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Question Time

While many of you no doubt opted to tune into the Spain and Italy last night, Keir Starmer, Rishi Sunak, Sir Ed Davey and John Swinney were on BBC One making their pitch to a BBC Question Time audience in York. 

Party leaders were scrutinised for their past mistakes and on the issue of trust. The legacy of the Lib Dem coalition with the Tories continues to haunt Sir Ed, who admitted to the negative impact of the party reneging on its tuition fee promise – but the Lib Dem leader said he feels their preventative actions against Conservative policies are underappreciated. 

Swinney, while proud of the SNP's achievements, avoided discussing the legal troubles surrounding former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell, Sturgeon’s husband and former SNP chief executive. 

Sir Keir was questioned about his previous support for the far-left former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, to which Keir eventually suggested that Corbyn would have been a better PM than Boris Johnson. 

On policy matters, Starmer pledged to end landlord bidding wars, though details were vague.

Sunak distanced himself from his predecessors' mistakes and defended his proposal to reintroduce national service. 

The debate concluded with heated exchanges over the European Court of Human Rights, with Sunak stating he would consider withdrawing if it threatened national security, a stance that divided the audience.

Welsh manifestos 

With less than two weeks to polling day, the two major parties were in Wales, where Labour has been in government since 1999. 

In an old miners’ welfare institute near Wrexham, a seat held by Labour from 1931 to 2019 which they are all but certain to win back, First Minister Vaughan Gething set out plans to recruit new teachers and strengthen unemployment rights. 

Also at the event was shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, and shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens, both of whom hammered home an argument that Labour has been keen to stress; that a win at the election would mean two Labour governments working seamlessly together for the benefit of Wales.  

As the Conservatives introduced their manifesto, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was also keen to highlight Labour’s record in Wales stating, “Do not let Labour waltz into office without scrutinising them. Do you really know what you’re going to get with Labour?”. 

Included in their list of pledges was a reversal of the hugely controversial 20mph speed limit introduced by Gething’s predecessor, Mark Drakeford, as well as additional neighbourhood police officers and a billion-pound plan to electrify the north Wales main rail line.

Tax talk

This morning’s broadcast round saw Angela Rayner, deputy Labour leader, reopen the tax debate after stating that Labour’s “priority is not to do anything with the council tax banding at the moment”. 

Ever the opportunist, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warned that her choice of wording implied eventual council tax rises under a Labour government and that voters would be better off if they chose to “continue on the plan we are on, continue to cut taxes for people at every stage of their life”. 

Otherwise, said Rishi, “mark my words. A future Labour government is going to whack up everyone’s taxes.” 

Insights of the day

Rachel Reeves sat down with The Times for a wide-ranging interview. Reeves was keen to state her aim to address the gender pay gap and improve public services, advocating for economic growth over tax increases and emphasising the importance of involving businesses and various sectors in achieving government missions.  

Noting the combative relationship of her political idols Blair and Brown, she said it was her hope the relationship dynamic with Starmer would be more akin to that enjoyed by Cameron and Osborne, the latter of whom she had sought advice from, given he the last person to go from shadow chancellor to chancellor.  

Having lunch with the FT was Keir Starmer, as Labour’s 19-year wait for a Labour general election win draws to a close. Despite his image as a career politician, Starmer still clearly considers himself an outsider to the political bubble, driven by a competitive nature and a disdain for losing. Having steered Labour back to the centre ground, he is now focused on a set of concrete plans rather than hopeful rhetoric, selling his vision of "ordinary hope" to the public. 

Also in the FT, a deep dive into data on the growing mismatch between votes and seats, a distortion that at this election may disproportionately affect right-wing parties, including Conservatives and Reform. The first past the post (FPTP) system, typically prized for bringing political stability, is being questioned as critics argue a proportional representation (PR) system would offer longer tenures for prime ministers, ministers and parties in government.  

The article argues that it is in the broader interest of democracy for the UK to consider a shift to PR to ensure that parliament reflects the electorate's views more accurately.

Visit MHP Group's Election Hub, keeping you up to date with the twists and turns of the campaign.