Closed Election: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn face off in final TV debate — as it happened


Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn spar in a televised debate just six days before the general election.

Good morning

Welcome back to the FT’s coverage of the UK general election.

With less than a week to go to the vote, sterling opened flat against the US dollar after hitting a seven-month high yesterday.

We will be blogging throughout the evening as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and prime minister Boris Johnson lock horns in their final TV debate on Friday.

Check in for the latest news and analysis from the FT’s team of journalists during the day.

What the papers say

Most of the UK newspapers lead with Andrew Neil’s challenge to Boris Johnson over the prime minister’s refusal to agree to an interview with him on the BBC.

The veteran journalist said the theme of the interview would be trust, and why throughout Mr Johnson’s career, in politics and journalism, even those close to him have deemed him untrustworthy. Mr Johnson has evaded a grilling with the BBC veteran who has interviewed the other party leaders.

• “How can anyone trust him?” asks the left-leaning Daily Mirror as Mr Johnson denies he is avoiding scrutiny. While the Metro leads with: “Over-ready and set to grill”.

• The Times reports on the four Brexit party defectors backing the Conservative candidates while the Daily Mail’s headline is: “Brexit party bigwigs urge: Vote Boris!”

• Wealthy homebuyers are ignoring political uncertainty to snap up million-pound properties across the country, reports the Times.

• The Guardian writes of the rising toll of measles, with 10m cases worldwide and 142,000 deaths recorded last year. The paper also highlights strikes in France as 800,000 public sector employees march against Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms.

• The Daily Telegraph splashes with a quote from the Jewish Labour Movement over allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

FT View: Britain’s fateful election offers no good choices

The FT View says the UK needs a political realignment, a swing back from the extremes to the centre. It needs a parliament ready to put aside three years of trench warfare in search of constructive consensus. It needs internationalist, pro-business MPs who recognise that even outside the EU club, Britain can — and must — remain a liberal, open European power.

The gulf in trust between the public and the political class has never yawned so wide. The main parties have put ideological purity before the good of Great Britain. Neither can command our support.

Read the article in full here

Gove condemns Labour’s EU nationals vote plan

Michael Gove has said that Labour plans to enfranchise 2m EU nationals in a second referendum on EU membership would be an “assault on democracy”.

The Conservative minister in charge of no-deal planning said to Radio 4’s Today programme:

There is the basic principle of democratic fairness. It is the case that EU nationals have never voted in general elections and therefore don’t vote in referendums like the Brexit referendum. Therefore, we think it would be unfair.

Mr Gove welcomed the contribution of European nationals in Britain but said allowing them to vote would call democratic principles into question.

The fact that we are having a second referendum at all is an attempt by Labour to undermine faith and trust by rerunning the vote, but what makes it worse to fair-minded observers is that the referendum next time round, if Labour were to come to power, would be run by different rules. Rules that every objective observer would say are more likely to favour remain.

It’s a bit like a rugby league final with 13 players on each side. If one team suddenly said ‘we’re going to play rugby union instead and bring two extra players on to the field’ that simply would not be fair.

The cabinet minister said he did not know the true feelings of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on the question of Brexit, who says he would take a “neutral stance” in the event of a second referendum.

Corbyn reveals leaked government document on Brexit deal impact

Jeremy Corbyn has unveiled a leaked government document on the impact of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal on Northern Ireland, saying it is “cold hard evidence” that the prime minister has been misleading people about his Brexit deal, reports James Blitz, Whitehall editor.

The 15-page confidential document appears to be an analysis — in the form of a slideshow entitled “NI Protocol: Unfettered access to the UK internal market” — drawn up by the Treasury of the consequences for small traders of the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed between the UK and EU as part of Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal.

It states that there will definitely be customs checks on trade from Northern Ireland to Great Britain and vice versa – despite Mr Johnson’s previous claim to the contrary. It says these checks will be “highly disruptive” to the Northern Ireland economy and in particular for small traders.

