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COMMENT: Aimless jousting during Johnson v Corbyn Leaders' Debate

By Mark Andrews | Opinions | Published:

So now we have it. Clear blue water between the two rivals to lead the country. Boris Johnson will ‘Get Brexit done’, while Jeremy Corbyn will ‘Get Brexit sorted’.

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn shaking hands during the Election head-to-head debate on ITV

After an-hour of aimless jousting, which delivered little in the way of either heat or light, the main difference to emerge was that the incumbent Prime Minister supports the deal he negotiated with the EU, and that his Labour rival doesn’t.

Indeed, there seemed to be barely a question to which the PM did not think the answer was to ‘Get Brexit done’.

Even when asked at the end what gift he would give Mr Corbyn for Christmas, Mr Johnson offered him a copy of his Brexit deal.

Of course, prior to the start of the debate, the main talking point had been not about the two party leaders taking part in the debate, but the one who was not.

Throughout the proceedings Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson had been tweeting furiously about the injustice of her exclusion.

It was Boris Johnson v Jeremy Corbyn in the first televised debate of the General Election campaign

But, without the bossy school marm, this could have been a chance for the naughty schoolboys to make a bit of mischief.

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It wasn’t of course. Both were best behaviour, disciplined and focused on answering every question with their carefully rehearsed answers – Mr Johnson on Brexit and Mr Corbyn on austerity.

That wasn’t to say there were not some awkward moments for both leaders.

The first slice of open ridicule came when Mr Corbyn insisted his policy on Brexit was clear, provoking laughter.

The first debate of the election campaign was broadcast on ITV last night

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But it wasn’t long before Mr Johnson also found himself on the receiving end of mirth from the audience. When asked whether truth matters, he answered. “I believe it does,” before his words were engulfed by a similar explosion of guffaws.

There was also a slightly awkward moment when the two men were press-ganged into shaking hands before agreeing to improve the tone of debate. Now where have we heard that before?

There were some important moments. Mr Johnson said he considered preserving the Union more important than Brexit. Mr Corbyn spoke of a video made by a friend who had died the same day after recording how the NHS was suffering at the hands of a lack of investment.

Who was the winner? Well there were no real clangers, but few blows landed either. In truth it was probably a draw. But given Mr Johnson had everything to lose, and Mr Corbyn everything to gain, it will probably be the PM who will have gone home the happier. If this were a football match, it would be two points dropped for the Reds, a point gained for the Blues.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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