Party leaders on TV debate with absence of PM May

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-06-01 10:06

LONDON - With a week to go before Britain's 46 million voters vote in the general election, party leaders came face-to-face in a bruising live television debate Wednesday night.

Broadcast live on national radio and television the 90 minute verbal battle saw seven politicians from the major parties crossing swords.

Missing from the line up was Prime Minister Theresa May who declined to take part, with the Home Secretary Amber Rudd instead representing the Conservative Party.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron attacked May for not taking part.

"How dare you call a general election and run away," he said in a commented greeted with applause and cheers from the audience.

Angus Robertson, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the House of Commons, hit out at May for calling a snap election in the first place.

"Not the iron lady, more the u-turn queen," he said.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of May's biggest rival party, Labour, decided at the last minute to take part after initially saying he would not take part if May wasn't present.

Leaders of the three main minority parties, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, UKIP leader Paul Nuttall and Caroline Lucas of the Green Party were also in the line up along with the SNP's Angus Robertson and Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru, the National Party of Wales.

Questions ranged from austerity, immigration, police numbers, welfare reforms, cuts to pension rises, food banks, with politicians clashing on a range of issues.

In one of the biggest exchanges, Rudd rounded on Labour's plans, telling Corbyn: "You have to stop thinking there is a magic money tree."

Corbyn hit back at Rudd, asking her: "Have you been to a food bank. Have you seen people sleeping around our stations. Have you seen the level of poverty that exists because of your government's conscious decision on benefits."

In his closing comments, Jeremy Corbyn says there's "a real choice between a Labour government or a Conservative government - whether young people are saddled with debt or freed from it" and whether public services are boosted or cut.

In her summary, Rudd said "a vote for anybody but Theresa May is a vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Our government needs to be at our strongest to take us through Brexit."

UKIP's Paul Nuttall described the clash as like groundhog day, adding: "UKIP will always be the outsider. But it has been proven right on Brexit, on immigration, on grammar schools, and on protecting services."

People following the debate took to social media sites to give their verdicts on the clash.

Chele Cook wrote: "God, can this really be called a debate? It's carnage. How long has it been since we've had an actual answer to a question?" Zak Wagman commented: This shouting over each other is a great advert for why we don't need TV debates.

On the campaign trail, the closing days of the campaign is likely to see the battle for votes intensifying, with some political commentators predicting the gloves will be off in the fight for the keys to 10 Downing Street.



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