The document adds that 98 per cent of Northern Ireland exporters to Great Britain are small or medium-sized companies “who are likely to struggle to bear this cost”, and shows that, for Northern Ireland importers, the cumulative effect of customs checks is equivalent to a 30 per cent tariff.

“What we have here is a confidential report by Johnson’s own government, marked official, sensitive, that exposes the falsehoods that Boris Johnson has been putting forward,” Mr Corbyn told reporters at a central London press conference.

This is cold, hard evidence that categorically shows the impact a damaging Brexit deal would have on large parts of our country.

Mr Corbyn said Mr Johnson had repeatedly claimed there would be no border in the Irish Sea but that the leaked document showed this was “simply not true”.

Mr Corbyn said: “For trade going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain the government cannot rule out regulatory checks rules of origin checks and animal and public health checks.

And for trade going the other way from Great Britain to Northern Ireland there will be all of the above plus, potentially, damaging tariffs. This drives a coach and horses through Boris Johnson’s claim that there will be no border in the Irish Sea.

John Major refuses to back Tories

Many readers will be used to surprising news events, but this breaking announcement is quite something, writes Jim Pickard.

Sir John Major, the highly respected former Conservative prime minister, is refusing to back his own party.

Here are some extracts from the announcement:

Sir John Major will today urge voters to back rebel candidates running against Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in next week’s general election.

At a rally with former opponents Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell, Sir John will endorse three former ministers – David Gauke, Dominic Grieve and Anne Milton – who he says are “principled decent human beings” who are all running against official Tory candidates.

The former Tory leader says:

Let me make one thing absolutely clear: none of them has left the Conservative party, the Conservative party has left them.

Without such talent on its benches, parliament will be the poorer.

Tories hang on to 11-point lead in poll of polls

This poll of polls shows that the two main political parties are slightly pulling away from the smaller ones, namely the Liberal Democrats who are at 13 per cent.

Take a look at our latest poll tracker which includes a video on how pollsters predict elections.


Conservatives label Corbyn’s Brexit documents ‘wild conspiracy theories’

The Conservative party has hit out at claims by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that leaked documents show there will be customs checks on trade from Northern Ireland to Great Britain and vice versa.

The Tory campaign labeled the documents “wild conspiracy theories” and said they were “another desperate attempt to distract from [Corbyn's] refusal to take a position on the biggest issue of the day.”

Conservative party officials claimed the documents were not used for decision-making purposes and were not seen by Boris Johnson or other senior officials involved in Brexit talks. They described the analysis as “incomplete” and an “immediate assessment”.

Johnson rules out hard GB-NI border

Boris Johnson has said there will be no goods checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as part of his withdrawal agreement struck with the EU.

Speaking at a press conference in Kent the prime minister denied that he had lied in statements promising no customs checks on the contested border earlier in the campaign.

Jeremy Corbyn earlier leaked a Treasury document that he claimed revealed Northern Ireland would be “symbolically separated” from the UK by the Brexit deal, with border checks put in place.

The FT’s political editor George Parker asked the prime minister: “Either you don’t know the detail of your policy or you are lying; which is it?”

Mr Johnson replied:

You know perfectly well that the goods going from NI to GB, GB to NI, will have no checks. The only checks will be for goods going via NI into Ireland. Everybody understands that and that’s how we avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.

Labour has no deal and if there is any part of that deal that the people of Northern Ireland do not like then they are entitled to opt out of it in four years’ time.

He added that his withdrawal agreement was a “vast improvement” on the original proposal which was voted down in parliament.

“It is a fantastic deal that allows us to… end the bitterness and wrangling in parliament and get on.”

Corbyn remains unpopular even as survey points to improvement

The FT’s John-Burn Murdoch reports:

Voters are beginning to warm to Jeremy Corbyn in the final days of the election campaign, but it may be too late to make a difference for the Labour leader.
Twenty-four per cent are satisfied with Mr Corbyn and 68 per cent dissatisfied, for a net score of minus 44.

