Independent readers share their views on ‘statesmanlike’ Starmer and ‘obnoxious’ Sunak after BBC debate

Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak argue during the final TV debate (Phil Noble/PA) (PA Wire)
Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak argue during the final TV debate (Phil Noble/PA) (PA Wire)

Independent readers are divided following another televised head-to-head between Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer.

We asked for your opinions following the final party leader clash on BBC, revealing mixed reactions from our community. Some viewers noted an improvement in how Sir Keir challenged Mr Sunak compared to the first debate, with one adding: “Starmer seems to be getting more statesmanlike over time.”

But others found Sir Keir too polite and unable to land impactful blows. One reader noted: “Starmer is articulate, but just has not got the bruising instincts of real ‘Old’ Labour politicians.”

On the other end of the spectrum, many readers criticised Mr Sunak’s approach as too aggressive, with one observing: “Rishi Sunak has continued his obnoxious and irritating debating style.”

Once again, there were calls for better debate moderation, with some blaming the chair for not controlling interruptions.

Overall, the clash was seen by many as lacking substantive discussion, reducing it to a spectacle of squabbling and point-scoring.

Here’s what you had to say:


Starmer seems to be getting more statesmanlike over time. I don’t think this type of debate is his natural habitat but he had Sunak on the ropes a couple of times.

Obviously, Sunak wants the tax worry to lodge in voters’ brains as their pencils hover over Labour and I think he did a reasonably effective if slightly irritating job of getting that across.


‘Obnoxious and irritating’

Rishi Sunak has continued his obnoxious and irritating debating style. You would think that all that time at private school would have taught him how to debate in a more dignified way. He is using this bolshy style to hide his poor track record on policies, leadership and Tory Party scandals (PPE, covid rule-breaking, unfinished inquiries, foreign interference etc etc)

I wish the chair would have been more forthright in controlling the debate.


‘Mocking Starmer’

I believe Rishi had won. Not due to good policy making or a clear set of plans, but because of his use of populism and sensationalism that brought him thunderous applause through his strong words. This was especially seen with mocking Starmer about the idea of working with the Taliban.



Sunak came across as rude and increasingly desperate. He thinks if you tell a lie often enough, the population will believe it. The problem he has is that he lies every time he moves his lips.


‘I fear the worst with a Labour government’

Sunak came out as a contender with real stuff. Sir Keir as usual is living in the past with a lot of waffle as the plan for the future. I fear the worst with a Labour government.


‘A low bar’

All Starmer needs to do in these debates is to not mess up or cause hugely negative headlines. That’s a low bar. He nearly tripped. I would say with doubt that Starmer won only because Sunak has no credibility on any one main topic, whereas Starmer has a little credibility still intact.


‘Bully who wants to score points’

How did a forensic interviewer like Mishal Hussein fail to stop the constant tetchy and childish interruptions/ talking over Starmer by Sunak?

Who will make a better PM? Sunak who shouts over Starmer’s contributions and tells lies: pensioners already pay tax on pensions, or ignores facts such as Tory councils going bust.

OR Starmer who may not set the world alight but is measured, thoughtful and actually listens and tries to answer the questions when he is not being shouted over.

Who would chair a cabinet meeting where all feel empowered to make contributions? Starmer

Who would actually listen to voters rather than interrupt them? Starmer

Starmer needed more powerful one-liners to stop himself being interrupted once it was clear that the moderator was not going to do it. He came over as a person who wants to unite the country.

Sunak came over as an overexcited small-time playground bully who wants to score points.



Both lost badly. The pantomime can hardly be classified as a political debate, no real and urgent policies were just remotely mentioned. The UK electorate got the expected pub brawl and nothing else.

Both dismal characters knows the UK must raise many billions just to stop the decline after +40 years of Thatcherite pawn, sale and plunder policies, topped with +14 years of needless Tory austerity and corruption. But none of them dare, and the UK electorate largely live in a fantasy world of convenient denial, bickering over platitudes and obvious ineptitude.

Sir Keir and his new crew of former Tory sponsors will not go for vital reforms of the UK “democracy” and cannot/will not face reality. And the Sunak gang agree.

old dane

‘Poorly chaired’

Poorly chaired debate by Mishal Hussain. Too much squabbling due to poorly chosen questions from the audience that Sunak answered unchecked by Hussain on the answers while Starmer fumbled. Dreadful. The real loser in this debate is the BBC.



Neither. A pair of men mansplaining and talking over each other-as if one-upmanship was the most important thing to get right. No mention of the Climate Crisis just, ‘He’s going to raise taxes’ ‘No! HE’S going raise taxes!’ on repeat. And both happy to demise and scapegoat vulnerable refugees for their own, political, point-scoring purposes. Depressing.

To paraphrase the comments by one chap in the audience; ‘is this the best we’ve got? Carline Lucas for PM!, I say.


