”updateLogoAdPartnerSwitch”:true,”assetOrigin”:”https://assets.guim.co.uk/”}”>

Key events

Evening summary

Here is a summary of the key points, from Jessica Elgot.

Here is Peter Walker’s assessment of who was telling the truth.

And here is John Crace’s sketch.

Julie Etchingham, Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak at the ITV debate. Photograph: Jonathan Hordle/ITV/PA
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Why Labour says Tory claim it would raise taxes by £2,000 for every family is wrong

This is what Full Fact, the fact checking organisation, says about Rishi Sunak’s claim that Labour would raise taxes by £2,000 per family.

Rishi Sunak claimed under Labour there’d be “£2,000 higher taxes for every working family”.

This seems to be based on Conservative estimates of Labour spending plans. Labour disputes these – the Conservatives say they amount to a “£38.5bn black hole”. #ITVDebate #GE24 (1/2)

— Full Fact (@FullFact) June 4, 2024

Rishi Sunak claimed under Labour there’d be “£2,000 higher taxes for every working family”.

This seems to be based on Conservative estimates of Labour spending plans. Labour disputes these – the Conservatives say they amount to a “£38.5bn black hole”. #ITVDebate #GE24 (1/2)

The Conservative calculations cover a long list of policy announcements and make a number of assumptions.

We’re currently working on a full fact check of their figures which we expect to publish later this week. #ITVDebate #GE24 (2/2)

The figure comes from a Tory dossier published last month. When it released the document, which was partly based on Treasury costings of what CCHQ claimed were Labour policies, the Conservative party said:

Labour’s spending promises cost £16bn per year in 2028-29, or £58.9bn over the next four years;

But their revenue raisers would only collect £6.2bn per year in 2028-29, or £20.4bn over the next four years.

This creates a black hole in Labour’s spending promises of £10bn per year in 2028-29, or £38.5bn over the next four years. The analysis shows that Labour have failed to accurately cost their policies, breaking Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves’ promise only to have fully funded and costed policies.

They do not have a plan to fill this gap. As a result, to avoid breaking their fiscal rules, Labour will have to raise taxes equivalent to £2,094 per working household.

In response, Labour released a rebuttal document claiming to identify “11 glaring mistakes” in the Tory document. They do not seem to be online so, for the record, here they are. (Bold text from original.)

1) The costings rely on “Assumptions from Special Advisors”, rather than an impartial Civil Service assessment.

2) Mental health support teams: The document acknowledges they have not costed the actual policy that sits behind our commitment: “there are alternative models to deliver this commitment, as expanding the provision of counselling support in schools, which have not been costed here.”

3) Dentistry: the costing includes the costs of a “golden hello” scheme. We did call for this, leading to a welcome change when the government adopted our policy. The government do not appear to be aware that this is their own policy.

4) 13,000 neighbourhood police officers and PCSOs: The costing includes Barnett consequentials. This is incorrect, as the policy is funded by reallocating funding, meaning Barnett consequentials are not triggered.

5) Neighbourhood health centres: The document assumes we will be setting up 42 new hubs over and above existing facilities and infrastructure. This is not our policy. Our plans have no additional cost. We will ask Integrated Care System providers to identify opportunities to use the existing estate to provide Neighbourhood Health Centres.

6) Insourcing: The officials flag they have “low confidence” in the assumption that outsourced services are more efficient as “the difference between the cost of outsourcing and in-house delivery is highly circumstance specific.”

7) Bus Service Reform: alongside dubious and questionable assumptions, the costing includes a frank admission that “The analysis in this costing has been done at pace with limited data and, therefore, the uncertainty and risk of error is high.”

8) Halving the number of consultants: Those costing the policy concede that they do not “monetise the potential benefits of reducing consultancy spending.”

9) Non-resident SDLT: They have failed to include in their policy assumptions Labour’s actual policy, which would see non-resident stamp duty land tax go from 2% to 3%. If they had, they could have simply taken a look at HMRC’s published costings of how much a 1% increase in non-resident stamp duty land tax raises, which is £40m per year by the third year of the forecast. This would have saved a lot of civil servant time that would have been better spent improving the country.

10) Mental Health Workers: They have assumed we will put a youth worker in every A&E suite, and a mentor in every Pupil Referral Unit across the entire country full-time. This is not our policy. Our policy is a pilot of both approaches.

11) Regional Improvement Teams: The document assumes that a Labour government would send in regional improvement teams to all schools below ‘outstanding’, including schools rated ‘good’. This is not our policy.

Hannah White, director of the Institute for Government thinktank, said tonight it was “very misleading” for Sunak to claim these were independent costings.

Very misleading for @RishiSunak to repeatedly claim that calculations of the cost of Labour policies made by Treasury officials on the basis of assumptions given to them by the Government are “independent”

— Hannah White (@DrHannahWhite) June 4, 2024

And the BBC has has said the Tory figures are based on “lots of questionable assumptions’. This is from Ben Chu, a BBC policy specialist.

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Sunak/Starmer – verdict from X commentariat

This is what political journalists and commentators are saying about the debate on X.

