The Battle For Number 10: Five things we learned about Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

It was as close as the nation is going to get to seeing a live TV debate between the two main party leaders.

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn faced questions from a studio audience and Jeremy Paxman last night in a joint Channel 4/Sky News broadcast called The Battle for Number 10, but did not face off against each other.

The format of the programme, with each of the Conservative and Labour leaders taking a Q&A from the audience and Mr Paxman, still left viewers wondering… who won?

The Conservative and Labour leaders stood on the same stage, but not at the same time (Pictures: PA)

The leaders did not appear together as Mrs May has declined to take part in a head-to-head debate with Mr Corbyn.

MORE: Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn face tough questions on live TV
MORE: Tory lead over Labour has narrowed to five points, according to latest YouGov poll

But did either of them land a knockout blow? Here are five things we learned about each contender from The Battle for Number 10.


1. The Labour leader would have to consider the evidence before launching a drone strike on terrorists overseas plotting to attack the UK. ‘It is a hypothetical question,’ he said. ‘We have to look at the evidence that is there at the time to make that fatal decision one way or the other.’

Jeremy Corbyn makes his case for leading the country (Picture: PA)

2. Mr Corbyn said Margaret Thatcher used the Falklands War for political gain. Asked by Mr Paxman about comments he made concerning ‘young unemployed men’ being sent to the South Atlantic to die for a ‘Tory plot’, he replied: ‘”Margaret Thatcher made a great deal of that issue at the time. I felt that she was exploiting the situation.’

3. Mr Corbyn faced questions over his past encounters with terrorist leaders. When he came under fire from an audience member who claimed the Labour leader supported the IRA, Mr Corbyn said: ‘The contribution I made to that meeting was to call for a peace and dialogue process in Northern Ireland.’ He defended a comment that the killing of Osama bin Laden was a ‘tragedy’ because ‘he should have been put on trial’.

4. The Queen has nothing to worry about if Mr Corbyn becomes Prime Minister. Asked by Mr Paxman why there was nothing about abolishing the monarchy in the Labour manifesto, Mr Corbyn said: ‘It’s not in there because we are not going to do it,’ adding that he had ‘a very nice chat with the Queen’.

Mr Corbyn faces off against the other Jeremy – Paxman (Picture: PA)

5. The verdict on Mr Corbyn’s performances from British newspapers was predictable mixed. The Sun said he had ‘one big beast to kill last night – and one huge point to prove. He managed neither.’ But The Mirror said Mr Corbyn had ‘the composure of a man after a hard day digging his allotment who was lounging in a chair admiring his runner beans’.


1. The Prime Minister admitted she can be a ‘difficult woman’. She said she was determined to take on difficult issues and do the right thing for the country. ‘If, in order to address them and do the right thing by the country, it takes being a difficult woman, then that’s exactly what I will be,’ she said.

Theresa May faces questions from the audience (Picture: PA)

2. Mrs May said she would walk away from the forthcoming Brexit negotiations without a deal rather than accepting what she called a ‘bad’ deal. ‘You’re not in there to get a deal at any price,’ she said.

3. The Prime Minister defended her U-turns on a scrapped increase of national insurance and social care changes. Mr Paxman said: ‘If I was sitting in Brussels and I was looking at you as the person I had to negotiate with, I’d think “she’s a blowhard who collapses at the first sign of gunfire”.’ But Mrs May said she had a strong record of Brussels negotiations as home secretary.

4. Mrs May insisted police were given the resources they needed, even though she acknowledged numbers in England and Wales had fallen by about 20,000. She said: ‘What we had to do when we came into government in 2010 was to ensure that we were living within our means and that was very important because of the economic situation we had inherited.’ She said investment had shifted from police on the beat to cybersecurity.

The prime minister takes questions from Mr Paxman (Picture: PA)

5. The British press weren’t entirely convinced by Mrs May’s performance. The Times said she was in ‘headmistress mode’ and ’showed a firmer grasp of detail’ than Mr Corbyn. The Sun said ‘Jeremy Corbyn got the laughs, but the PM appeared to win the respect’. However, The Telegraph said: ‘Corbyn went down far better with the audience. May was dull, professional and on message. After six weeks of campaigning, viewers saw two leaders who have realised this election has, unexpectedly, become competitive.’