Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer faced off in their final debate before next Thursday’s general election, tackling issues such as tax, immigration, gender, and Brexit.

Throughout the 75-minute BBC event, the Tory leader repeatedly accused Sir Keir of planning tax hikes and lacking a strategy for illegal immigration. In response, Sir Keir criticized Mr. Sunak for making unfunded tax promises and being “out of touch” with voters.

The debate, held at Nottingham Trent University, featured questions from the public. One audience member asked, “Are you two really the best we have got?”

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Sir Keir opened the debate by accusing Mr. Sunak of being “bullied” into addressing revelations about Tory candidates allegedly betting on the timing of the election. Mr. Sunak defended his actions, emphasizing the need to handle the matter properly.

With polls suggesting a potential Labour victory, the debate was crucial for Mr. Sunak to change the tide before polling day. He aimed to scrutinize Sir Keir over tax issues, citing a report that claimed Labour’s plans to decarbonize the economy would be costly. Sir Keir defended the plan, emphasizing the need for both government and private investment.

Mr. Sunak also claimed that a future Labour government would impose a “retirement tax” on state pensions, a statement examined by BBC Verify. Sir Keir rebuffed this, accusing Mr. Sunak of spreading falsehoods.

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The leaders also addressed Brexit, with a small business owner asking about improving trade with the EU. Mr. Sunak argued that new trade deals would necessitate “free movement by the back doors,” while Sir Keir asserted that Labour would not rejoin the EU but would negotiate a better deal.

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Illegal immigration was another contentious topic. Mr. Sunak questioned Sir Keir’s stance on stopping small boat crossings, while Sir Keir criticized the PM’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. Mr. Sunak pressed him on what he would do with rejected asylum seekers.

Both leaders committed to protecting women’s rights to single-sex spaces, regardless of gender recognition certificates. Sir Keir also emphasized treating all individuals with dignity and respect, acknowledging the experiences of transgender people.

Sir Keir highlighted his background as the chief prosecutor in England and Wales and his “working-class” roots, arguing that Mr. Sunak was disconnected from real-world concerns. He received applause for accusing Mr. Sunak of being “out of touch” regarding welfare benefits and urged him to listen more to the public.