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The ITV Multiparty Debate: Are Labour the party to beat? 

An average of 2.1 million viewers watched the seven-way debate hosted by Julie Etchingham in Salford last Thursday was watched by, but what did this debate indicate for the upcoming election, happening in less than two weeks? 

The second multi-party showdown featured Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, Daisy Cooper, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, Penny Mordaunt, leader of the Commons, for the Conservative Party, Carla Denyer, the co-leader of the Green Party, Nigel Farage, the leader of Reform UK, Stephen Flynn, the leader of the SNP and Rhun ap Iorwerth, the leader of Plaid Cymru. 

The ITV debate saw discussions over tax, immigration, public services, Brexit and trust from all seven parties. The heat was rising from all corners as a condemnation of each party’s policies was fielded. 

Mere hours before the debate was due to start, a YouGov survey conducted by the Times Newspaper estimated that Reform UK had overtaken the Tories by two points. Farage used this statistic frequently throughout the debate claiming that “we are now the opposition to Labour”.  

Penny Mordaunt and Angela Rayner went head-to-head throughout the debate, especially on taxes and public spending, with Mordaunt pointing at Labour’s supposed plans to hike up taxes. However, Rayner argued hard to discredit Mordaunt’s claims and said Labour would not raise income or capital gains tax.   

It wasn’t just Mordaunt who was giving Rayner a hard time, as Flyn and ap Iorwerth also posed their doubts about the Labour Party, painting them with the same brushstrokes as the Tories. Flynn from the SNP claimed that the Westminster agenda did not provide Scotland with the most effective policies, originating from the SNP’s cries for independence. 

This debate also took place on the same day that Labour launched its manifesto, which saw a promise to boost growth to fund public services. Rayner stressed this fact when questioned on public services. Carla Denyer refuted this strategy as she suggested it was “timid” to wait for growth to happen, arguing instead that tax should be increased on the wealthier members of society. 

Immigration was also a leading topic in the debate, especially with Farage touting his slogan of an “exploding population” which can only be controlled by border restrictions. Farage pointed to the lack of actions taken by the Conservatives and also the soft approach that Labour believes in. However, Flynn was adamant that immigration is a useful thing for Scotland and is necessary for their workforce. Ap Iorwerth accused Farage of being on “a dog-whistle tour of the UK for many, many years and exploiting the anxiety that people have”. 

This debate gave the opportunity for each politician to ask one question to their opponents, in which three questions were targeted at Penny Mordaunt and four were asked of Angela Rayner. 

Daisy Cooper stated that the Liberal Democrats are seeking to “save the NHS, tackle the cost-of-living crisis and to protect our local environments”. Although Cooper did share the Lib Dems’ strategy for saving the NHS by investing £9 billion upstream and providing 8,000 more GPs, she came under scrutiny again for promoting university tuition fees. Flyn from the SNP stated that no one in Scotland has to pay university tuition fees. Cooper did rebut, nonetheless, that Scottish universities had fallen down the league tables in recent years. 

In the final statements, Carla Denyer quipped that the “Tories are toast, but Labour are offering little better”. This was a common theme of the debate, where the smaller parties seemed to be taking swipes at the two main parties, whilst Labour and the Conservatives scrambled to defend their policies. We will see how this plays out with the public, but for now, Labour seems like the party to beat.  

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