Johnson vs Corbyn #ITVDebate post-game…unlikely to have changed anyone’s vote – apart from to other parties2
November 20, 2019 by Paul Goldsmith
This was more an election soundbite clash rather than a debate. The candidates didn’t listen properly to each other so continuously missed opportunities to challenge what each other said. This is why neither could be said to have won.
On Brexit, something that probably needs to be explained is how the Labour Party works, or is working under Jeremy Corbyn. He doesn’t make decisions by himself. A lot more is done within the party, by party members, than in the Conservative Party. This is hard to understand by anyone in the Conservative Party, because, for instance, we know that Boris Johnson makes policy on the fly and Conference is basically a pep rally. But when Jeremy Corbyn says that he will wait until the members decide on which side the Labour Party will campaign, he means it. Yes, he is trying to be in the centre of an issue on which there is no centre, but Corbyn’s devotion to his party members is actually something they find quite endearing, particularly after the amount of decisions made on the sofas in Tony Blair’s office.
That said, it was telling that Corbyn simply refused to answer the question on how he would campaign in a second Brexit referendum. He kept on insisting that the Labour government would negotiate a deal then put it to a referendum then abide by the result. This means he is not intending to campaign at all in the second referendum. I am just not sure how that works. How will he keep himself above the fray.
Also, why didn’t Boris Johnson ask why there would be no option on the ballot paper for people who don’t want Labour’s deal (likely to be an extremly soft Brexit) and also don’t want to Remain. Corbyn’s idea disenfranchises millions of people. So why on earth didn’t Johnson say that? It means that Corbyn’s second referendum will solve nothing.
Talking of leadership, Corbyn had a much better answer on leadership, when he talks of the importance of listening to people, whereas Johnson blathered on about leadership being about getting Brexit done. Johnson in fact got a laugh he didn’t want when he asked people to look at his record as a politician whilst addressing this question. He was, after all recorded promising to get the UK out of the EU by 31st October more than forty times.
Corbyn didn’t duck the question on anti-semitism, although much as he talks about seeking it out and dealing with it the suspicion remains that anti-semitism is only how he defines it, not how others do. Johnson was then, rather scandalously allowed to avoid the question on his lying by continuing with an attack on Corbyn and anti-semitism. Julie Etchingham, the host, should never have allowed this to happen.
After the break we were onto the NHS. We started with the prepared lines on the NHS, with Corbyn’s heartfelt story of a friend of his who had passed away set against Johnson’s promise that a strong and vibrant economy would fund it – which did leave me wondering if he had ever had to use the NHS. Anyway, Corbyn went on the attack over ‘privatisation’ of the NHS, which whilst Johnson denied it, he didn’t address what Corbyn meant directly – which was to take ALL involvement of private firms out of healthcare. Trying to get off the NHS as quickly as possible, Johnson raised the classic Tory line that Labour had left no money in 2010, which was brushed off quickly by Corbyn, given how far away he had been from that Labour Government.
Talking of lying, Johnson was then allowed to claim that Labour’s planned corporation tax rate of 26% was the ‘highest in Europe’. Somehow this means that Italy, Portugal, France and Germany aren’t in Europe. Again, he was allowed to get away with this.
The key thing to listen out for in this debate, however, was the laughter. It was telling. The audience laughed when Johnson claimed that ‘truth matters’ and it is not difficult to see why. The audience laughed when Corbyn said his Brexit policy was clear and when he said that the four day week would be paid for by a rise in productivity. The laughter told us where both leaders have their weak spots in this election.
I did enjoy the excellent question on what each candidate would buy the other for Christmas. Corbyn suggested ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Dickens, referring to Johnson as Scrooge (which he may be compared to Corbyn, despite the Conservatives’ spending promises, but anyone is Scrooge compared to Corbyn). Johnson, slightly flustered, decided to give Corbyn a freshly bound copy of his Brexit deal, before settling for some jam or something for or from the garden.
In the end, this was a debate in which both candidates merely preached to their converted, which was a shame. Corbyn was Corbyn and Johnson was Johnson, but I don’t think they would have persuaded anyone to change their vote. These TV debates aren’t really effective in achieving that. It MIGHT have persuaded some to vote Lib Dem, or Green, or SNP though…..
P.S. The Conservative Party Press Office rebranded their twitter account as FactCheckUK…is that allowed?