From ITV’s Paul Brand

After an hour of debate:

Sunak brought the energy, made the best of what is a v difficult situation for him in this campaign. But lost the audience on occasion – groans, laughter.

Starmer was less bouncy, but remained calm and drew less anger. A safe performance.#ITVDebate

— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) June 4, 2024

After an hour of debate:

Sunak brought the energy, made the best of what is a v difficult situation for him in this campaign. But lost the audience on occasion – groans, laughter.

Starmer was less bouncy, but remained calm and drew less anger. A safe performance.#ITVDebate

From Politico’s Anne McElvoy

I would say Sunak edged in on just having more experience in TV format, but a bit overbearing. Won’t have damaged Starmer (tho he could flexed more and avoided saying “shocking” too much. Mild boost for Sunak on his rattled home team. Doesn’t feel like cause of a major bounce

— anne mcelvoy (@annemcelvoy) June 4, 2024

I would say Sunak edged in on just having more experience in TV format, but a bit overbearing. Won’t have damaged Starmer (tho he could flexed more and avoided saying “shocking” too much. Mild boost for Sunak on his rattled home team. Doesn’t feel like cause of a major bounce

From the New Statesman’s George Eaton

Rishi Sunak unsettled Starmer but didn’t get the game changer he needed – my take on tonight’s TV debate. https://t.co/Dn6QRVb3l0

— George Eaton (@georgeeaton) June 4, 2024

Rishi Sunak unsettled Starmer but didn’t get the game changer he needed – my take on tonight’s TV debate.

From the Daily Express’s Sam Lister

Keir Starmer likes asking the questions, but not answering them… my analysis on the first TV election debate

— Sam Lister (@sam_lister_) June 4, 2024

Keir Starmer likes asking the questions, but not answering them… my analysis on the first TV election debate

From Lewis Goodall from the News Agents’ podcast

A weird mess of a debate. Sunak had crisper answers but was hectoring and overbearing to the point of rudeness. Starmer had the strongest overall argument but too often took too long to get to the point, make his rebuttals. Not much will change.

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) June 4, 2024

A weird mess of a debate. Sunak had crisper answers but was hectoring and overbearing to the point of rudeness. Starmer had the strongest overall argument but too often took too long to get to the point, make his rebuttals. Not much will change.

From the Guardian’s Gaby Hinsliff

My main takeaway from that is that the 7-way BBC debate on Friday is going to be an absolute zoo if they’re not careful

— gabyhinsliff (@gabyhinsliff) June 4, 2024

My main takeaway from that is that the 7-way BBC debate on Friday is going to be an absolute zoo if they’re not careful

From ITV’s Robert Peston

Sunak said time and again that Labour would raise taxes. Starmer said the Tories had failed over 14 years. That is more-or-less the entire leader’s debate. Let me know if you heard anything else

— Robert Peston (@Peston) June 4, 2024

Sunak said time and again that Labour would raise taxes. Starmer said the Tories had failed over 14 years. That is more-or-less the entire leader’s debate. Let me know if you heard anything else

From Sky’s Beth Rigby

Ill-tempered debate with more heat than light. Sunak sharper on attack lines, but with that a tetchiness that unappealing. Starmer had more applause, but not as clear in landing lines. Pretty much a draw – that worse for Sunak as he needed a slam dunk win given Lab poll lead

— Beth Rigby (@BethRigby) June 4, 2024

Ill-tempered debate with more heat than light. Sunak sharper on attack lines, but with that a tetchiness that unappealing. Starmer had more applause, but not as clear in landing lines. Pretty much a draw – that worse for Sunak as he needed a slam dunk win given Lab poll lead

From Sky’s Darren McCaffrey

IMHO @RishiSunak wins tonight (just) because he had some key messages, on tax, no plan and he hammered them with discipline@Keir_Starmer didn’t address questions directly enough, key messaging not as pithy

Not sure though going to fundamentally change the campaign #ITVDebate

— Darren McCaffrey (@darrenmccaffrey) June 4, 2024

IMHO @RishiSunak wins tonight (just) because he had some key messages, on tax, no plan and he hammered them with discipline@Keir_Starmer didn’t address questions directly enough, key messaging not as pithy

Not sure though going to fundamentally change the campaign

No hammer-blow tonight, tax was strongest line from that most viewers will take away – hence why I think Sunak won the debate

But clearly given Labour’s lead just winning a debate will not be enough

From Sky’s Mhari Aurora

That debate felt a bit like a shouting match, but felt like Sunak was doing a bit more of the shouting over the host than Starmer… the word tetchy comes to mind

— Mhari Aurora (@MhariAurora) June 4, 2024

That debate felt a bit like a shouting match, but felt like Sunak was doing a bit more of the shouting over the host than Starmer… the word tetchy comes to mind

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YouGov has released more figures from its snap poll.

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Sunak/Starmer – final verdict

The Tories will feel more cheered than Labour. Snap polls are not always a sound guide to how debates influence public opinion (most people do not watch them in full, and their views are shaped by the reporting they watch and read after the debate) but when was the last time Rishi Sunak came ahead in any sort of poll? He will feel vindicated by the YouGov results. (See 10.17pm.)