‘Grave mistake’

The English electorate made a grave mistake in 2010, and doubled down on this in 2015. It’s not rocket science, but why would anyone trust the Tories with the NHS, unless of course, you didn’t care.

Austerity - what were people thinking. Cameron and Osborne remain unrepentant, but come on, the English electorate bought this rubbish! And then, once again, the English electorate buy the multiple Brexit lies, which leads to Johnson, Truss, Sunak and Co. Oh my God, were these representative of the best of what England could offer?!

Sunak debates as if Starmer is PM, I suppose it is worth a punt, for the English electorate have repeatedly bought this crap for 14 years. Starmer, like Brown, is a decent man, let’s hope he can begin (and I say begin) to reverse the damage brought about by 14 years of Tory misrule.

Ultimately, it is those who voted Tory that bear responsibility. You believed the lies regarding austerity, taxes, Brexit, the NHS, education, etc. The list is endless.


‘Cheap shot’

I felt that it was an extremely cheap shot to choose the awful question which accused both leaders of simply being mediocre. I thought this debased and trivialised the debate. It was pointless as there was no answer to make - no answer anyone could sensibly make.

This lowering of debate to insult encourages a cynical, non-voting attitude amongst the viewing audience - which incidentally will only benefit one party.

Finally I’m not sure voters can really simply blame their politicians for the state of the body politic, we must also take some responsibility. Perhaps politicians don’t always tell us the truth, because they know full well we never reward them for doing it.


‘Empty promises’

Felt like Sunak has at least some policies in place for illegal immigration and funding tax cuts rather than making empty promises like Labour. At the moment it looks like Labour is riding on anti-Tories sentiment rather than credibility of themselves and hence I understand the word ‘Surrender’ being used.

I am more inclined towards Mr Sunak. Having shown what he can do in the last 18 months.


‘Much better than last time’

I think Starmer did much better in this debate than last time. I feel like Sunak’s adolescent, aggressive debate style gets under his skin (tbh I think it gets under everyone’s skin!) - and made him visibly angry at times. And I think he did better when he was fired up.

This isn’t Starmer’s natural habitat but I feel he came across as serious and thoughtful - if still trying to stay on message a bit too much; while Sunak came across as smug and petulant. I’m a Labour supporter of course! But I was much happier after this debate than the first one…

In all of these “debates”, Sunak has been allowed to constantly interrupt and shout over Starmer, and also peddle lies without being challenged. Not sure how that can be called winning.


‘Sunak will soon be history’

Starmer appeared understandably nonplussed by the tetchy, obnoxious, lying Sunak. This wasn’t a debate but a sixth form diatribe from an overheated little squib that only had two or three insults rehearsed from some scribbled notes he no doubt thought were top dollar scathing insights but were just the last desperate clueless attempts to clawback something, anything, from the impending utter crushing defeat that was looming ever larger.

Sunak will soon be history but, sadly, he will go on to be even more wealthy, secure in his self-belief, blaming everyone else for the disaster he left behind.


‘Starmer always comes off worse’

Sunak has always been a terrier, baring his teeth and snapping ferociously to make up for a loss of superior arguments. If you go back to the debates held before the December 2019 GE when Johnson sent him out to face the cameras on behalf of the Tories, you’ll see that this is one of his strengths, honed by being schooled in this quick-fire exchange manner so popular in Britain’s public schools.

Sunak will always deploy weapons which he believes will leave a mark, and the chief of these last night was scaremongering. It is more than a little ironic that arch-Brexiteer Sunak, who back in 2016 mercilessly attacked the Remain side for what was called Project Fear, used exactly the same tactics when confronting Starmer. These were reinforced through the highly emotive word “surrender”.

However, Sunak did make a number of legitimate points amidst all the shouting. It is naive and disingenuous for Starmer to claim that he’ll be able to renegotiate the Brexit deal without offering something substantial in return. He’s ruled out freedom of movement, so he has virtually nothing he can offer the other side.

In debating, Starmer always comes off worse for the simple reason that he cannot think on his feet. That’s not something that a barrister or a DPP is routinely required to do. Attempting to stay above the fray and appear prime ministerial in waiting has paid off for him with regard to the polls, but it doesn’t bode at all well for a role in government. Sunak was bad enough but I despair at the thought of Starmer in Downing Street: strategically shortsighted, deluded in his insistence that Labour will somehow be able to deliver growth, and without the force of character and rhetorical skills to persuade the British public of the need to endure yet more hardship.


‘An insult to the British people’

These so-called debates are a waste of time. With one week to go, if you have not already decided, then this debate will not alter that fact. From now until the election, the poles are not going to move that much.

But the whole format of the debate was unbelievable and a total embarrassment. You have Sunak repeat proven lies like they are facts, shout over the chair and opposition, he looked like he was reading from notes provided.

I found the whole debate to be unprofessional and an insult to the British people who wanted a clear discussion on the merits of both parties and policies, and not a p****** match.

Both candidates and the BBC did not come over at all well.


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