NHS, immigration and no trust in politicians: Key takeaways after parties go head-to-head

Leaders and senior figures from seven parties faced off in the ITV Election Debate 2024, moderated by ITV News Presenter Julie Etchingham

By ITV News Producer Hannah Ward-Glenton

Seven party leaders and representatives took to the stage for ITV's second General Election debate on Thursday night, covering topics including tax, immigration, and the cost of living.

They were also each given the opportunity to ask another representative a question, with some responses prompting loud laughter from members of the audience.

Behind the podiums were Conservatives’ Penny Mordaunt, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper, Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth, Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer and Reform UK’s Nigel Farage.

The debate was moderated by ITV News' Julie Etchingham, who posed questions on key issues chosen by members of the public ahead of the event.

So what were the key takeaways from Thursday's debate?

Sharp questions for fellow leaders

Each party representative was given the opportunity to ask another a question.

Reform UK's Nigel Farage asked Conservative House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt about previous manifestos committing to bring down migration numbers, and why anybody should trust the party.

"Because of the record of this prime minister," Mordaunt answered, which was met by loud laughter from the audience. She then highlighted that the numbers of people moving to the UK were projected to drop in future.

"I don't believe a single word you say," Farage responded. He also highlighted that Reform UK overtook the Conservative party in a major poll for the first time in a YouGov survey commissioned by the Times newspaper.

Rayner asked Mordaunt: "Would you allow Nigel Farage into the Tory party?". Mordaunt then outlined a list of ways in which she is similar to the Reform UK leader, but then said "we have less in common than you might imagine" and that the key priority was keeping Labour out of government.

The Green Party's Carla Denyer asked Angela Rayner: "Which of your party's U-turns are you most proud of?". She responded by saying she was not proud of 14 years of a Tory government.

Penny Mordaunt posed a question to Labour, but asked about taxes.

"There is nothing in our manifesto that means we have to raise capital gains tax," Rayner said.

The SNP's Stephen Flynn also put a question to Rayner. "Will you end arms sales to Israel?", he asked, which was met by applause from the audience.

The Labour deputy leader responded by saying that everyone, across all political parties, is pushing for a ceasefire, and said Labour would aim for a review of arms sales and would also comply with international law.

Lib Dem Daisy Cooper asked Mordaunt a question on the NHS, and listed ways in which the Conservatives had fallen short of previous pledges.

Mordaunt repeated claims that there are more healthcare workers now compared to when the Tories came into power. She then moved onto how Labour would lacked "integrity" on their tax policies.


The seven party representatives were asked to raise their hands if immigration was too high.

Nigel Farage raised both hands in response. "We have to have net migration at zero," the Reform UK leader said.

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Four politicians taking part raised their hands in response to the question: Nigel Farage, Penny Mordaunt, Daisy Cooper and Angela Rayner.

"Scotland has a migration problem", Stephen Flynn said. "[Scotland] needs people to come," he said, adding that he was "genuinely fed up" of hearing that businesses did not have enough staff to function effectively.

Nigel Farage said "these people have lied to us", pointing at the other leaders as the debate about migration continued. "I've always told the truth," he said, which prompted loud laughter from the audience.

Angela Rayner started to outline Labour's policy, but appeared to lose her train of thought and said: "Sorry I've forgotten what your other part of the question was".

She then said that Labour would never rejoin the EU or the single market, which prompted Stephen Flynn to repeat the word "shameful". Daisy Cooper said it was "not on the table at this election unfortunately but at some point in the future [she] very much hope[d] so".

Penny Mordaunt said the Conservatives would not rejoin either, echoed by Nigel Farage who said: "No, we're free. Unfortunately we're governed incompetently but at least they're our own mistakes and not somebody else's".

Stephen Flynn said the SNP would "absolutely" rejoin the EU and single market, while the Green leader said they would rejoin the EU "when the time was right". Plaid Cymru's leader said he had "no doubt" that Wales would be best served by being in the EU.

Rhun ap Iorwerth also said politicians needed to "heed and listen" to people who have "genuine concerns about the impact of the movement of population, pressures on public services".

Cost of living

The next question was about the cost-of-living crisis, and how it is impacting people who never thought that they would struggle financially.

Penny Mordaunt repeated previously-made claims by the Conservatives that Labour would increase taxes, which Labour's Angela Rayner immediately disputed.

Seven party representatives debated the key election issues on ITV. Credit: ITV News

Stephen Flynn said that the main thing the public cannot afford is a "single day more" of a Conservative government.

Lib Dem Daisy Cooper mentioned Liz Truss' mini-budget as being behind the cost-of-living crisis, while Plaid Cymru's Rhun ap Iorwerth said the Conservatives had missed opportunities to invest in the UK.

“What they chose to do is have this ideological drive to cut public spending that hit everybody, especially those who are poorest.” He asked “where is the ambition” in Labour and Conservative General Election proposals.

When pushed on whether Reform UK would lift the two-child benefit cap Nigel Farage said: "I think we should encourage people to have families" and also said there should be tax cuts for married people.

Angela Rayner replied to the same question by saying that Labour would not commit to "unfunded" policies, but highlighted the party's recently-announced breakfast clubs for children.

Debate run-up

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer did not participate in Thursday's debate, having been grilled during a Sky News leaders event on Wednesday night.

The head-to-head came after Labour launched their manifesto earlier in the day, with the party pledging to "get the NHS back on its feet", increase chances for people to get on the housing ladder and a tax triple lock.

The Conservative Party launched its manifesto on Tuesday, with commitments to cut national insurance again, scrap capital gains tax for landlords who sell properties to their tenants, "protected pensions" and a promise to halve migration.

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