James Forsyth

Why the Tories will be happier than Labour with last night’s debate

Why the Tories will be happier than Labour with last night’s debate
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Last night’s leaders debate was a scrappy affair. The format meant that neither leader was able to get going properly and that there was little back and forth between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. It is hard to imagine that it will have changed many voters’ minds. Indeed, a snap YouGov poll suggested that it had effectively been a draw, with 51 percent saying that Johnson had performed better and 49 percent saying Corbyn had.


The debate made clear how the Tories intend to attack Corbyn for the rest of the campaign. They are going to go after him for being unable to say which side he would campaign on in the second referendum he wants and they are constantly going to question what he is going to have to give Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Nationalists in a hung parliament to obtain their support. For its part, Labour is clearly going to go after the Tories on the NHS, accusing them of wanting to sell it out in a US trade deal and underfunding it at home.

One of the striking things about tonight was what didn’t happen. Corbyn didn’t try and move to rally Remainers to him, he was as keen on maintaining his Brexit ambiguity as ever. This will make it a bit harder for him to squeeze down the Liberal Democrat vote much further.

Tonight did not change the dynamics of the election, it didn’t push a new issue up the agenda. For that reason, I suspect the Tories—who currently have a substantial lead in the polls—will be the happier of the two sides tonight.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

Topics in this articlePolitics