And the perception he won reflects the fact that he was more forceful and persistent in getting over his key message. (See 9.14pm.) Keir Starmer is often reluctant to engage with Tory claims about his policy. Often this is sensible (on the grounds that politicians should talk about their agenda, not their opponent’s) but tonight it looked as though he was letting the tax claims go unchallenged because he did not have a particularly good reply. There were other points too – on ending the NHS strikes and on the “retirement tax” (a David Cameron coinage), for example – where he sounded evasive.

But none of this felt even close to the fabled “knockout blow” of debate commentary cliche. Sunak is tarnished as a messenger (because people don’t believe him much any more) and all the evidence suggests voters have abandoned the Tories in droves. People with strong doubts about Labour may have had those firmed up by Sunak, but this did not feel like a performance that would prompt a mass, national rethink.

And, although Sunak may have won on substance, he came across as tetchy, obsessive and a bit unreasonable. Starmer seemed a bit more mature and congenial. On style, he was probably ahead.

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YouGov snap poll suggests Sunak ‘won’ debate, beating Stamer 51% to 49%

YouGov has released the results of a snap poll of people watching the debate. It suggests that Sunak won by a tiny margin.

YouGov snap poll results Photograph: YouGov
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They finished with final statements.

Starmer asked people to imagine how they would feel waking up on 5 July to “five more years of decline and division”.

The choice this election is clear – more chaos with the Conservatives or the chance to rebuild Britain with a changed Labour party.

And Sunak said he would always have people’s back, as he did with furlough. But with “Keir Starmer, apart from higher taxes, you don’t know what you get, and neither does he”.

And that was it.

Reaction and analysis coming up soon.

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Etchingham ends with a light question.

Gareth on the way to Germany has a question. What is the best plan? Play it safe or take some risks and go for the win?

Sunak says he has met Gareth Southgate and discussed who had the worst job. He says you need a plan and bold action.

Starmer seems a bit more comfortable discussing football. He says Southgate has built a good squad. That is what he is doing with his shadow cabinet, he says.

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Asked about home ownership, Sunak claims the Tories have delivered a million homes in this parliament.

Starmer says it is shocking how hard it is for young people to buy a home. He would give mayors more powers over housing, he says.

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The next question is about what the parties would do for young people.

Starmer says he wants to see people have more educational opportunities.

But he would not make young people join some “teenage Dad’s Army”, he says.

Sunak says he thinks his plan will be transformative for young people.

That prompts some audience laughter.

Asked to respond specifically to Starmer’s point, Sunak says all Starmer is doing is sneering at this.

He says lots of people have told him they like the idea.

Starmer says the army aren’t in favour of this.

He says the government has had 14 years to do this. But it hasn’t done it.

Sunak says Starmer has no ideas.

Starmer says Sunak is claiming Labour does not have any ideas, while at the same time claiming Labour’s plans will cost a fortune.

He says Sunak cannot say the Tories have a good record, because they don’t have one. And they cannot say they have had good leaders, because they are on their fifth. So they just look ahead, he says.

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The next question is about the climate crisis.

Sunak defends his decision to scale back some net zero plans.

He says Labour would force people to spend thousands on installing heat pumps, converting their homes and buying electric cars.

Starmer says the firm that provided these figures has produced a report today saying that under Labour’s plans people would pay less.

Sunak ignores this point, and just repeats the point about Labour costing people more.

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Asked about Gaza, Starmer and Sunak both deliver measured answers.

Mostly they are non-partisan, but Sunak ends by saying he has decided to increase defence spending to keep people safe, and Labour has not matched that.

“Shocking,” says Starmer.

Given a chance to elaborate, Starmer again says this attack was shocking.

He says, as DPP, he worked on foiling terrorist plots.

While he was doing that, Sunak was “making money betting against the country during the financial crisis”.

That is a reference to these claims.

Sunak says, at the time Starmer was working for extremists like Abu Qatada.

Starmer asks Sunak if he is calling the CPS an extremist organisation.

Sunak says he is talking about Starmer’s work before that. He invites viewers to google that.

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Sunak implies willingness to leave ECHR, saying membership of ‘foreign court’ should not jeopardise UK security

Etchingham asks Sunak if the Tory manifesto will include a promise to take the UK out of the European convention on human rights.

Sunak says he thinks his plan is compliant with the ECHR. But if he has to choose between the UK’s security and a foreign court, he will put the UK’s security first every time.

He says:

I will choose our country’s security ahead of membership of a foreign court every single time.

This is similar to what Sunak has said before,

Starmer says he would not take Britain out of the ECHR.

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The debate has resumed, and they are now talking about small boats.

Sunak explains his policy, and challenges Starmer to say what he would do.

Starmer says he would smash the gangs.

Starmer says the Rwanda policy is a gimmick. He says, if Sunak thought the Rwanda policy was working, he would not be having the election now.

He says he legislated to stop the gangs. But Labour voted against it, he says.

Starmer says Sunak’s plan is failing.

He says he does not accept that the gangs cannot be stopped.

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