This is up from minus 60 last month, but 33 points weaker than where he was at the same stage in 2017, and below Michael Foot’s rating of minus 39 going into the 1983 election, making him the most unpopular leader of either major party going into a general election since this data were first recorded.

Boris Johnson has a net rating of minus 20, down sharply on his plus 2 last month, but still well ahead of Mr Corbyn. The figures come from the latest Ipsos MORI political monitor, the last of its kind to be published before polling day.

Labour says it would help subsidise minimum wage

Andy Bounds in Bolton reports:

Labour is proposing to subsidise wages for millions of low-paid workers to allow small businesses to pay £10 an hour without shedding staff, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey has said.

The leftwing party’s manifesto said it would “immediately” raise the minimum wage for over-16s if it won the general election. But Ms Long Bailey told small business owners in Bolton that it would first review the impact of the policy.

A lot of businesses will not be able to afford it and we recognise that. You are operating on very tight margins. We are going to look at supporting businesses. We do not want anyone falling off a cliff.

She said Labour would set up a Living Wage Commission to examine how to implement the policy. The minimum wage for over-25s is £8.21 and for 16-18 year-olds it is £6.15. Labour would raise it to £10 for over 16s. Ms Long Bailey did not know how much a wage subsidy would cost.

Minty Barlow, who runs the pottery shop Work of Heart, said she would not be able to afford to employ teenagers on a Saturday.

They would be earning more money than me. A lot of young people would lose their Saturday job.

A Labour voter, she said she feared the bureaucracy involved in making a claim for subsidy would be too onerous.

Former Tory chairman backs independent candidates

Chris Patten, the former chairman of the Conservative party, has joined John Major in backing a trio of rebel candidates standing against their old party.

Lord Patten has endorsed Anne Milton, David Gauke and Dominic Grieve, former ministers who were expelled from the Conservative party when they voted against Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy in September. The trio are now running as independents in their old constituencies.

They were “squeezed out of the Conservative parliamentary party in a way unprecedented in my political lifetime,” Lord Patten, a former minister under Margaret Thatcher and Mr Major, said.

In separate statements endorsing each candidate, Lord Pattern added they
represent “what the Conservative party has stood for during decades of success: a moderate, decent, socially inclusive and internationalist political movement.”

[They are] victims of a series of manoeuvres which will inevitably turn the Conservative party into a narrow based right wing English nationalist party.

Several former Tory grandees have criticised the direction Mr Johnson has taken the party as he has relentlessly targeted the Eurosceptic vote.

Earlier this morning Sir John urged voters to back the rebels.

He said:

Let me make one thing absolutely clear: none of them has left the Conservative party, the Conservative party has left them.”

Lord Heseltine, former Conservative deputy prime minister, has urged votes to back the Liberal Democrats.

Johnson cancels Kent speech at late notice

Boris Johnson was due to appear at the Ye Arrow pub in Rochester to make a speech to supporters but failed to show up citing logistical reasons for the cancellation, reported the Press Association.

A small group of demonstrators arrived holding signs which read “No to racism, no to Boris Johnson”.

The prime minister has faced protests at various stages of the campaign. Last month he pulled out of an appearance at a bakery in Somerset, where crowds with placards had gathered, because of security concerns.

Emoticon EU trade commissioner: UK faces steep ‘learning curve’

Jim Brunsden in Brussels writes:

Europe’s new trade commissioner has warned that any post-Brexit deal will be “far inferior” for the UK than EU membership, saying that British politicians faced a steep “learning curve” in the negotiations to come.

Phil Hogan said in a speech in Dublin that it was “regrettable” that “even at this late stage, many members of the UK parliament and media have still not woken up” to the fact that a trade agreement will still leave many barriers to commerce compared with life inside the EU’s internal market.

“Unfortunately, the learning curve remains very wide.”

Mr Hogan, who took over from EU trade commissioner Cecila Malmstrom at the start of this month, said that previous comments he had made, indicating the possibility of quick progress towards a trade deal, had been taken “out of context” by the UK press.

