Sunak and Starmer Clash in High-Stakes Debate Ahead of General Election
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Labour Party leader Keir Starmer and Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak debate, as ITV hosts the first head-to-head debate of the General Election, in Manchester, Britain, June 4, 2024, in this handout image.  Jonathan Hordle/ITV/Handout via REUTERS

By The Smartencyclopedia Staff Writer with Agencies

In a heated debate on Tuesday night, Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, faced off as Britain prepares for its general election on July 4.

Who Are They?

Keir Starmer: A former human rights lawyer, Starmer has transformed the Labour Party from its far-left stance to a more centrist position over the past four years. His leadership has focused on appealing to a broader electorate, emphasizing pragmatism and moderation.

Rishi Sunak: The fifth Conservative Prime Minister in the last 14 years, Sunak called for the upcoming election last month, aiming to capitalize on positive news about falling inflation. His tenure has been marked by efforts to stabilize the economy and address ongoing national issues.

The Debate Highlights

On the debate stage, both candidates aggressively tackled key issues such as taxation, immigration, the National Health Service (NHS), the war in Gaza, and climate change. The exchange was marked by frequent interruptions and heated exchanges, with each candidate striving to dominate the conversation.

Taxation and Spending

Sunak, whose Conservative campaign has been trailing Labour by double digits for the last six months, took an offensive stance. He focused on the economic implications of Labour’s proposed plans, claiming that Starmer’s initiatives to improve the NHS and education would “put everyone’s taxes up by 2,000 pounds.” Starmer did not dispute the necessity of raising taxes but dismissed Sunak’s figure as exaggerated. He reassured the public that he would not increase income tax or National Insurance contributions.

National Health Service

The NHS was a major point of contention. Sunak criticized Labour’s funding plans, suggesting they were unsustainable and would burden taxpayers. In contrast, Starmer argued that significant investment in healthcare is essential and accused the Conservatives of neglecting the NHS.

Immigration and Climate Change

Both leaders also sparred over immigration policies and climate change strategies, with each presenting their vision for Britain’s future. Sunak emphasized controlled immigration and practical environmental policies, while Starmer pushed for more humane immigration practices and ambitious climate action.

Impact of Farage’s Candidacy

Starmer’s calm demeanor during the debate may have been bolstered by the previous night’s political development: Nigel Farage, a prominent far-right Brexiteer, announced his candidacy as the head of the Reform Party. Farage’s entry into the race is expected to siphon votes from the Conservative base, potentially benefiting Labour.

Debate Outcome

In the immediate aftermath of the debate, a poll showed a nearly even split among viewers regarding who performed better. 51% of those surveyed believed Prime Minister Sunak had the upper hand, while 49% favored Starmer. This slim margin reflects the highly competitive nature of the upcoming election.


As the July 4 election approaches, both parties are ramping up their campaigns. Sunak and Starmer’s debate performance underscored the critical issues at stake and highlighted the stark differences in their policy approaches. With the political landscape rapidly evolving, the race remains highly unpredictable, promising a closely contested battle for the future of Britain.

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