General Election 2017: six things we learned from the BBC’s Leader’s Debate

There were clear winners and clear losers

Last night (May 31) the first televised leader’s debate of the General Election 2017 took place. I call it a “leader’s debate”, but actually the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon was replaced by her deputy, Angus Robertson.

Meanwhile, Theresa May, nothingness made corporeal, decided to ramp up the nothingness by not appearing, opting instead to send the Home Secretary Amber Rudd. May, who instead of focussing on Brexit negotiations called the election as a gambit to increase her majority, said of Corbyn’s decision to take part: “he ought to be paying a little more attention to thinking about Brexit negotiations. That’s what I’m doing.” She’s so funny sometimes. Anyway – here’s six big takeaways from the evening.

1. Theresa May was the biggest loser

The Prime Minister became an absolute laughing stock for her no-show. Tim Farron suggested viewers switch over to ‘Bake Off’ instead of watching Amber Rudd’s closing statement because, he said, “You are not worth Theresa May’s time [so] don’t give her yours.”

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry suggested Theresa May was actually watching ‘Bake Off’

And Green leader Caroline Lucas called Theresa May out in the debate itself.

2. Corbyn nailed it

The Labour leader called out UKIP leader Paul Nuttall, explaining how bringing corporation tax back up will fund the NHS, schools and social care.

He drew comparisons between himself and Theresa May that didn’t flatter the latter.

And when Amber Rudd came for him, he had the perfect response:

Watch his closing speech if you’re still unconvinced.

3. Caroline Lucas made all the best points

She reminded Amber Rudd of the number of people using food banks.

She also called out the Tories for selling arms. “I genuinely wonder how you sleep at night,” she said. “Arms sales to Saudi Arabia cannot be justified on the grounds of this being good for industry.”

And to top it all off:

4. Amber Rudd flopped

When Amber Rudd asked the audience to judge the Tories on their record, the audience collapsed into laughter.

When Rudd said: “Jeremy only decided to come late this morning – I was rather hoping Diane Abbott might be here so I could debate with her as well,” Abbott fired right back on Twitter:

When Rudd described the other leaders as a “coalition of chaos” it came across as pre-written. Labour, the Greens, and the Lib Dems were anything but chaotic.

This was the vibe in the room at the end:

5. Paul Nuttall was a joke

He started talking about Brexit as a divorce, so Leanne Wood did a brilliant one-liner.

It played well:

He also told barefaced lies, which were duly picked up on:

6. Politicians’ personal lives should have no bearing on this election

Immediately after the debate, The Sun exclusively revealed that Amber Rudd’s 93-year-old father had died two days before the debate, but she had gone ahead with appearing in it anyway. A lot of reactions to this news were sympathetic to Rudd, or suggested Theresa May was ice-cold for ‘making’ Rudd appear instead of her:

Then there were reactions like these:

Amber Rudd deserves every sympathy for the loss of her father, but her bereavement doesn’t have any place in the narrative of this election campaign. Taking May’s place can be read as ‘brave’ just as easily it can be read as ‘ambitious’.

It doesn’t really matter which it is – what matters is that Amber Rudd is an adult who decided to appear in the debate for herself. While you can respect that decision, her sad news shouldn’t affect people’s opinions about how she performed. It is ludicrous to suggest May ‘forced’ her to appear, just as it is ludicrous to praise her for her ‘bravery’ in taking part. This is not The X Factor: this is the future of the country.

With the polls narrowing, June 8’s result is looking increasingly up in the air. NME’s ‘plus one’ campaign wants you to take a mate to the polls. We know you’re a great person and you’ve already registered. But next Thursday, make sure your mates are up to speed.

The general election takes place on Thursday June 8, 2017.