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Leaders Debate

No clear winner in Johnson and Corbyn head-to-head

Civil order: Boris Johnson shakes Jeremy Corbyn’s hand in pledge to end hostility

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn engaged in a choreographed and predictable TV head-to-head debate with each trying to land punches on Brexit and the NHS, but neither emerging as a clear winner.

A snap YouGov/Sky News poll on who performed best was evenly split, with Mr Johnson on 51% and Mr Corbyn 49%.

The Prime Minister took every opportunity to focus on his opponents failure to clarify his Brexit position – which began to draw groans from the audience – while Mr Corbyn stuck to accusing Mr Johnson of wanting to sell the NHS to big US businesses.

Mr Corbyn said Labour would negotiate a new agreement that would be put alongside Remain in a referendum and the government would abide by the result. 

The audience in Salford laughed when Mr Corbyn claimed to have been ‘clear’ despite repeatedly dodging the question on whether he would support Leave or Remain. 

He once again ruled out doing a deal with the SNP on a Scottish independence referendum.

The hour-long “debate” became little more than a tit-for-tat squabble, ITV newscaster Julie Etchingham reduced to the role of referee than questioner. Pundits on social media said neither leader was given enough time to explain their case.

At one point Mr Johnson strode across to Mr Corbyn and shook his hand in an attempt to promote a more civil political climate.

Asked about public finances, Mr Corbyn said the election is “a turning point in the way we are going to manage our economy in the future”, getting rid of things like zero hour contracts and increasing corporation tax.

This will pay, he said, for scrapping tuition fees and help “address imbalance in our society”.

Mr Johnson reminded the audience that he plans to shelve an extra cut to corporation tax which will free up £6bn for the NHS.

“What worries me about this country at the moment is if we continue with this pointless paralysis,” he said, returning to his Brexit theme.

Mr Johnson summed up by saying: “The choice is very simple. We can get Brexit done or spend another groundhog year [on] Mr Corbyn.”

The Labour leader said his party will “end privatisation, giving the NHS the funding it needs”, and will give people “the final say” on Brexit.

John McDonnell in Airdrie

John McDonnell: Europe has more robust systems (pic: Terry Murden)

Earlier, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said control of the economy would shift towards workers and consumers under a Labour government which would impose salary caps on the public sector and new obligations on company executives.

In an attack on the UK’s profit-driven system, Mr McDonnell said Labour would introduce a new partnership between employees, management, customers and shareholders.

“Many European countries have more robust systems to secure long term decision making than the UK,” he said.

“Labour will rewrite the Companies Act so that directors have a duty to promote the long-term interests of employees, customers, the environment and the wider public.”

Labour has previously stated that one third of company board members would be workers.

Under a Labour government, companies will have to transfer 1% of their shares into an employee fund until the fund owns 10% of the company. Shares would be owned collectively by employees with dividend payments of up to £500 distributed up to each employee each year.

Private companies would have to introduce profit sharing schemes.

Mr McDonnell said there would be in a 20:1 pay ratio between lowest and highest paid employees in the public sector, and in companies bidding for public sector contracts.

“A 20:1 ratio means someone earning the living wage, just over £16,000 a year, would permit an executive to be earning nearly £350,000,” said McDonnell.

He said the Big Four audit firms will not be allowed to “continue to act like a cartel” and will be forced to split their audit and advisory functions.

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