Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak debate key moments from final TV clash before General Election


Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer have faced off in the final televised head-to-head clash of the General Election campaign.

The BBC debate, hosted by Mishal Husain, saw the Tory and Labour leaders grilled about their positions on a variety of issues, including migration, welfare and the gambling scandal which has emerged in the middle of the election campaign.

Questions for the two leaders were sourced from the audience, which was made up of members of the public with a range of political views, selected by polling company Savanta.

Below, the PA news agency lists the key moments from Wednesday night's event.

- Sunak 'bullied' in Gamblegate response

Sir Keir accused his opponent of being bullied into responding to the unfolding scandal about Tory candidates allegedly betting on the timing of the General Election.

He contrasted his swift response when Labour candidate Kevin Craig was revealed to have bet against his own victory, with that of the Prime Minister.

"What I did when one of my team was alleged to have been involved and investigated by the Gambling Commission, they were suspended within minutes, because I knew it made it really important to be swift, the Prime Minister delayed and delayed and delayed until eventually he was bullied into taking action," the Labour leader said.

In response, Mr Sunak said: "It was important to me that given the seriousness and the sensitivity of the matters at hand that they were dealt with properly, and that's what I've done."

Presenter Mishal Husain with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during their BBC head-to-head debate in Nottingham (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)
Presenter Mishal Husain with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during their BBC head-to-head debate in Nottingham -Credit:PA

- Out of touch?

Mr Sunak also faced accusations of being out of touch with the public, after one testy exchange with Sir Keir.

The Prime Minister interrupted the Labour leader several times as he answered a question from a member of the audience.

But Sir Keir hit back, saying: "If you listen to the people in the audience, across the country, a bit more often you might not be so out of touch."

His response was met with a round of applause.

- Starmer 'taking people for fools' on migration

The Labour leader was however unable to provide a simple answer on how he would deal with the migrant crisis.

"What will you do with them?" Mr Sunak repeatedly asked as Sir Keir criticised the Rwanda plan.

The Labour leader claimed that currently 100% of illegal migrants "effectively" received asylum because they were all placed in hotels while on the migration system backlog, and emphasised the need for processing.

The migrants are coming from Iran, Syria and Afghanistan, Mr Sunak responded.

"Will you sit down with the Ayatollahs? Are you going to try to do a deal with the Taliban? It's completely nonsensical - you are taking people for fools," he added.

- Shadows of Truss and Corbyn

Sir Keir sought to damage Mr Sunak's credibility by suggesting he had rowed in behind short-lived premier Liz Truss's economic agenda.

The Prime Minister claimed he had warned about the damage of Ms Truss's plans, but Sir Keir said he then accepted them "in the next breath".

Husain then stepped in, saying: "Hang on, you know what it is like to fall in behind a leader of your party," in a reference to Sir Keir's time serving under former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

- The noise outside

A protest outside the Nottingham Trent University building where the debate was held could be heard within the hall and was picked up on the audio of the broadcast.

BBC journalist Husain addressed it at one point early in the debate, to alert the audience to what was happening, and described the protest as another part of the UK's democracy.

Pro-Palestine protesters were among those demonstrating outside the venue, including a group called Nottingham Solidarity Group, who confirmed their attendance on X, formerly Twitter.

- Tax Check UK

The Conservative Party rebranded its X account to "Tax Check UK" ahead of the debate, and pumped out a steady stream of claims about how Labour's plans would impact the taxes voters would pay.

This included claims of a "retirement tax", as well as sharing an image of the often referred to letter that Labour former Treasury minister Liam Byrne left when the party last exited government joking there was "no money left".

As the programme ended, Tory leader Mr Sunak also returned to the disputed claim that Labour's policies will cost families an extra £2,000 in tax.

Sir Keir hit back: "That is a lie. He's been told not to repeat that lie and he has just done it."

- The best to run the country?

One audience member asked both party leaders: "Are you two really the best we've got to be the next prime minister of our great country?"

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during their BBC head-to-head debate in Nottingham
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during their BBC head-to-head debate in Nottingham -Credit:PA

Sir Keir said he "wasn't surprised" by the question as the country is in "such a state".

The man later told the BBC he was "disappointed" with the leaders' responses to his question.

- Gender rights

Both party leaders committed to protecting women's rights to single-sex spaces, regardless of whether someone has a gender recognition certificate.

But Sir Keir received applause as he added he recognised there are "a small number of people who are born into a gender that they don't identify with", adding: "I will treat them, as I treat all human beings, with dignity and respect."

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