Leading Conservative ministers such as Dominic Raab, seized on remarks Mr Hogan made to Ireland’s RTE broadcaster last month that the EU could do a deal “more quickly” with the UK than with other countries, arguing it showed the realism of Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans.

But Mr Hogan said on Friday that “the truth is we have no accurate way to predict how long it will take to negotiate a deal with the UK because there is no precedent. We are entering completely uncharted waters.”

Federation calls on Labour to clarify small business plans

More from the FT’s Andy Bounds reporting in Bolton:

Rebecca Long Bailey, shadow business secretary, was launching Labour’s small business manifesto in a boardgame café Cherry Moon. She promised a Business Development Agency as a “one stop shop” for support.

The BDA would be based on similar bodies in the US and Australia, she said.

A Post Bank based in post offices would offer competitive loans and there would be punishments for companies that do not pay bills within 30 days, toughening the current system. SMEs are owed £26bn, according to the manifesto.

Labour would also reform business rates so online retailers pay more and high street shops less, it said.

The Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the plans. Mike Cherry, national chairman, said:

The party has put forward a huge amount to welcome today, and it’s particularly good to see it embracing our call for a UK small business development agency based on the streamlined support model we see in the US.

Equally, the unequivocal commitment to end our £2.5 billion late payment crisis is vital. Ending the UK’s endemic poor payment culture has to be a top priority for whoever takes the reins at the Business Department later this year.

But urgent clarity is needed around how Labour plans to protect small firms with moderate turnovers from its proposed changes to dividend taxation. The party promised that no business owner making less than £80,000 would be targeted if it wins power. But, as things stand, it’s hard to see how that will be the case.”

Many entrepreneurs pay themselves in dividends and Labour has said it would increase the lowest rate of dividend tax from 7.5 per cent to 20 per cent.

FT analysis — EU concern over tight trade timeframe

Jim Brunsden in Brussels has more on the new EU trade commissioner’s warning that the UK faces a steep “learning curve” in the negotiations to come.

The comments reflect a wider concern within the EU about the 11-month timeframe that may be left to do a deal if Britain leaves the union as planned on January 31, given Boris Johnson’s refusal to extend the country’s post-Brexit transition period beyond the end of 2020.

EU diplomats this week decided to remove a commitment to seek a deal within that timeframe from draft conclusions that will be adopted by leaders from the other 27 EU nations next week.

France and other countries argued for the change on the grounds that the union should not be rushed because of Mr Johnson’s choices.

Mr Hogan said:

The most productive thing the UK government could do at this point is to focus on content, not timing. Stop speculating about timelines and focus on the nuts and bolts of a trade agreement with the EU.

Mr Hogan, who will be in charge of the trade talks for the EU, said that Brussels still does not have clarity from the UK on the details of the deal it wants, even though both sides have agreed a political declaration on future relations that includes plans for duty-free and tariff-free trade in goods.

“The urgent priority for the next government must be to outline its preferences”, Mr Hogan said.

He echoed warnings from EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier that the “ambition” of any deal will be linked to Britain’s willingness to accept a “level playing field” of regulatory standards covering labour law, protection of the environment, state aid and tax.

Johnson arrives for TV debate

Boris Johnson has arrived at television studios in Maidstone to start preparing for tonight’s BBC debate with Jeremy Corbyn, FT political editor George Parker reports.

He arrived five hours before the head-to-head event starts – confirmation that he is taking the debate very seriously and has carved out plenty of time to rehearse.

Attention shifts to tonight’s debate

How are you spending your Friday night?

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn will meet later this evening in their second and final televised debate, with less than one week to go until polling day. 

The debate, at 8.30pm on BBC television, offers the Labour leader one of his last chances to change the narrative of the campaign as the Tories maintain their double-digit polling lead. 

We will have live coverage and analysis of the debate this evening, so do stay with us, and let us know your thoughts in the comments as we go. 

What happened last time

Tonight’s TV debate in Maidstone is the second time Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn will meet on prime time television during the election campaign. 

