Rishi Sunak has night to forget in ITV debate as Keir Starmer puts boot into PM

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

Rishi Sunak was good at making money in a previous life, but the TV debate confirmed he is bad at politics.

The ITV face off with Keir Starmer was his opportunity to turn around a disastrous campaign that was already hurtling towards oblivion.

But he used a prime time television slot to remind voters how stroppy he is and how out of touch his Government has become. Sunak has a golden bank balance but in the political world he has the Midas touch in reverse. He is the Tory who launched an election campaign in the rain, hosted an event at the Titanic museum and watched Nigel Farage sink any remaining election hopes.

The two-way with Starmer shone an unforgiving light on the desperate lengths to which the Prime Minister had sunk.

He tried to raise fears of starmer hiking taxes by £2,000, but he was the Chancellor who hit voters with the highest tax burden since the second world war.

He boasted about how a re-elected Conservative Government would cut immigration, even though net migration has soared to record levels on his watch.

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

He wanted thanks for inflation coming down, despite previous prices rises already being baked in and offset by interest rate hikes. He sounded like a man who had lost the rag and who knows the election is over four weeks before polling day.

Starmer had two objectives in the leaders’ debate and his team will be content he achieved both. The first was ensuring he did not screw up in front of an audience of millions - mission accomplished. But he also had to project a positive vision of change while hammering home the point about Tory failures.

Despite a slow start, he disparaged Sunak as a “British expert on tax rises” and his jibes over Sunak’s handling of the NHS led to audience mockery of the PM.

He also aimed a sly dig at Sunak’s wealth by claiming Sunak “doesn’t understand” what it is like not being able to pay bills. It was a steady, rather than a spectacular, performance.

Although the debate is of crucial importance to Scots, some of the subjects had little relevance north of the border. Only a fool would suggest the small boats issue is of no concern to Scottish voters, but it has far less potency.

If the election was a boxing match, the referee would stop the fight and award the contest to Labour. The next month looks like it is going to be a gruesome, if highly amusing, dismemberment of a Tory party in freefall. Money can buy you many things, but Sunak shows it cannot buy you sound political judgement.

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