Starmer brands Sunak’s tax claims ‘garbage’ – but poll suggests PM came out on top

Sir Keir Starmer said it was “garbage” to claim he would raise taxes by £2,000 as he traded blows with Rishi Sunak in their heated first TV debate.

The Labour leader initially failed to challenge the prime minister’s repeated accusations that Labour’s spending plans would cost each family £2,000.

He eventually called it “nonsense” and “absolute garbage”, saying his pledge to invest in green projects would result in cheaper energy bills.

Politics latest: Voters think Sunak performed better in first TV debate

Labour said the figure is based on misleading information put out in a “dodgy Tory dossier”. One of their 11 rebuttals is that the costings rely on “assumptions from special advisors”, rather than an impartial Civil Service assessment.

Sir Keir initially struggled to explain this during a debate that saw the pair repeatedly talk over each other, forcing ITV host Julie Ethcingham to intervene and cut them off.

A snap YouGov poll after the clash suggested Mr Sunak narrowly came out on top – with 51% of the audience believing he fared slightly better than Sir Keir.

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As well as the economy, the pair clashed over the NHS and immigration, with Mr Sunak groaned at and laughed at by the audience on some occasions.

Sunak laughed at over NHS claims

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Audience groans over NHS comment during leaders’ debate

The first rumbling of discontent from the audience came after the prime minister was asked how long it would take to fix the “broken” health service.

He pointed to the damage done by the COVID pandemic but said “we are now making progress: waiting lists are coming down”.

The Labour leader countered: “They were 7.2 million, they’re now 7.5 million. He says they are coming down and this is the guy who says he’s good at maths.”

The audience laughed when Mr Sunak said NHS waiting times are “coming down from when they were higher”.

He hen blamed industrial action, eliciting groans from the audience of the ITV debate.

“It’s somebody else’s fault,” Sir Keir said.

Immigration debate gets heated

There was also a heated debate over immigration.

Asked by an audience member why either leader should be trusted to do anything about the issue, Mr Sunak said deportation flights will take off to Rwanda “in July, but only if I’m your prime minister”.

“Stick to our plan and illegal migrants will be on those planes – with Labour they will be out on our streets.”

Sir Keir hit back: “The levels of migration are at record highs – 685,000. It’s never been that high, save in the last year or two.

“The prime minister says it’s too high. Who’s in charge? He’s in charge. He’s the most liberal prime minister we’ve ever had on immigration.”

The Labour leader also said Mr Sunak had “completely failed” to meet his pledge to stop small boats crossing the Channel.

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