The two leaders battled to a score draw on November 19, with neither able to land any decisive blows that shifted the narrative of the election campaign. Mr Corbyn is in even more need of a ‘knock out moment’ tonight, given he is ten points down in the polls with six days to go. 

In the earlier ITV debate Mr Johnson tried to steer the conversation back to Brexit at every conceivable opportunity, while Mr Corbyn was more comfortable in the portions focussing on domestic issue. 

Notably, the audience was heard openly laughing at some of the statements from both candidates as the debate lapsed into an exchange of soundbites at times. 

A YouGov snap survey gave the debate to the Tory leader by the tightest of margins - 51 per cent thought that Mr Johnson had put in the best performance, with 49 per cent saying Mr Corbyn had won the contest.

Probably the most memorable part of that evening came online though, when the Tory party rebranded its media Twitter account as ‘FactCheckUK’ and pumped out a stream of anti-Labour content.

How tonight’s debate will work

Can this debate provide a break out moment of drama to cut through the noise of the campaign?

The leaders will take questions from an audience of around 100 people who have been selected by pollsters Savanta ComRes to offer an even split between both big parties, plus a selection of undecided voters.

In previous debates this ‘town hall’ format has made it easier for the leaders to wriggle out of addressing specific issues, and left the audience at home listening to more regurgitated soundbites than direct answers to difficult questions.

But BBC presenter Nick Robinson has promised to “try to pin them down” if Messrs Johnson and Corbyn do not answer the questions.

Asked if he was nervous, he told his colleagues on the BBC News channel: “God, yes.”

I don’t want to get in the way of them saying what they want to say, but I also don’t want people at home to say ‘why did you let them get away with that?’

British diplomat to US quits in tirade over Brexit ‘half-truths’

Away from this evening’s debate, the British diplomat in charge of explaining Brexit to the US has quit in spectacular fashion, writing a furious resignation letter in which she says she no longer wants to “peddle half truths on behalf of a government I do not trust,” writes Kiran Stacey in Washington.

Alexandra Hall Hall, the Brexit counsellor at the British embassy in Washington, quit earlier this week, accusing the government of not being honest with voters about the implications of leaving the EU.

In the letter, which was first reported by CNN, Ms Hall Hall wrote:

“I have been increasingly dismayed by the way in which our political leaders have tried to deliver Brexit, with reluctance to address honestly, even with our own citizens, the challenges and trade-offs which Brexit involves; the use of misleading or disingenuous arguments about the implications of the various options before us; and some behaviour towards our institutions, which, were it happening in another country, we would almost certainly as diplomats have received instructions to register our concern.”

Jeremy Corbyn arrives for tonight’s debate

Is the Andrew Neil issue a problem for Boris Johnson?

Boris Johnson is appearing in this evening’s TV debate with Jeremy Corbyn, but is point-blank refusing to be interviewed by the BBC’s fearsome interviewer Andrew Neil.

The prime minister is the only party leader resisting going into Mr Neil’s chair — raising repeated accusations from opponents that he is running scared.

The FT’s Whitehall editor James Blitz writes that opinion pollsters he has spoken to are united in saying this row is a less serious problem for Mr Johnson than his opponents think.

The fact that Mr Johnson is appearing in a BBC head-to-head debate with Mr Corbyn tonight helps neutralise the damage. “Back in the 2017 election campaign, Theresa May refused to debate head-on with Corbyn and that undermined her claim to be a strong leader,” said Marcus Roberts, a former Labour strategist now at YouGov. “Many voters will see Johnson debating Corbyn this evening and wonder what the fuss is about Andrew Neil.”

A third factor that shouldn’t be ignored is that this is a row that helps the Tories. The party is 10 points ahead of Labour in the polls. By filling the airwaves with lots of headlines about what is fundamentally an issue of process, they stop Labour getting on the front foot on issues that really could affect the election, like the state of the National Health Service and public services. In other words, this row suits the Conservatives’ defensive election strategy.

