Did Sunak or Starmer win the election TV debate? What Yahoo readers think

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer met for the first head-to-head debate in the general election.

SALFORD, ENGLAND - JUNE 4: (EDITOR'S NOTE: This Handout image was provided by a third-party organization and may not adhere to Getty Images' editorial policy.) In this handout provided by ITV, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer (L) and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speak on stage during the first head-to-head debate of the General Election on June 4, 2024 in Salford, England. The first televised debate of the 2024 General Election between Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer will take place on ITV. (Photo by Jonathan Hordle - ITV via Getty Images)
Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak clashed in the first debate of the general election. (Getty/ITV)

Rishi Sunak emerged as the winner of the first TV debate of the general election, a poll of Yahoo readers has suggested.

The poll of viewers shows that on Wednesday morning, just over half (54%) believed the prime minister performed better than Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on the ITV debate on Tuesday night. A poll for YouGov also saw a slight win for Sunak, with 51% of people saying he was the winner, compared to 49% who said Starmer got the better of the prime minister.

The apparent lack of a clear winner in the debate was reflected in a further poll - this time by market research experts Savanta - which had Starmer as the winner by 44% to 39%.

The debate gave both leaders a chance to make their pitch directly to voters ahead of the 4 July poll. Sunak, who is currently on course to lead the Conservatives to a historic defeat, may feel his hopes brightened after edging a win over Starmer in the first head-to-head of the election.

Yahoo readers believe Rishi Sunak won the first TV debate against Sir Keir Starmer. (Yahoo News)
Yahoo readers believe Rishi Sunak won the first TV debate against Sir Keir Starmer. (Yahoo News)

The clash was often tetchy, with both leaders talking over each other as they battled to be heard. Host Julie Etchingham was forced to intervene, telling them the audience needed to hear what they were saying.

Sunak went in on the attack against Starmer by claiming the Labour leader would hike taxes by £2,000 if he became prime minister. Starmer said the attack line was “nonsense” and “absolute garbage”.

The leaders also clashed on the NHS, with Starmer drawing audience laughter as he ridiculed Sunak over his claim that NHS waiting lists were improving, saying: “They were 7.2 million, they’re now 7.5 million. He says they are coming down and this is the guy who says he’s good at maths.” Sunak blamed industrial action – but there were groans from the crowd at his response.

Immigration also featured highly in the debate, with Sunak offering his strongest suggestion yet that he could be willing to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) if the government’s stalled Rwanda deportation plan remains blocked by the courts. But Starmer said the UK risked becoming a “pariah” state if it left international conventions.

Watch: Sunak faces Starmer in first TV election debate