'I would be cringing' - Scousers give their verdict on first general election debate

The people of Liverpool have given their verdicts on the first general election leadership debate between Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer.

The leaders of the two main parties went head to head on Tuesday in a tetchy first televised debate. The two men argued over tax, the NHS, immigration and private education in a combative bout hosted by ITV’s Julie Etchingham.

Today the ECHO took to the streets of Liverpool to find out what voters thought of the debate.

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Robert Schooler, who is 63 and retired, thought Mr Sunak went on the attack and came across as “a bit disrespectful to the host, speaking over her and not shutting up when she wanted him to shut up, I don’t think he was particularly professional.”

He said he felt Sir Keir was "a bit too defensive" and didn't push back harder on the Prime Minister's disputed claims that Labour in power would add £2,000 in tax to everyone's bills.

The £2,000 tax claim has since been discredited by the top Treasury civil servant, James Bowler, who said that the calculation used by the Tories “includes costs beyond those provided by the civil service.”

Mr Schooler has switched between voting Conservative and Labour before, but will be voting for Labour at this election. He said: “No matter what the Conservative policies are, they have made such a mess of the last 14 years that the country just feels like it’s ready for a change.”

Nick Fitzpatrick, 40, a civil engineer, thinks Sir Keir lost the debate, but felt he was being pragmatic for a reason.

He said: “I think Sunak just edged it, but he had to destroy Starmer to stand any chance. I doubt he’s won over many people.

“When you think of Starmer’s policies, they’re not actually that clear, but they don’t really have to be. Labour is so far ahead in the polls that they can just wait for Sunak to come out with ridiculous policies, and they’ll get in on a landslide.”

Mr Fitzpatrick will be voting for Labour in the upcoming election. He said: “My wife’s an NHS worker, if you look at how it’s been completely destroyed over the last 14 years. I’m not the biggest Starmer fan, but I’ll happily vote for him.”

Melissa Parker is 31 and works in student recruitment at Edge Hill University. She thought the debate wasn’t managed well enough, and that “the Prime Minister was like a broken record, and he was disrespectful towards Julie Etchingham."

He added: "I also didn’t like how he took a swing at striking doctors for the NHS waiting list, which has been abused by the people in power over the years. If I was his brand manager I’d be cringing.”

Miss Parker was more impressed by Keir Starmer, saying: "At least he answered the questions and was respectful to the host, but the election will still be the lesser of two evils for me. I don’t think either of them really understand how ordinary people are affected by their politics.”

Sinclair Egbeth, 59, a civil engineer, didn’t like the format of the debate, saying: “There weren’t any actually challenging questions, it was so anodyne and placid that I ended up switching it off.”

Mr Egbeth hasn’t decided who to vote for yet. He added : “Neither of them represent my political views anyway, I think they’re the same side of the coin. I’ve lost hope in politics, so I probably won’t be voting.”

Ian Knowles, 30, who works in IT, thought the Labour leader came across as a little nervous, but still performed better than Sunak.

He said: “I preferred Starmer, I agree with his opinions more. I wish it was a longer-form debate as they both slipped into soundbites rather than explaining their policies. It all felt a bit American.”

Mr Knowles will still be voting for Labour at the election, saying: “They’re both not great but if I had to choose one, I’m voting for Starmer. If we had a different voting system like proportional representation, I’d probably vote for the Greens.”

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