You can read more from James in the Brexit Briefing.

Inside the spin room

The FT’s Sebastian Payne has had a look at the spin room (garage?), where the parties will tonight attempt to lobby for their various talking points. He described it as the “smallest, sweatiest spin room I’ve had the joys of visiting.”

Take a look:

A glimpse into Labour’s thinking

With every debate comes the inevitable TV ‘spin room,’ where party loyalists rotate between camera crews pushing their cause.

Labour regularly wheels out the relatively telegenic Barry Gardiner on these occasions. The shadow trade secretary has just been speaking on Sky News, where he said tonight is a “fantastic opportunity” to win over voters.

Mr Gardiner said the debate tonight is between a politician that voters “don’t trust” in Boris Johnson, and “the other who represents a change for the next five years.”

His attack lines offered an insight into some of the material the Labour party could throw at Mr Johnson later this evening.

They included the issue of trust and ducking the BBC’s Andrew Neil, the news that the British diplomat in charge of explaining Brexit to the US has quit and the leaked government document on the economic impact of the Brexit deal Mr Johnson has struck for Northern Ireland.

Final TV debate imminent

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn will go head to head in the final TV debate of this election imminently.

The BBC’s Nick Robinson will be moderating, with questions from a studio audience of 100 members of the public who have been selected to show a rough split between the two parties, with a sprinkling of undecided voters.

We will have live coverage and analysis shortly.

Emoticon Debate underway with opening statements

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are in place behind their lecterns, and we are underway.

A lengthy introduction from the BBC’s Nick Robinson, who warns he may have to “occasionally” interrupt to make sure the debate is fair.

We start with opening questions. Jeremy Corbyn won the toss and elected to go first.

The Labour leader said the party is “ambitious” as he ran through many of the party’s manifesto promises.

“A vote for labour is a vote for hope, for real change,” he said.

Johnson calls for ‘turning point’ for UK in opening remarks

Boris Johnson has called on voters to give Tories a working majority so his party can bring the UK to a “turning point”.

He repeated his much used refrain that a vote for Conservatives is a vote to “get Brexit done”. “We can end the paralysis,” he said.

Mr Johnson’s comments echo comments the party has made all week and indeed throughout the campaign that Tories would pull the country ‘out of neutral’.

Are Major and Blair big players, or a couple of has-beens?

The first question is on John Major and Tony Blair’s recent interventions in the campaign.

The former Conservative and Labour party leaders have both suggested voters should consider backing other parties, and appeared together at a rally today.

“Are they just a couple of has-beens?” the animated questioner asks.

Mr Johnson said he has “the upmost” respect for all former Tory leaders, before swerving into discussing “getting Brexit done”.

He points out that, unlike Mr Major, he leads a united party (although that was after a purge of around 20 moderates in the summer) .

Mr Corbyn said the issue at stake in this election is the future of this country, and does not answer the question about Tony Blair. He is keen to talk about the party’s domestic agenda and turning the country around after austerity instead.

“Tony Blair and John Major are welcome to make the comments they do,” he said.

The Brexit question…

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn were asked a question by a Leaver supporter and one on the Remain side. Below we are paraphrasing their key points:

Can you guarantee it will happen next year?

Corbyn: We will within three months negotiate a leave agreement with the EU that will protect trade, jobs and the peace process with Northern Ireland. That will be put that to a referendum within months.

Johnson: We can get it done by January 31. We can do things to keep free ports around the country. We can get rid of VAT on tampons.

Quick analysis of opening statements

Sebastian Payne breaks down the opening statements:

The opening statements from both leaders reiterated their key campaign messages: Jeremy Corbyn said Britain needs “an ambitious government that is on their side” and that a vote for Labour is “a vote for hope and real change”.

Boris Johnson stuck to his campaign slogans that Britain does not want “more dither and delay” and, you will be surprised to hear, he wants to “get Brexit done”. Both leaders appear to be sticking their core messages for the final big moment of the campaign.

