In their final head-to-head clash ahead of next week’s general election, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn engaged in a fiery exchange over Brexit, racism, and the NHS as the most burning issues the country has been facing for quite some time.
According to an instant YouGov poll, it is by just a minute margin that the sitting prime minister appeared to come out on top. As the two traded blows on the BBC Boris Johnson racked up 52 percent of votes, while the Labour leader received 48 percent.
Corbyn accused the prime minister of resorting to racist language, with Johnson striking back over Corbyn’s handling of anti-Semitism in his party.
He argued that despite Corbyn being “well-intentioned” on the issue of anti-Semitism, “his unwillingness to take a stand, to stand up for Jewish people in the Labour Party, his unwillingness to protect them, to put an arm round them, is in my view a failure of leadership”.
He went on to draw a line with Corbyn’s neutral stance on Brexit-related goals, contending “you cannot be neutral on questions like this [anti-Semitism], any more, in my view, than you can try to lead this country and be neutral on the issue of Brexit”.
An obviously indignant Corbyn hit back, addressing Johnson’s occasional use of strong words to address issues:
“A failure of leadership is when you use racist remarks to describe people in different countries or in our society”.
“I will never do that and my party will never do that”, Corbyn said.
'Can't Get a Deal Quickly With the US'
Another apple of discord was the post-Brexit trade deal, with Corbyn taking a swipe at Johnson’s claim to be able to “get Brexit done” without delay, saying a trade agreement with the US that the prime minister is seeking would take “seven years of complete uncertainty” to talk over.
The latter, he says, will cause Britain to further linger in limbo:
“He knows he can’t get a deal quickly with the USA because of the way in which the US political system works”, said the Labour leader.
“And so what he will do is walk out of a relationship with the EU into a relationship with nobody”. Corbyn leapt at the chance to rip the Tories over secret papers, which Johnson said were fake, showing UK and US trade negotiators debating American ambitions for “full market access” to British services for US corporations and an extension to patents under which drugs can be sold at higher prices to the NHS.
NHS Claims - 'Pure Bermuda Triangle'
Despite Johnson dismissing the claims that the NHS was ever discussed with Washington, Corbyn retorted that the papers mentioned six meetings over these past two years taunting Johnson that “it doesn’t take two years to say no to privatisation of the NHS”.
“This is pure Bermuda Triangle stuff. We’ve heard it time and time again from the Labour Party during this election campaign. We’ll be hearing about ‘little green men’ next”, the prime minister retorted, arguing that “under no circumstances” are they prepared to “sell it off to anybody in any kind of trade deal”.
He went on to brand the Labour dossier as “fake news”, saying that anyone making claims about papers that turned out to be untrue should be “made to go on their knees down through the chamber of the House of Commons scourging themselves with their offending documents”.
The face-off caused widespread criticism, as neither appeared to make the ultimate knock-out punch, with the snap vote on 12 December rapidly approaching.
“That was utterly woeful. Two uninspiring men, both of them unsuited to be PM”, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon tweeted, while Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake portrayed the debate as “British politics at its worst”.