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Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn fail to land knockout blows in first TV debate

Image credit: ITV

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn fail to land knockout blows in first TV debate

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn clashed bitterly but failed to deliver any knockout blows in the first televised debate of the general election.

The Tory and Labour leaders squared up over Brexit and the NHS during the hour-long match-up on ITV.

A snap YouGov poll showed that 51 per cent of voters believed that the Prime Minister had won, compared to 49% who thought that Corbyn had triumphed.

Johnson is likely to be more satisfied with the outcome, given the Conservatives' comfortable poll lead meant that he had most to lose.

Labour bosses will also be pleased with how their leader performed, particularly on the future of the health service.

However, Corbyn was laughed at by the audience over his repeated refusal to say how he would vote if Labour wins the election and holds another EU referendum.

He was repeatedly pressed on the issue by Johnson, who said: "We don't know on which side Corbyn would campaign. Is he going to campaign for Leave or Remain?"

The Labour leader said: "We will have a referendum, we will have a negotiation and we will abide by that result - it's the British people that will make that decision."

Corbyn also denied the Prime Minister's claim that he would grant Nicola Sturgeon another Scottish referendum in return for the SNP propping up a minority Labour government.

He said Johnson was talking "nonsense" and added: "There's not going to be a coalition between Labour and anybody else."

Meanwhile, the Tory leader was forced to deny Corbyn's repeated claims that he would sell off the NHS in return for a trade deal with the USA after Brexit.

Johnson said: "Our NHS will never be for sale. The only reason it comes up is because Corbyn is trying to hide the void at the heart of his Brexit policy."

Summing up the debate, Corbyn said: "This is a once in a generation election to end privatisation and give the health service the funding it needs, to give people the final say and get Brexit sorted, to tackle the climate emergency that threatens our futures, to iinvest in good jobs in every region and nation of our country. I ask that you to vote for hope and vote for Labour on 12 December."

But Johnson hit back: "Our choice is very simple, we can get Brexit done or we can spend another groundhog year with another referendum, where Mr Corbyn cannot answer the fundamental question - is he for Remain or Leave and what price would he pay to secure Nicola Sturgeon’s support to enter Number 10? If he can't answer those questions tonight I don't think he’s fit to lead our country."

A Labour party spokesperson said: "Jeremy won the first half by confronting Boris Johnson with papers from US trade talks highlighting Johnson’s secret plan to sell out our NHS to US corporations.

"Boris Johnson disintegrated in the second half when faced with the human cost of NHS privatisation and the reality of nine years of austerity.

"Jeremy Corbyn showed the kind of Prime Minister he would be, one who is on the side of the people, determined to deliver the real change Britain needs."

But Tory chairman James Cleverly said: "Tonight Boris Johnson set out the choice facing voters at this election – a majority government that can get Brexit done so the country can move on, or yet another gridlocked hung Parliament that will spend all of 2020 arguing about Brexit.

"Jeremy Corbyn showed exactly why he is unfit to govern our country. He failed 9 times to say where he stands on Brexit.  He refused to rule out a second referendum on Scotland in return for Nicola Sturgeon’s support to put him into Downing Street."

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