Party leaders clash over trade

The moderator steers the discussion onto trade:

Mr Corbyn said the Tories cannot get a quick trade deal with the US after Brexit, and Mr Johnson “will walk out of a relationship with the EU into a relationship with nobody.”

Johnson replied this showed “a slight ignorance of the reality.”

The Labour leader also held up leaked documents surrounding trade with Northern Ireland, and said the prime minster “has not been exactly straight forward.”

Labour earlier today unveiled a leaked government document on the economic impact of the deal Mr Johnson has struck for Northern Ireland in his EU withdrawal accord with Brussels. The Treasury document set out the different checks that would be required on goods travelling in either direction across the Irish Sea under Mr Johnson’s deal.

Mr Johnson said he was surprised to take lectures on the union from someone who has a history of backing the IRA, which drew some applause.

The Brexit question … (Part II)

Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson were asked about how their respective Brexit plans would help the country. They both broadly stuck with their talking points, with Mr Johnson pointing to immigration, ‘taking back control’ of money that would otherwise go to the EU and free ports that would ‘trigger growth and investments in some of the left behind coastal communities’.

Mr Corbyn responded by saying Labour would make sure UK jobs and UK manufacturing industries can keep trading. “Walk away from that … and we’ve got real problems. Many jobs have already been lost from the uncertainty surrounding all this,” he said.

Scorecard: Where things stand

Sebastian Payne writes:

The first section of the debate on Brexit is over and it’s a score draw. Boris Johnson repeated and repeated his slogan of “getting Brexit done” while Jeremy Corbyn accused the prime minister of wanting to spend seven years of striking a trade deal with the US.

Neither candidate moved the dial or revealed anything new about their positions.

It is notable how many times Mr Corbyn is mentioning laws and actions taken by “the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats”, in reference to the 2010 to 2015 coalition government. The Labour leader is clearly hoping to woo over Lib Dem Remain backers who have abandoned his party.

The debates moves onto the NHS

The next question was from a student nurse, on how to deal with nurse shortages in the NHS.

Mr Johnson said it is “time to invest massively in the NHS.” He promised 50,000 new nurses, although he conceded some people have “complained” about this figure, so explained he plans to maintain 19,000 and recruit 31,000 new ones.

Mr Corbyn blamed the Tory party for the NHS being at breaking point. He said Labour would “fund the NHS properly.”

We then had the first proper back and forth of the debate, over how many hospitals the Tories have promised to build. Is it six or 40? Essentially, that is disputed.

On US big pharma access to the NHS, Mr Johnson said: the claims are “pure Bermuda Triangle stuff. We will be hearing about little green men next.”

Mr Corbyn pointed out the talks with the US outlined in leaked documents last week took place over two years. “It does not take two years to say ‘no’.”

The Labour leader also reminded Mr Johnson the Tories opposed the formation of the NHS in the first place.

Socialism v Capitalism

The candidates have been asked whether capitalism or socialism is better for raising the living standards of the poor. It’s a nuanced question that is probably not best answered in sound-bytes … but here we go:

Corbyn: Socialism carried out in a democratic way. The Labour leader pointed to examples in Scandinavia.

Johnson: One nation conservatism. He said a “dynamic market economy” was the only way you can pay for fantastic public services.

Corbyn draws cheers on socialism question

Sebastian Payne writes:

On the exchange about capitalism versus socialism, Jeremy Corbyn is winning, boosted by several claps from the audience.

The key quote from the Labour leader: “We’ve gone too far down the road of free market economics and created too much inequality.”

This points to the deep voter scepticism about capitalism – capitalists have done a poor job of selling their successes.

The debate moves onto tax and spending plans

We are onto public spending, and whether the two parties can afford their commitments:

Mr Johnson said the Tory party would “certainly be making big investments” but will not “borrow hugely” to fund day to day investments.

He warned that people who are not rich would have to pay for Labour’s plans.

Mr Corbyn denied this, and said: “We have gone far too far down the road of free market economics, we have created too much inequality.”

