Who won the leaders’ debate?

Sir Keir Starmer taking part in The Sun's election showdown
Sir Keir Starmer taking part in The Sun's election showdown

The audience asked impressively potent questions and were pretty underwhelmed by what posed as answers.

For Rishi Sunak – who actually got a rather easier time than Sir Keir – the most awkward challenge was the squalid election betting farrago. He could have made a better fist of his official line: that by pre-judging what might be a criminal investigation he would be prejudicing a legal process.

As it was, he looked perversely vague and evasive. But the more substantive – and pretty much unanswerable – demand came from Harry Cole who wanted to know why, if the prime minister had so many effective government measures to offer now that he was running for re-election, he had not introduced them already.

All told though, Sunak survived this. Nothing he said actually seemed to infuriate the audience.

The same could not be said of Sir Keir. On at least two subjects, he induced what looked like genuine anger and frustration: his explanation of how he would stop the boats and seize control of migration would not wash. Sending would-be asylum seekers back to their home countries – as an astute member of the audience pointed out – was not a realistic option. Many of these people arrived without passports or documentation so it was effectively impossible to identify their countries of origin. And smashing the smuggling gangs was equally untenable because they were largely located outside this country. Nobody was buying the Labour story on this.

The other, rather more personal, weak point was his erstwhile support for Jeremy Corbyn. If you now claim to have been lying when you proclaimed that Mr Corbyn would make a great prime minister, said an audience member, why should we believe what you say now? Might you not be lying to us again?

That was deadly because it goes to the heart of both the Starmer character and the credibility of Labour as what its leader describes as a “changed party”.