By Sam Coates, deputy political editor
Boris Johnson’s campaign chief Isaac Levido told colleagues earlier this week that the closing few days of the election were about giving voters the closing arguments of the campaign.That is what the final debate between Jeremy Corbyn and Mr Johnson achieved.
Little new emerged in the debate – while both men tried to distil their arguments into their purest form.In doing so, Mr Johnson was snappier, more polished and ran into fewer obstacles than Mr Corbyn.Mr Johnson scored the first applause of the night for pointing out that Mr Corbyn has been against the United Kingdom because of his past support for a united Ireland.
This undermined what should have been Labour’s great reveal of the evening – weaponising the extraordinary leaked Treasury documents calling into Mr Johnson’s claims about the new post-Brexit barrier to trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
The moment when Mr Corbyn appeared to suggest the four-day week would not apply to the NHS appeared to contradict his shadow chancellor.
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He appeared to deny criticism from the Institute for Fiscal Studies about his spending plans even when host Nick Robinson quoted them saying their plans were “clearly not true”.If Mr Corbyn’s job tonight was to suggest Mr Johnson has an uneasy relationship with the truth, there were enough moments where the Labour leader faced questions on the subject of his own honesty to muddy the picture.Mr Johnson used his well-honed debating style to skate over and around criticism.The Tory leader’s masterful ability to deny, obfuscate and dodge questions was on display.
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However he stayed much closer to the script, repeating over and over his key slogans.His ability to bring the subject back at least three times to Mr Corbyn’s neutral stance on Brexit could well have helped him.It is not clear that this will make a huge difference to the election – it was a low key debate without dramatic moments obviously destined to set alight social media.That will be probably enough to keep the Conservatives happy, however, this close to polling day.
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