Rishi Sunak denies he considered missing D-day events entirely as he reiterates apology – UK general election live

Q: As we celebrated D-day, and remember those like my father, how will the parties ensure our armies are ready and our country safe?

Angela Rayner starts by thanking people who serve. Labour is committed to the triple lock on the nuclear deterrent: keeping the submarines, making sure new ones are built in Barrow, and doing upgrades.

And Labour will improve accommodation for servicemen and women, she says.

Daisy Cooper says the Lib Dems are the party of Paddy Ashdown, so they take defence very seriously. They would increase defence spending year by year, aiming for 2.5% of GDP by the end of the next parliament.

Nigel Farage says the army has shrunk. He says they need 30,000 more soldiers, not volunteers. And he says we should support veterans. What happened yesterday was a disgrace, he says.

Penny Mordaunt said what the PM did was “very wrong”.

The prime minister has rightly apologised for that, apologised to veterans, but also to all of us because he was representing all of us.

I’m from Portsmouth. I’ve also been defence secretary and my wish at the end of this week is that all of our veterans feel completely treasured … What happened was very wrong.

UPDATE: Asked if she would have left D-Day commemorations early, Mordaunt said:

I didn’t go to D-day. I think what happened was very wrong, I think the prime minister has apologised for that.

But what I also think is important is we honour their legacy, they fought for our freedom, and unless we are spending the right amount on defence we can’t honour that legacy.

Read our full report on the BBC election debate here:

Here are the key takeaways from the seven-way exchanges:

And John Crace’s verdict on the whole affair:

Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the Commons, said that Rishi Sunak was “very wrong” when he left D-day commemorations in France early. She made the comment during a seven-party debate on the BBC, which came at the end of a day when the election campaign debate was dominated by reaction to Sunak’s apology for his decision to miss an international D-day commemoration in France yesterday afternoon.

Nigel Farage, the Reform UK leader, has been criticised for saying he does not support the NHS’s funding model. Speaking in the debate, he said:

We all know that whilst you can get great care, the NHS model isn’t working. You can’t get GP appointments – things we have all grown up taking for granted – and they can argue about ‘it’s all money, I’m going to spend more money, you’re going to spend more money’. It doesn’t work.

The more money we spend, the less delivery we get, which means the model is wrong, the model through which we fund health is wrong.

Farage said the UK should follow a French-style insurance model for health. Stephen Flynn, the SNP leader at Westminster, accused Farage of “not believing in the NHS” and wanting to privatise it.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said it was “a lie” for the Tories to say her party would raise taxes by £2,000. (See 9.37am.)

During the debate, Mordaunt said the election was about the cost of living crisis and claimed “Labour will put up your taxes by £2,000”, repeating a line made days earlier by Rishi Sunak during ITV’s debate.

Rayner responded quickly, repeating “that is a lie”, and claimed the Conservatives had raised taxes to record levels.

Watch the exchange here:

And read our fact check on the £2,000 claim here:

It is hard for anyone to convincingly “win” a seven-party debate (apart from Mishal Husain, the presenter, who seemed to get the balance between intervening and letting people talk just about right) and it isn’t obvious that any of the seven politicians dominated, or did particularly badly. But it felt as thought Penny Mordaunt and Angela Rayner, representing the two main parties, the Tories and Labour, both may have made a better impression than their bosses did in the ITV debate on Tuesday. And although a seven-way debate may feel too crowded, the range of voices brought with it some welcome pluralism that we did not get three days ago.

Here, in no particular, are some thoughts on how all seven performed.

Penny Mordaunt: She followed the Sunak script from Tuesday – attack Labour relentlessly on tax – but with less mania than her boss (although she was probably the most shouty of the seven people on stage). What was most interesting, though, was how she distanced herself from Sunak over the D-day snub at the start. She was about as critical as she could be, without being openly disloyal.

Angela Rayner: She may not have delivered any zingers, but she rubbished the Tory tax claims much more thoroughly than Sunak did in his debate, and did a reasonably good job of rebutting claims Labour could not be trusted on defence. She was also one of the best at enagaging and sympathising with questioners.

Nigel Farage: He was the most experienced TV debater on the stage, and was effective at seizing the agenda, even if was rather overdoing the sarcasm at some points. But are his Reform UK colleagues really going to be happy with the suggestion that he wants to abolish the NHS as it currently operates? And he was at a disadvantage because his party’s schtick is that they are the only ones challenging the status quo. Tonight, he wasn’t.

Stephen Flynn: If you had to argue any single candidate “won”, it might have been Flynn. He certainly won the IFS truth award, being the only person who repeatedly criticised the main parties for not telling the truth about post-election cuts. And he was also compelling on Brexit, which seemed to attract the loudest applause of the night.

