13 utterly electric moments from brutal Question Time general election special

Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson and Nicola Sturgeon were hauled over the coals tonight in a brutal two-hour grilling by Britain’s best inquisitors – the public.

The four leaders had a brutal reception for large parts of a BBC Question Time special as audience members unleashed years of pent-up frustration at the state of politics.

They were laughed at, booed and mocked as audience members of all stripes refused to hold back at the Labour, Tory, Lib Dem and SNP chiefs.

The hostile reception came despite a huge crowd welcoming Jeremy Corbyn as he arrived in Sheffield – where he even gave a speech to supporters outside the event.

But inside the studio it was much more rowdy, with even host Fiona Bruce having to break up the crowd saying: “I am in charge of this thing!”

The BBC said the audience was roughly equally split between Tory and Labour supporters, with a smaller number for each of the Lib Dems and SNP .

Jeremy Corbyn insisted he would take a “neutral stance” in an EU referendum under Labour while Boris Johnson was challenged over “racist rhetoric” and trustworthiness during a brutal televised grilling.

The Prime Minister refused to apologise over his use of language and defended Tory austerity during a special episode of BBC’s Question Time on Friday.

The Labour leader also came under fierce scrutiny from voters when he was questioned over fears for businesses, anti-Semitism, misogyny, freedom of speech and Scottish independence.

So what were the key moments we should remember? Here’s a guide to what happened tonight.

1. Boris Johnson revived Theresa May’s ‘magic money tree’ in a callous pensions U-turn

Boris Johnson went back on his pledge to help women hit by pension age rises

Boris Johnson tonight scotched his own pledge to help millions of women hit by state pension age rises in a breathtaking live TV U-turn.

The Prime Minister went back on his claim during the Tory leadership contest that he would “return to this issue with fresh vigour” after ‘WASPI’ women begged him for help.

Back in the summer he claimed: “The Treasury raise some stupefying sum that they say will be necessary to deal with it. I’m not convinced that’s necessarily true. Let’s see what we can do.”

Yet tonight he came face-to-face with one of the women hit on a BBC Question Time special – and told her it was very expensive.

He added: “I cannot promise that I can magic up that money for you tonight.”

The incident is likely to draw immediate comparisons with Theresa May – who infamously told a nurse there was no “magic money tree” in 2017 on the same programme.

2. Jeremy Corbyn finally revealed his hand on Brexit – and he’s neutral

Jeremy Corbyn pledged to stay neutral in a second referendum as Prime Minister

Jeremy Corbyn would stay neutral in a second Brexit referendum so he could fairly carry out the result, he revealed tonight.

The Labour leader hopes to renegotiate a withdrawal deal before putting it to voters within six months of becoming Prime Minister.

But he signalled he would refuse to take sides between backing his own pact or Remain in a campaign.

Speaking in a live BBC Question Time leaders’ special, he said: “My role and the role of our government will be to ensure that that referendum is held in a fair atmosphere and we will abide by the result of it.

“And I will adopt, as prime minister, if I am at the time, a neutral stance so that I can credibly carry out the results of that to bring communities and country together rather than continuing an endless debate about the EU and Brexit.”

It’s understood he had made the decision to stay neutral long ago but only decided to make it public recently. It is thought the Labour cabinet will be allowed freedom to campaign.

3. Boris Johnson was floored over ‘bumboys’ and racism

The questions were brutal

Boris Johnson refused to apologise for offensive comments he made about Muslim women and gay men instead defended his “right to speak out”.

The Prime Minister insisted he had never intended to cause “hurt or pain” when asked about his history of making insulting remarks including saying women who wear burqas look like letterboxes and referring to gay men as “bumboys”.

A member of the audience said to applause and cheers: “Racist rhetoric in this country is completely rife.

“Will you admit that you have personally contributed to this and say the words, “I’m sorry”?”

Mr Johnson said: “I’ve written many millions of words in my life as a journalist and I’ve genuinely never intended to cause hurt or pain to anybody.”

But an audience member told him: “You say you’ve visited hospitals and spoken to public service workers.

“But I think you yourself know you haven’t been welcome when you’ve been to speak to them.

“The way you’ve conducted yourself when you’ve been there has shown that you’re afraid of the response, you’re going to get.

“So I think it’s insulting to the people who’ve suffered under your government, even if you say you’ve only been in power for 100 days you’ve been part of the government for the last nine years.”

4. Jo Swinson was floored over backing austerity

An audience member said her answer simply wasn’t good enough

Jo Swinson faced difficult questions from the Question Time audience about her voting record in favour of “harsh and uncaring” Tory benefit cuts.

The Liberal Democrat leader was grilled about her record as a minister in the coalition government that brought in the bedroom tax.

A member of the audience asked: “With 14 million UK citizens now living in poverty do you regret voting for harsh and uncaring benefit cuts”.

She replied: “Far, far too many people in our country are living in poverty and life is too hard and we did not get everything right.”

Presenter Fiona Bruce reminded Ms Swinson of her voting record which included supporting the bedroom tax, against raising benefits and against giving higher benefits to people with illness or disability.

5. Jeremy Corbyn was floored over anti-Semitism and abuse

This man claimed Jeremy Corbyn was ignoring the evidence of a YouTube video

Jeremy Corbyn was confronted by a furious audience member over anti-Semitism and abuse during the special Question Time general election programme.

The Labour leader was challenged over the treatment of Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth who was heckled at the launch of a report into anti-Semitism by Marc Wadsworth who was later kicked out of the party.

