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D-Day events to overshadow UK election after fiery TV debate

todayJune 5, 2024 5

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Early installed monuments books, as Hundreds of visitors can be seen two days ahead of DDay 80th Anniversary commemoration in Bayeux, Normandy, France, on June 04, 2024. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)




Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour opposition leader Keir Starmer switched focus Wednesday from UK election campaigning to commemorations for D-Day, after clashing in the campaign’s first TV debate.

Both leaders vying to be prime minister after next month’s poll will be in Portsmouth, on England’s south coast, marking the 80th anniversary of Allied landing in northern France in World War II.

Campaigning for the July 4 contest will take a back seat, following a fractious live head-to-head debate between the pair Tuesday in front of a studio audience and millions more at home.

Sunak and his Labour rival sparred over taxes, the state-run health service and immigration, in an ill-tempered contest that saw the two men frequently talk over each other.

The Tory leader, whose party is lagging far behind in the polls and needed a game-changing encounter, appeared the more aggressive, repeatedly accusing Labour of planning to raise taxes.

Starmer, who characteristically adopted a more cautious approach, seemed slow to counter the charge, eventually calling it “absolute garbage”.

He was at pains to link Sunak — who became Tory leader only 20 months ago — with 14 years of Conservative “chaos and division”, promising to “turn the page”.

Instant polls showed mixed feelings over who triumphed during the hour-long duel on ITV.

A snap YouGov survey of 1,657 live viewers found 51 percent thought Sunak won, compared to 49 percent backing Starmer.

But a similarly-sized Savanta poll showed 44 percent thought the Labour leader had triumphed, compared to 39 percent for the Tory figurehead.

Starmer also won more convincingly on all policy areas and personality-based questions, according to the pollster.

“Starmer wins on the detail, but Sunak is much closer in the most important ‘who won the debate’ metric,” summarised Savanta’s Chris Hopkins.

“Presentationally, it felt like the prime minister had the upper hand at times — in particular towards the end of the debate,” he added.

“Although our figures suggest he lost narrowly, he probably still outperformed expectations.”

The front pages of Britain’s right-leaning newspapers seized on Sunak’s combativeness — and the YouGov poll — to suggest it was a better evening for the Tory leader.

Sunak was under intense pressure after several recent polls showed his party are set for a historic loss on July 4.

The return of populist Brexit champion Nigel Farage as leader of the Reform UK party and as a candidate for a parliamentary seat has also worried Conservatives.

Farage, whose once fringe idea of getting Britain out of the European Union eventually became mainstream, could split the right-wing vote, helping Labour seize power for the first time since 2010.

He launched his campaign Tuesday to crowds of cheering supporters in the staunchly pro-Brexit seaside resort of Clacton, east of London, before a protester doused him with a milkshake.

She was later arrested on suspicion of assault.






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