Keir Starmer dismisses 'nonsense' tax rise claim from 'stroppy' Rishi Sunak in ITV debate

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (left), host Julie Etchingham and Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer
-Credit: (Image: PA)

Rishi Sunak has been slammed after his brattish behaviour threatened to derail the first general election head to head with Keir Starmer.

The desperate Tory Prime Minister repeatedly interrupted the Labour leader after a slew of polls showed a Tory wipeout.

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “Confronted with the facts about how the Tories have failed working people, stroppy Sunak couldn’t help but have a tantrum on national television. It was embarrassing.”

Sunak and Starmer traded blows during the first one-to-one face off on ITV.

The Tory Prime Minister has endured a dismal start to a campaign marked by gaffes and terrible opinion poll ratings.

During the one hour debate, an irritable Sunak could not help himself as he refused to let Starmer speak on multiple occasions.

On tax, Starmer earned a round of applause by raising Labour’s policy to end the VAT tax break for private schools.

Sunak defended the perk: "I don't agree with it because I think people who work hard and aspire to provide that education for their kids should have that freedom. That's what my parents did, and I'll support it."

Sunak then claimed Labour wanted to saddle voters with £2000 of tax rises for every working family.

Starmer branded the claim "absolute nonsense" and said the only tax rises were for private schools, energy giants and by scrapping the non-dom loophole.

He also branded Sunak a “British expert” on tax rises after saddling the public with record rises when he was Chancellor.

Sunak also was also mocked by the audience on the NHS and looked shaky on the cost of living crisis.

After a woman called Paula from Huddersfield spoke about being in arrears with her household bills and having lost her savings, Starmer said: "What I would say is this - my dad working in a factory, my mum was a nurse. We didn't have a lot of money when I was growing up. We were in a position where we couldn't pay our bills. So I know how that feels. In our particular case, we had our phone cut off.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (right) and Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (right) and Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer -Credit:PA

“I do know the anguish, worrying when the postman comes, with a bill, what is that bill going to be. I don't think the Prime Minister quite understands the position you and other people are in."

The debate became so ill-tempered that both leaders were reprimanded for talking over each other by ITV debate host Julie Etchingham.

She told Sunak and Starmer: “Please, an appeal from me not to speak over one another. We want to make sure that everybody can hear what you’re saying.”

Later, as the debate over immigration got heated, the Prime Minister raised his voice asking the Labour leader: “What are you going to do with illegal migrants?”

Etchingham intervened: “Please gentleman, we will lower our voices.”

Sunak was also asked whether the Tory manifesto would commit to leaving the European Convention on Human Rights if his Rwanda plan was blocked in the courts.

The Prime Minister said: “I’m crystal clear, I believe all our plans are compliant with our international obligations, but if I am forced to choose between securing our borders and our country’s security, or a foreign court, I’m going to choose our country’s security every single time.”

Starmer said the UK risked becoming a “pariah” state if it left international conventions.

“We will not pull out of international agreements and international law which is respected the world over,” he said.

“Because I want the UK to be a respected player on the global stage, not a pariah who doesn’t agree with international law.”

In another section, Sunak said he would use private health care if he had a loved-one on a long waiting list for surgery, while Starmer said he would not.

Asked the question, the Labour leader said: “No.

“I don’t use private health. I use the NHS. That’s where my wife works, in one of the big hospitals; as I said it runs through my DNA.”

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