Daisy Cooper: With the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru on the stage, Cooper could not really pull of the third-party, voice-of-reason trick that Nick Clegg managed in 2010. But she was very good on policy (on NHS funding, for example, or stop and search), and sounded most knowledgeable of all the people on stage.

Carla Denyer: On the zinger count, Denyer did best. Her “that was terribly dignified” put down was good, and she probably had the best line in her final statement, when she joked about Starmer changing the Labour party. “He’s right – he’s changed them into the Conservatives,” she said.

Rhun ap Iorwerth: Most viewers won’t have heard ap Iorwerth before, but he probably made a good, first-time impression. Whereas previous Plaid leaders in debates liked this have only talked to a Welsh audience, he took a UK-wide approach. And, whereas Rayner ducked the question about why crime is higher in Labour areas, he addressed it head on: because of poverty.

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn, is a polished performer, so it’s no surprise that he prompted regular applause from the audience for sharp responses on the “race to the bottom” on migration driven by Nigel Farage, “followed by the Conservatives and hotly chased by Labour”, or the “conspiracy of silence around Brexit”.

He’s in an odd position here, speaking to a studio audience who can’t actually vote for him, but endeavours to make the delineations clear, speaking about Scotland’s NHS, the Scottish child payment – introduced by the SNP government at Holyrood to mitigate Tory austerity – and telling viewers that cutting migration “does not serve Scotland’s interests and it does not serve your interests either”.

But the other problem with talking to a London-focused audience less than familiar with the detail of SNP policy is that Flynn doesn’t get picked up on some of the gaping holes in his answers.

On energy transition policy, for example, he again failed to clarify what the SNP’s position on new oil and gas licenses is after SNP leader John Swinney suggested at the party’s campaign launch last Sunday that he was moving away from his predecessors’ presumption against new licences.

He also managed to wriggle out of one of the few follow-ups from Mishal Husain to directly question Scottish policy – one on Police Scotland’s policy not to investigate minor crimes with no chance of conviction.

It is also worth noting that Flynn didn’t mention independence once during that debate – again, know your audience!

Husain says that was the final question.

They now have 30 seconds each for a final thought.

Rayner says, after 14 years of chaos, it is time for change. She sums up Labour’s six first steps.

Flynn says the Tories are finished. The SNP will put Scotland’s future first, he says. It will never “get comfortable with the Westminster status quo”, unlike Labour.

Denyer says the Tories are toast: “Thank goodness.” Starmer says he has changed the Labour party. “He’s right – he’s changed them into the Conservatives.” The Green represent real change.

Ap Iorwerth says he has stood up, not just for Wales, but for another kind of politics. “The Conservatives are finished – and it can’t come quickly enough.” Voting Plaid will stop Wales being ignored.

Mordaunt says there is a choice: voting Labour, and having higher taxes, higher bills and getting your pension raided; or backing the Conservatives, to cut taxes, protect pensions and keep the nation safe.

Cooper says the Lib Dems will “fix our NHS and social care, tackle the cost of living crisis and put an end to the scandal of filthy raw sewage being dumped in our rivers”.

Farage says, unlike the other candidates, he does not need an autocue. He says politics is not working, and the other parties have come up with “pathetic arguments”.

He says the debate is about who will form the opposition, who will support small businesses and control the borders. He urges people to support Reform UK and “join the revolt”.

And that’s it.

Denyer says she has signed a pledge for a counsellor in every school. Will the other parties back that?

Rayner says Labour has already committed to more mental health support in schools.

Flynn backs what ap Iorwerth said. He repeats the point about cuts worth £18bn coming down the line.

He says Westminster does not offer hope and optimism.

Farage says low-level crime is rapidly growing. He refers to the broken windows theory, and drug culture has been disastrous, he says.

Q: My son is about to start secondary school. How will you protect him from knife crime?

Denyer says one of her colleagues was a victim of this, so she takes it seriously. She says they need to address the causes.

Farage says there should be more stop and search. And he says the police should not be afraid of using it in areas where there are many black or ethnic minority people living.

Cooper says stop and search can be a valid tool, but suspicionless stop and search is a mistake.

Mordaunt claims, if you live in a Labour area, you are more likely to be a victim of crime.

Rayner says she has teenage sons. People are frightened of crime on the streets. Young people carry knives thinking that will protect them, but it doesn’t. She says the Tories may talk about 20,000 more police officers, but they cut numbers by 22,000.

That’s not true, Mordaunt says.

