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General Election ITV debate: Five talking points from Sunday's face-off between seven politicians

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 01/12/2019 Bronwen Weatherby
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Watch: Political parties clash at the ITV Election Debate (ITN News)

Seven politicians from seven parties went head-to-head on Sunday night in the ITV General Election debate.

They faced off on a number of subjects including Donald Trump, the London Bridge terror attack, the NHS, social care, climate change and inevitably - Brexit.

Nigel Farage, Adam Price are posing for a picture © Provided by Evening Standard While Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn failed to make an appearance, their stand-ins Rishi Sunak for the Conservatives and Labour's Richard Burgon endeavoured to make an impression on their behalf.

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That combination mixed with the Brexit Party's Nigel Farage, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Lib Dems' Jo Swinson, Greens' co-leader Sian Berry and Plaid Cymru's Adam Price made for some heated exchanges.

Here were five talking points from the show and how each candidate reacted.

Donald Trump

Parties clashed over the US president – who arrives in the UK on Monday ahead of a meeting of Nato leaders.

Boris Johnson, Donald Trump are posing for a picture: Trump comes to the UK this week (REUTERS) © Provided by Evening Standard Trump comes to the UK this week (REUTERS)

Boris Johnson has already confirmed he will meet with Trump in London however, a number of the candidates such as Swinson said they would not offer the controversial figurehead the same hospitality.

In some of the strongest exchanges, Swinson said that, while the relationship with the US was important, Mr Trump, who had spoken of sexually assaulting women, did not share British values.

“The last thing we should have done is to roll out the red carpet for a state visit,” she said.

But, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage warned it would be a “great mistake” for British politicians to demonise Donald Trump.

Gallery: Donald Trump: Life in pictures (Photo Services) 

Mr Farage said that, while some of Mr Trump’s comments were wrong, it was essential to consider the national interest in maintaining the relationship with the US.

“It was crass and it was crude and it was wrong – men say dreadful things sometimes. If all of us were called out for what we did on a night out after a drink, none of us would …” he said.

At that point, he was interrupted by Ms Swinson who said: “Is that what you do on a night out after a drink?”

Mr Farage replied: “He is president of the USA and that relationship matters. You are so anti-American you are prepared to put your hatred of Trump above our national interest. That is a great mistake.”

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage speaks at a general election campaign event venue in Hull, northeast England on November 28, 2019. - Britain will go to the polls on December 12, 2019 to vote in a pre-Christmas general election. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images) Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage speaks at a general election campaign event venue in Hull, northeast England on November 28, 2019. - Britain will go to the polls on December 12, 2019 to vote in a pre-Christmas general election. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Price said Mr Farage was wrong to defend the US president.

“It can never be acceptable for a man to talk about grabbing a woman’s pussy. If you think it is, you should be ashamed of yourself,” he said.

Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister said Boris Johnson was trying to pursue the same “strong man” tactics of the president.

“That in my view is not what the UK or any it needs. Donald Trump’s attitudes are wrong and they are dangerous. In Boris Johnson we have got somebody who is trying to be like him,” she said.

SAINT ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 30: Scotland's First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is welcomed by the SNP's North East Fife parliamentary candidate Stephen Gethins as she arrives to deliver a St Andrew's Day speech to party activists, on November 30, 2019 in Saint Andrews, Scotland. North East Fife is the most marginal constituency in the UK, where Stephen Gethins is defending a majority of just two. (Photo by Ken Jack/Getty Images) © 2019 Ken Jack SAINT ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 30: Scotland's First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is welcomed by the SNP's North East Fife parliamentary candidate Stephen Gethins as she arrives to deliver a St Andrew's Day speech to party activists, on November 30, 2019 in Saint Andrews, Scotland. North East Fife is the most marginal constituency in the UK, where Stephen Gethins is defending a majority of just two. (Photo by Ken Jack/Getty Images)

For Labour shadow justice secretary Burgon said: “Our quarrel and difference is with some of the policies of Donald Trump who, like Boris Johnson, is a politician who has given the green light to sexism, homophobia and racism and that cannot be allowed to flourish.”

However, for the Conservatives, Treasury Chief Secretary Rishi Sunak said that the relationship with the US was essential to Britain’s national security and should not be denigrated.

“The relationship we have with America is incredibly important for keeping us safe. The intelligence that is shared keeps all of us safe every single day,” he said.

“That is not something to turn your nose at. It is something we should be welcoming.”

He also rejected accusations that Mr Johnson was guilty of fostering homophobia, after referring to gay men as “bum boys in tank tops”.​

London Bridge attack

London Bridge reopened as the debate kicked off (NIGEL HOWARD ©) © Provided by Evening Standard London Bridge reopened as the debate kicked off (NIGEL HOWARD ©)

As the Met Police announced it would be reopening London Bridge the debate contestants took to their stands.