The two leaders then each unfurled similar and relatively effective attack lines.

Mr Johnson said:

“Labour always ends their time in office with an economic crisis. Corbyn and McDonnell would start their time in office with an economic crisis.”

Mr Corbyn hit back:

“What Conservative governments always do is look after the richest in our society.”

Tories don’t try Twitter stunt for a second time

The Conservative party press office has resisted the temptation to masquerade as an impartial fact checking service this evening.

During the ITV debate the party came in for sharp criticism for the stunt.

Best behaviour tonight though:

Public safety v human rights

Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson were asked how they think the government should balance public safety and human rights. This is obviously a question that is top of mind for many after the terrorist attack in London a week ago.

Mr Corbyn argued that it is “not an either or” question. He said it was crucial that police are “there and well funded.” At the same time, “Human rights are our defence against autocracy and abuse of power.”. There is “no difference between wanting security and human rights,” he argued.

Mr Johnson offered a similar fundamental view, saying there was “no reason to compromise people’s human rights.” He specifically brought up the London Bridge terror incident, saying it was “wrong [Usman Khan] should be out on automatic early release.”

“We must put public safety first,” he said, calling automatic early release “unreasonable”.

Hate in politics

The leaders are asked to address problems around hate in politics in their own parties.

Mr Johnson said people are “out first bounce” if found to have been Islamophobic in the Tory party. He also said it is “vital” that MPs are properly protected.

He said Mr Corbyn has failed to tackle anti-Semitism properly in his party, blaming a “failure of leadership.”

Perhaps inevitably, the prime minister then pivots back to Brexit:

“We need to come together as a country. We have been going at this for too long…it is a function of our inability to get Brexit done.”

Mr Corbyn said anti-Semitism is “wrong and totally unacceptable.”

In one of the more striking moments so far, he twice said: “I do not ever use racist language,” reminding viewers of Mr Johnson’s awkward history of questionable statements.

Mr Johnson does not respond.

Johnson says he is in the dark over diplomat resignation

When asked about the resignation of the British diplomat in charge of explaining Brexit to the US, Boris Johnson responded that he does not “know who you are referring to.”

The prime minister pivoted quickly back to his key campaign platform that the resignation of Alexandra Hall Hall, the Brexit counsellor at the British embassy in Washington, “shows to me is we need to move on as a country.”

Closing statements

The debate has ended with two closing statements. Jeremy Corbyn went first.

Mr Corbyn’s final words, like his opening statement, concentrated on the theme of “ambition”.

“People say politics doesn’t change anything. But it can… The future really is ours to make together,” the Labour leader said.

Johnson sticks to ‘get Brexit done’ vow in closing argument

The prime minister renewed his promise to “get Brexit done” and the get the “country out of neutral” in a quick concluding statement at the end of the hour-long debate.

Boris Johnson also repeated the Tory party lines that a vote for Labour would lead to “two chaotic referendums”, one on Brexit and another on Scotland.

Score draw?

It does not feel like there was a killer moment in this evening’s debate that could really move the needle during the rest of the campaign.

Given that Mr Johnson has a 10-point lead in the polls, that should be enough for him to leave Maidstone fairly happy.

As many expected, the prime minister battered away with his message of “get Brexit done”, while Mr Corbyn was most compelling when highlighting his ambition to change the country and end what he sees as years of Tory misrule.

Emoticon Snap poll – it was a draw

A snap poll released by YouGov suggests that the debate was another draw.

52 per cent of those surveyed believe Boris Johnson won, while 48 per cent backed Jeremy Corbyn. Those who answered ‘don’t know’ were removed.

YouGov said: “As this falls within the margin of error it can be considered another draw.”

Thanks for joining us

We are going to wind down the live coverage for this evening.

The FT’s political editor George Parker is filing an on the whistle report which will be online shortly, and we will also have analysis from Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne, so do stick around for that on

We will be back with rolling coverage on Monday, and don’t forget to join us for live coverage through the night next Thursday.

Have a great weekend.