Ap Iorwerth says it is areas that suffer most poverty that suffer the highest levels of crime. It is people without hope who end up leading criminal lives. He says he was attacked as a teenager.

Mordaunt says government has to take people with them on the way to net zero.

She says the Tories will get there with public support.

If Labour gets into power, by the end of the next parliament you will not be able to buy a petrol car.

She says the GB Energy company won’t produce any energy.

“Rubbish”, says Rayner.

Rayner says the Tories have been in power for 14 years.

Mordaunt keeps asking how much energy the firm will produce.

Rayner says GB Energy will be a company bringing clean energy to the company, bringing good jobs to the UK.

She says the Tories spout lies about how Labour will ban cars.

Mordaunt repeats the £2,000 claim, and says Labour’s policies will push up costs.

“Dear, oh dear,” says Farage. He claims Labour and the Tories pretend to disagree, but in fact do agree.

Q: What matters most – economic growth or successful climate policies?

Farage says the UK does not have successful climate policies.

He says we are living in a “false paradise”. Jobs are being exported abroad. Net zero is not working.

Denyer says she used to be an engineeer. Much of what Farage said was not true, she says.

But she says Labour has been a disappointment too. It has rolled back on its climate promises, she says.

Husain asks Rayner about Labour dropping its £28bn green plan.

Rayner says Labour is still committed to a green prosperity plan.

Flynn says the opportunities from green energy are huge. But you have to grasp them. The Labour £28bn plan would have been transformative, he says. With the SNP, you will get that.

On oil and gas, he says the Tories imply oil and gas will last forever. It won’t. Labour want to stop it now; that would cost 100,000 jobs. He says the SNP support a just transition to a green economy.

Rayner says Labour supports a transition too. That is why it wants a bigger windfall tax to fund the transition. And the Great British Energy HQ will be in Scotland.

Flynn asks if Scotland should be grateful. It is their energy. He asks if Rayner accepts the 100,000 jobs lost estimate.

Rayner says Labour’s plans would generate even more jobs.

Denyer says, with the main parties getting more similar, the argument for more diversity in the Commons is getting stronger.

The Green party is coming of age, she says.

Flynn says he can cite examples of the SNP delivering. He says 100,000 young people have been taken out of poverty. Students don’t pay tuition fees. Scotland has a nationalised water company.

Under the Tories or Labour, the UK faces £18bn worth of cuts, he says.

Ap Iorwerth says he has been around politics for 30 years, for 20 years as a journalist. People are cynical, because of things like Partygate, or Vaughan Gething taking a £200,000 donation from a convicted polluter.

Cooper says this parliament has been characterised by law-breaking, lying and the economic illiteracy of the mini-budget.

Husain asks if she remembers the Lib Dems breaking their promise on tuition fees.

Cooper says that is a sore point.

Farage says nothing much will change, regardless of who gets in.

But the Tories are “probably sunk below the waterline,” he says.

He says the country needs a revolt. Reform UK is offering that, he says.

Rayner says Labour is only promising what it can fund.

Labour won’t put taxes up for working people, she says.

You are, says Mordaunt. She claims Starmer said that this week.

“Rubbish,” says Rayner.

Q: Why is it that politicians promise things but nothing happens when they get into government?

Husain puts the question to Mordaunt, which the audience find amusing.

Mordaunt says the Tories will cut taxes. “That is in our DNA as Conservatives,” she says.

She tells people in the audience they cannot afford that.

Farage complains more and more people doing middle-income jobs being dragged into the higher tax bands.

He says taxes have risen to a record level. And to hear Mordaunt claim the Tories are a low tax party is “dishonesty on a breathtaking scale”, he says.

Flynn says there is a conspiracy of silence on austerity.

And that is true of Brexit too, he says.

Brexit has impacted the economy more than the Covid pandemic, it has put your food bills up completely unnecessarily, and it has been an unmitigated disaster for the economy.

That generates a long round of applause.

Mordaunt says exports are at a record high.

Flynn says she knows how much damage Brexit has done to the economy.

Mordaunt says this election is about the cost of living. The government has supported people through difficult times. But now the economy is recovery. “Those are your achievements,” she says.

She says the election must be about cutting taxes. There will be more announcements in the Tory manifesto next week.

Labour will put taxes up by £2,000, she says.

That’s a lie, says Rayner. You put taxes up.

Mordaunt accepts that, but she says “we hated that”. That is why the Tories went to bring them down.

She says we have heard about 12 new taxes from Labour.

That’s rubbish, says Rayner.

They are shouting over each other.

Husain insists Denyer gets a go.

“That was terribly dignified,” Denyer says. That goes down well with the audience.


Updated: Juni 7, 2024 — 12:39 pm

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