Johnson v Corbyn: why TV election debate was a zero-sum game | FT

Johnson v Corbyn: why TV election debate was a zero-sum game | FT


We’re live in Salford
for a TV first. It’s Boris Johnson
versus Jeremy Corbyn. So the first TV debate of
the 2019 general election has just finished. So who won? Well, the answer is
nobody particularly. The whole event had the feel
of a zero-sum game to it. Neither candidate to be the
UK’s next prime minister scored any particular
points or made headway in their campaigns. Both bought out
generic soundbites we’ve heard many times before. And, I know you’ll not
want me to say this, but we need to
get Brexit done… So that’s a no, then. …in order… in order
to deliver a priority. They didn’t engage in any
proper debate about policy or any arguments that
moved the campaign forward. Can you rule it out in… We’ve witnessed nine years of
chaotic coalitions already. OK. The first half of the debate,
hosted on ITV on Tuesday evening, was
dominated by Brexit. That was much more
comfortable territory for Boris Johnson, who has his
clear slogan of getting Brexit done by January the
31st before moving on to other domestic priorities. He managed to win applause
from the crowd with his message there and his attacks
on his rival, who still hasn’t said how he
wants Brexit to be resolved. And we still don’t know, by the
way, what he proposes to do… OK. …nor whether he is in
favour of it or against it. All right. Jeremy Corbyn’s policy is
to have another referendum and let the British
people decide if they want to stay in the
EU or leave with his deal. And he was attacked
repeatedly by Boris Johnson for that matter. We will have a referendum. We will have to go
to the nation and we will abide by that result. After the break, things
moved on to the NHS, which is more comfortable
territory for the Labour leader. And yes, he did manage to
get some good points scored about the privatisation
of the health service and cuts under the
Conservative government. You’re going to sell out
to the United States. But the attacks were blunted
by Mr Johnson’s promise of more cash and more hospitals. So where does this
leave the campaign? This is really the beginning
of the 2019 general election campaign. It’s been rather slow so
far with not much movement from either side. But Boris Johnson is a clear 10
to 15 points ahead from Jeremy Corbyn, and the Labour leader
needed to get some momentum tonight. And he didn’t find it. He didn’t score any blows. He didn’t get any big applauses. So in the matter
of this campaign, it feels like Boris Johnson
might have just about emerged on top.