The man asked: “I looked at a video on YouTube and particularly because I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

He said: “Ruth Smeeth a Jewish MP was heckled out of that press conferences and there you are, at the end of the press conference, chatting happily to that same heckler.

He added: “I don’t understand how you can say you stand for human rights and free speech with that’s how you support that labour MP at a labour press conference.”

6. Jeremy Corbyn said he wouldn’t allow Scottish independence for two years

Corbyn said he wouldn’t back an independence vote for two years at least

Jeremy Corbyn tonight ruled out allowing a second Scottish Independence referendum in the “first two years at least” of a Labour government.

The Labour leader went further than previous statements which only said he wouldn’t allow a referendum in 2020.

It comes after weeks of Tory attacks falsely claiming he would hold the referendum next year.

Mr Corbyn told a BBC Question Time leaders’ special said: “In the early years of a Labour government we will not be supporting an independence referendum, instead we will be investing in Scotland.”

Pressed on what the term “early years” meant, the Labour leader said: “The early years, first two years, at least.”

He added: “I don’t see a priority in Scotland of having an independence referendum.”

7. But Nicola Sturgeon came on straight after – and said he’d change his mind

Nicola Sturgeon claimed he’d change his mind as she dangled a deal

Yet SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon fuelled the possibility of a second independence vote by claiming Mr Corbyn would U-turn.

Doubting his stance just minutes later on the same show, she said: “Do you think he’s going to walk away from the chance to end austerity, to protect the NHS, stop Universal Credit , simply because he wants for a couple of years to prevent Scotland having the right to self-determination?

“I’m not sure he’s going to compromise the chance to have a Labour government for that issue.”

She said that in return for her party’s support any Labour government would need to respect the right of the Scottish people to “choose their own future”.

“The SNP may well hold the balance of power in a hung Parliament after this election and let me say we will use that influence if we have it responsibly,” she said.

8. Jeremy Corbyn struggled to get inside an audience member’s head

“Maybe we can talk about it?”

His response to an audience member who attacked his plans for the economy was unexpected.

The audience member thundered: “Your reckless socialist ideas are genuinely terrifying to me my family and friends.”

Mr Corbyn replied: “I can’t understand everything that is going on in your mind that makes you say that.

“Maybe we can talk about it.”

9. And Boris Johnson struggled as an NHS doctor said he’s ‘lying while people die’

“It’s not just inconvenient, people are dying”

Boris Johnson was confronted by a furious junior doctor who accused him of lying about NHS funding.

The medic – in the audience on BBC Question Time’s leaders’ special – told the Tory party leader that people are dying as a result of cuts to services.

The Prime Minister looked uncomfortable as he was reminded of the impact his party’s actions have had.

She said, to loud applause: “I’m a junior doctor in A&E. Over the past nine years we’ve seen waiting lists getting longer, people are on trolleys for hours and hours in A&E.

“It’s not just inconvenient, people are dying. I think you’re lying to us, every year you promise more money for the NHS but people within the NHS know it’s not getting through.

“Why should we trust that you’re going to get this £26billion for the NHS when we’ve got years of cuts and people dying?”

10. Delusional Jo Swinson thinks she might still become Prime Minister 


Jo Swinson tonight suggested she might still become Prime Minister despite needing to gain more than 300 seats in a cringeworthy live TV clash.

The Lib Dem leader was hit with a tough question on a BBC Question Time leaders’ special over why she claimed she’d become PM.

But despite an audience member saying her claim was “ridiculous”, she claimed she had no regrets.

And although she said things are now tougher she left the door open to the idea she could still join 10 Downing Street.

11. Delusional Boris Johnson was caught out over his ’40 hospitals’

He was interrupted by host Fiona Bruce

The Prime Minister was challenged on the number of new hospitals he is proposing to build.

Mr Johnson said: “It’s not just that we’re building new hospitals, we’re investing in people as well.”

At that point an audience member shouted: “How many?” to which the Prime Minister replied: “Do you want the answer? The answer is we’re upgrading 20.”

Ms Bruce then interrupted and said: “Prime Minister it’s six. It’s six.”

Mr Johnson then replied: “In 10-years time 40 new hospitals will have been built and yes we’re starting with six.”

Ms Bruce then said: “At the moment it’s upgrading six existing hospitals.”

Mr Johnson said: “It’s building six new ones immediately but a programme over the next 10-years, with seed funding already going in to build 40 new hospitals.”

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Question Time election special

12. Someone from Corrie was on it for some reason

OK then

The BBC Question Time election debate special saw an unexpected familiar face on Friday.

As audience members grilled prime minister Boris Johnson , Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and others over their party manifestos, one person sat in the crowd was immediately recognised by fans.

As Jo Swinson took to the podium and asked for questions, Corrie fans spotted the detective involved in the factory roof collapse and Rick Neelan’s vanishing act was in the audience.

DS Beckett actress Kate Rutter had a question too, asking the politician about poverty and if she regretted voting with the Conservatives.

She received applause from the crowd with her question, with Jo then providing her with an answer.

13. And finally – the tension just couldn’t help spilling over backstage

Dominic Raab and Andy McDonald from Labour clashed in the spin room

Tory Dominic Raab and Labour’s Andy McDonald had an angry exchange in the media room of the BBC Question Time debate.

The pair began arguing during a live TV interview on Sky News.

But the pair squared up, and continued the furious row as cameras prepared to cut away.

What started as a disagreement over Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal descended into a heated argument over Islamophobia in the Tory party and anti-Semitism in Labour .

Mr McDonald jabbed his finger towards Mr Raab, repeating: “You should be doing it. You should be doing it.”


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