In the wake of the knife rampage by convicted terrorist Usman Khan politicians have exchanged blows on the policies and funding of the criminal justice system.

Some have also criticised each other for politicising the attack during an election campaign.

Therefore, the gruesome and horrific attack on individuals in the UK's capital, was expected to come up in conversation.

Sturgeon was strong on the subject, criticising "crass" attempts by Boris Johnson to use the attack to bolster his chances in the polls.

She argued that the lessons learned must “do a service to those affected by this atrocity”.

Gallery: Terror returns to London Bridge (Photo Services) 

Responding to a question about the killings by Usman Khan, Ms Sturgeon said: “He shouldn’t have been out – I think we can all agree on that – and there are lessons that will be required to be learned.

“But I don’t think we do any service to victims or to the wider public to rush to those conclusions or to have knee-jerk reactions and I frankly don’t think Boris Johnson has done any service to victims with the crass way he has sought to politicise this issue during an election campaign.

“The most serious offenders, like this one, should be in jail for lengthy periods."

Ms Sturgeon also called out Boris Johnson’s lie during his Andrew Marr interview that Parliament had blocked his Queen’s Speech and plans for tougher sentences, when the House of Commons voted in favour.

She added: “There is an obligation here on a Prime Minister to try and bring people together in the aftermath of an attack like this, not to seek to politicise it for party political gain.”

Sunak said Usman Khan had been released as result of changes brought in by the Last Labour government.

Farage has blamed “political correctness” for Khan's release.

Brexit

Boris Johnson wearing a suit and tie: Politicians stuck to the party lines (Getty Images) © Provided by Evening Standard Politicians stuck to the party lines (Getty Images)

Brexit was bound to dominate part of the night's proceedings, as it has done in the lead up the election.

Candidates stood by their party's motos and manifestos when it came to the subject.

Rishi Sunak sought to draw a line between him and Nigel Farage, telling the audience: “The difference between Nigel and me is that only my party – the Conservative Party – can actually deliver Brexit.

“A vote for anybody else on this stage … is just going to mean Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10 and that’s going to mean no Brexit and years more delay, division and deadlock.”

Mr Farage said leaving the EU means “we do not have the European Court of Justice ruling over our country”, and that the “problem with the deal on the table is that it would”, adding: “That needs to be amended.”

Richard Burgon refused to say how he would vote in a second Brexit referendum, and on the prospect of a Labour minority government reaching an agreement with the SNP, he said: “There is no backroom deals, frontroom deals, or any other kind of deals with the SNP or anyone else.

“We’re going for, and I believe we can and will get, a majority Labour government.”

Social care

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Audiences asked © Provided by Evening Standard Audiences asked

The issue of social care made for an unexpectedly interesting trip away from the Brexit negotiations.

The politicians are asked a question on why politicians can’t work together on the big questions like climate change and social care.

In response, Swinson said it was an issue requiring cross-party intervention, but the Conservative government had delayed it for years.

Sunak responded by saying: “Next year should we spend time talking about these kinds of issues, or Brexit?”

Sturgeon pointed out that free personal care had existed in Scotland for a decade and now UK parties needed to get on with implementing a similar policy.

Money

Siân Berry standing on a stage in front of a television: Frustration from all sides as the candidates discussed the sticky subject of: money (ITV via Getty Images) © Provided by Evening Standard Frustration from all sides as the candidates discussed the sticky subject of: money (ITV via Getty Images)

Money makes the world go around, as they say, and so it stretched across a number of the conventional topics.

All seven made statements involving figures, and several participated in trying to fact-check each other's financial knowledge.

Labour's Richard Burgon set the tone when he said from the off that deep cuts to public services had happened while the government made huge tax giveaways to big businesses.

Burgon related the issue to the weekend's attack and said, "We can't do security on the cheap".

Berry said police cuts mean officers do not have time together out of their vans to work with communities. We need real rehabilitation, she said.

Burgon was then asked about the IFS’s assessment that Tory and Labour plans were unfeasible. Burgon said the IFS is "entitled to its opinion, but that other thinktanks have taken a different view".

Sunak says that debt will be down with a Conservative government. Farage sparks a row by telling him to stop lying to the British public. “You cut the deficit and not the debt,” he said. “Debt is massively up.”

Sturgeon says it is rich for Farage to accuse someone else of lying after the line that the UK would be able to spend an extra £350m on the NHS after Brexit. Farage said he never campaigned under that slogan.

Berry interjected to say the credit rating agencies downgraded the UK’s credit scores, so it is not true to say that the Conservatives had managed the economy well.

Sunak said he’s read the report and that they had said this was because of the uncertainty caused by Brexit. Berry says that uncertainty was caused by his party’s mishandling of Brexit.

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