The Speaker
Sunday, 14 July 2024 – 17:49

Party leaders participate in BBC Question Time Leaders Special ahead of election

Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Jo Swinson and Boris Johnson have taken questions during a BBC Question Time Leaders Special on Friday evening.

The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was up first on the special programme and made the news as he gave the first explicit answer on what his stance would be in a second Brexit referendum. Mr Corbyn said, “I will adopt, if I am Prime Minister at the time, a neutral stance so I can credibly carry out the result of that to bring our communities and country together rather continuing endless debate about the EU and Brexit.”

Away from Brexit, Mr Corbyn also faced questions over whether businesses should be frightened about an incoming Labour government. Multiple questions were also asked over whether Labour would allow a second referendum over the issue of Scottish Independence, to which Mr Corbyn said he would not allow in ‘the early years’ of a Labour government.

Next up was Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP). She claimed that Jeremy Corbyn may have a different view on allowing a Scottish independence referendum following the election, and said that he should respect ‘Scotland’s right’ to choose whether to hold one. The SNP leader said she would not help put the Conservatives into government, and implied that she would be open to a loose partnership in allowing Labour to form a government if they were the largest party.

Ms Sturgeon declined to respond to a question about what she would do if the party elected into government denied Scotland the chance of holding another Brexit referendum. Questions were also asked over whether Scotland could remain part of the EU if it became an independent nation, given its current deficit levels.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson was asked whether she regretted describing herself as a candidate for Prime Minister. She said that she recognised that the task of forming a majority government was more difficult since the Brexit Party stood down seats in current Conservative areas, however, she did not clearly say whether she still thought of herself as a candidate for Prime Minister.

Jo Swinson claimed that remaining in the EU would give the UK more money to help benefit communities, whereas leaving the EU would ‘unleash’ austerity. Furthermore, she faced questions about whether she could be trusted not to repeat austerity given her previous voting records. Asked about improving student tuition fees, Jo Swinson said that she would not promise an end to tuition fees and her party’s priorities would be funding education earlier in the school and education system. 

There were large groans from the audience as Boris Johnson mentioned Brexit within 90 seconds of his part of the programme after he was asked about the importance of trust in politicians. Further questions over trust issues and avoiding scrutiny followed, but for much of the first five minutes, Mr Johnson avoided questions in order to talk about Labour’s position on Brexit. A question was also avoided on why the government had not published the report regarding Russian involvement in UK politics, however, the question was brought up again later in the programme.

Mr Johnson was asked by a student why any young person between the age of 18 & 24 should vote for the Conservatives. The Conservative leader claimed that his party would build new homes for young people. Mr Johnson was also asked about the use of racist rhetoric in the UK, and in particular comments, he has made in the past. He refused to say ‘sorry’ for these comments when asked to do so. Questions were asked about commitments to the NHS – Mr Johnson explained his party’s policy to build six new hospitals ‘straight away’ and upgrade more.


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