Updated: Saturday, 14th December 2019 @ 1:28pm

Leaders' Debate verdict: Fiery, frustrating TV debate ends in stalemate

Leaders' Debate verdict: Fiery, frustrating TV debate ends in stalemate

| By Richard Hansen - Comment

Earlier tonight Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn made their Prime Ministerial pitches in a live debate on ITV.

But what did we actually learn?

The debate hosted by Julie Etchingham featured a wide range of topics. Both candidates gave opening statements then answered a series of prepared questions from audience members. 

Mr Johnson was most comfortable talking about Brexit and repeatedly returned to the subject while Mr Corbyn seemed more interested in talking about the NHS.

The Prime Minister frequently asked Mr Corbyn on his position of where he will stand in a theoretical second referendum, a question which he failed to answer several times

Mr Corbyn continued to suggest that a Conservative administration will use the NHS as a bargaining chip in any post Brexit deal negotiations with the United States, an accusation which Mr Johnson repeatedly denied. 

The format did not suit either leader, it gave them no time to develop their arguments and allow the debate to flow before the moderator called time on them. Mr Johnson frequently spoke over the moderator while at times audience heckling was audible. 

Both leaders successfully navigated the minefield on commenting on the monarchy and Prince Andrew’s jaw-dropping interview.

It was also disappointing that over 10% of the debate time was given to questions which were not especially relevant to the election when this time could have been better used to develop some of the arguments relating to Brexit and the NHS. 

Neither leader seemed to make any meaningful mistake but nor did they have a breakthrough moment.

It is still early in the campaign and a large amount of the electorate yet to make up their minds but with Labour so far behind in the polls, expectations were definitely higher for Mr Johnson.

Mr Johnson did not want to throw away his poll lead and this did not happen. Meanwhile, this was an opportunity for Mr Corbyn to begin to close the gap but he did not take it. 

A snap YouGov poll of over 1600 respondents conducted immediately after the debate said that it was a statistical dead heat.  51% of people saying Mr Johnson won the night compared with 49% for Mr Corbyn.

This result will suit Labour more than the Conservatives considering the current state of the polls but the lack of a game-changer moment will suit the incumbent.