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Sunak and Starmer argue fiercely in the first debate of the UK general election

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In a highly anticipated live television debate, the leaders of the United Kingdom’s top two political parties, Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, clashed over key issues such as tax, health, and the cost of living. Despite a lack of knockout blows, the debate provided insight into the leaders’ contrasting policies and approaches.

Sunak, trailing in the opinion polls, took a combative stance, emphasizing his plan to boost the economy and attacking Labour’s record on austerity and chaos. Starmer, on the other hand, framed the election as a choice between more chaos with the Conservatives or rebuilding with Labour. Both leaders discussed immigration, education, and health, with Sunak drawing groans over his comments on NHS waiting lists and Starmer outlining his plans to tackle immigration.

Following the debate, a YouGov snap poll gave Sunak a slight edge in performance, but Starmer was deemed stronger on issues such as the cost of living, the NHS, education, and climate change. Political analyst Rob Ford noted that the debate may boost morale for the Conservatives, who are facing an uphill battle in the polls.

The lead-up to the debate was overshadowed by the announcement of populist politician Nigel Farage’s candidacy for a parliamentary seat as leader of the Reform party. Farage, a staunch advocate of Brexit and anti-immigration policies, has previously failed to secure a UK MP seat but is running in the town of Clacton, where he has a strong base of support.

Opinion polls indicate that Labour maintains a lead over the Conservatives as the campaign progresses, with several more debates scheduled before the July 4 election. These debates will feature multiple party leaders and provide further opportunities for voters to evaluate the candidates’ policies and leadership styles.

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