POLITICS

BBC Question Time Leaders Debate: Theresa May Takes The Punches But Jeremy Corbyn Struggles With Defence

It was a tough evening for the Prime Minister.

02/06/2017 23:25 BST | Updated 02/06/2017 23:49 BST
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Prime Minister Theresa May sips some water as she takes part in the BBC's Question Time on Friday

The Tories like to focus their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s past. Tonight, an audience in York threw Theresa May’s back in her face.

Switching from a Remainer to a Brexiteer, the u-turn on social care funding, calling this very election – all evidence that Theresa May might be more weak and wobbly than strong and stable.

There was a palpable anger from some audience members as they told May the reality of life in Tory Britain.

She tried her best to take it in her stride, but responding to a nurse flagging up how her pay has stagnated by saying there isn’t a “magic money tree” will only add to her ‘Maybot’ reputation. When confronted with emotion, she could only churn out a prepared attack line.

The partially-sighted woman who tearfully recounted how the nurse carrying out her work-capability assessment was more concerned with her suicide attempts than her vision was the most memorable moment of the night.

Have no doubt about it, this was the most grueling examination of Theresa May’s record in Government to date.

And it will have done her good. 

Voters hate arrogance and hubris in their politicians, and seeing them being taken down a peg or two is cathartic experience.

May was given a kicking tonight, and for those voters who will have wanted her punished for acting like this was a coronation instead of an election, will have been pleased to see it.

Jeremy Corbyn had a very Jeremy Corbyn sort of night. On redistributive economics, helping the poor and vulnerable and making the rich pay more, he got his key messages across without trouble.

He didn’t look under any pressure – but then, he never does.

Yet he did have his uncomfortable moments, namely on the IRA and Trident.

His reluctance to confirm he would use nuclear weapons in any circumstances was manna from heaven for a campaign desperate to paint Corbyn out as a threat to national security.

The Tory Cabinet Ministers up in York to talk up the Prime Minister’s performance couldn’t get into the spin room quick enough. Indeed, they all filed in to the room of journalists before the debate was over.

The Labour team took much longer to come to battle, and their appeared to be confusion over what lines to initially spin out to the journalists and broadcasters desperate for comment.

Labour will most probably be happier with the debate for the simple reason that they believe Corbyn saying he wouldn’t kill millions of people is a campaign strength, not a weakness.

Conversely, telling a nurse who is angry at her low pay that there is “no magic money tree” is not a good look for anyone.