Theresa May certainly did herself no favour by avoiding the debate. She handed the rest of the attending party leaders a chance to show up the Prime Ministers lack of courage or inability to defend her policies. She also gave them the opportunity to show in full their attractive alternatives to May’s hard Brexit and mean-spirited policies.
Tim Farron led the field in the various responses to the extreme Brexit the government is currently seeking, offering the only decisive and uncompromising opposition to leaving the EU. UKIP’s thunder has been stolen by the Conservatives in that regard so Paul Nuttal had little to criticise, while SNP and Plaid came across as half hearted with their own Nationalist agendas getting muddled up in the discussion.
While all parties agreed that the NHS needed support, UKIP most notably failed to explain how their “one-in-one-out” immigration policy could guarantee the Doctors and nurses staffing, let alone how they would finance the NHS. Leanne Wood and Nicola Sturgeon did a sterling job at putting Nuttal in his place, but leaving it to Tim Farron to present a workable plan: the LibDems made a solid commitment to fund the NHS with a 1p tax increase.
Nuttal provoked a lot of laughter by promising funds which would have gone to Europe, now apparently earmarked for funding additional housing. “The bus is coming any minute,” Nicola Sturgeon said, smiling.
Tim Farron was quick at pointing out how the housing crisis went back to the days of Thatcher, whose policy of selling off council housing is revived in the new Conservative Manifesto.
Tim Farron was also the most convincing in the debate on education. Although all agreed that the cuts made by the government are callous and harsh, some debaters got stuck on the issue of class size and quarrelled over details. “The Government is choosing to spend money on Grammar and Free schools instead of undoing cuts” Tim lamented. The Libdems promise a staggering extra 7bn to make sure that teachers can do their job and students will not get discouraged early on. While I applaud Caroline Lucas and Leanne Wood for making good points about the Conservatives plans for grammar schools and theie heartless austerity cuts, they yet again failed to show alternative ideas as how to fix the system. Theresa May’s absence was felt particularly poignant at this point of the discussion as an opportunity was missed to explain her unexpected decision to roll back out grammar schools.
Twitter was in mayhem as @Conservatives tried to dominate the discussion their leader had shied away from, while others used the rare opportunity of media interaction to score points back, such as Fact-checked on twitter pointed out that ”UK debt has ‘increased by £555 billion’ under Conservatives “#ITVDebate
Tim closed his excellent performance with: “I believe there is still a decent Britain worth fighting for.
“The vision of Theresa May and Paul Nuttall is not the only choice.
“The fact that Theresa May isn’t here tonight tells you she is taking you for granted.
“She thinks she owns this election, owns our future and owns our children’s future.
“You deserve a leader that cares for the things you care about.
“A leader who will stand up for you and your family and the NHS.
“For your schools.
“For your children’s future.
“You need a leader who will stop Theresa May’s extreme version of Brexit.
“You don’t need a difference of opinion.
“You need a different option.
“You need someone who will step up and fight for you.
“I am determined to offer you the choice to change Britain’s future.
“Because the Britain I love is open, tolerant and united.
“That is a country worth fighting for.