Key moments from Sunak and Starmer’s grilling in Grimsby

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer faced a grilling on Wednesday night as they answered questions in Grimsby Town Hall.

The leaders departed from the usual head-to-head debate format, instead undergoing a 20-minute interview from Sky News’s Beth Rigby and answering 25 minutes of questions from audience members.

Sir Keir went first, facing questions about trust issues, taxation and how he would tackle public services and inequality, while Mr Sunak was asked about his five pledges from 2023 and tax.

Below, the PA news agency lists the key moments from Wednesday night’s event.

Sir Keir Starmer gestures as he addresses the audience during a Sky News election event
Sir Keir Starmer gestures as he addresses the audience during a Sky News election event (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Starmer says he never thought Labour would win in 2019

Sir Keir was asked several times whether he meant it when he said Jeremy Corbyn would make “a great prime minister”.

But he would only say that he did not think his party would win the last election, and campaigned for Labour in order to see “good colleagues” returned to Parliament.

Audience laughs as Beth Rigby “decodes” Starmer

Host Beth Rigby drew a laugh from the audience as she offered to “decode” Sir Keir’s comments on tax.

The Labour leader said he had “no plans” to review council tax, which Ms Rigby said was a politician’s phrase meaning they “might” do something.

But Sir Keir himself drew applause with an attack on the Conservative Party over the tax burden.

Sir Keir Starmer being interviewed by Beth Rigby on stage
The Labour leader said he had ‘no plans’ to review council tax (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Starmer reveals his fear for his family

Asked what he feared most about the possibility of becoming prime minister, Sir Keir said he did not fear the big decisions but did fear the impact on his family.

He said he wanted his two teenage children to be able to “walk to school and have their own lives” as much as possible, even if he was in Number 10.

But he said he had no doubts that he was up to the top job.

Labour leader tells junior doctor country cannot afford pay demands

A junior doctor who had been on strike challenged Sir Keir over how he would solve industrial action, and asked whether he would commit to restoring their pay in real terms to their 2010 levels.

That would involve a 35% pay rise, which Sir Keir said he did not think was affordable “because of the damage that’s been done to the economy”, but added a Labour government would negotiate a solution, accusing the Conservatives of failing to talk to junior doctors.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer facing the audience
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer facing the audience (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Audience member accuses Starmer of not answering the question

Sir Keir seemed briefly stumped after an audience member suggested he had become a “political robot” and asked how he would convince people to vote for him.

After a brief pause and a laugh from the audience, Sir Keir stressed a history of public service, particularly as director of public prosecutions, and said he was not “tribally political”.

Asked whether Sir Keir had convinced him, the audience member said: “You don’t seem to answer the question.”

Sunak booed over NHS pledge

Ms Rigby asked Mr Sunak about the five pledges he made at the start of 2023 and whether he had achieved them.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak acknowledges the audience during a Sky News election event
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak acknowledges the audience during a Sky News election event (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Sunak said inflation had now returned to normal after his pledge to halve it, prompting heckles from the audience.

He responded that he knew things had been hard, but he had tried to make them “a little bit easier”.

But it was on NHS waiting lists that his comments prompted the strongest audience reaction, with one audience member shouting “Boo” when he blamed industrial action for the lack of progress on reducing waiting lists.

D-Day resurfaces

Mr Sunak repeated his apology for leaving D-Day commemorations early in order to record an interview with ITV.

Almost a week on from the commemorations, he said: “I was incredibly sad to have caused people hurt and upset, that was the last thing that I wanted to do. I hope people can find it in their hearts to forgive me.”

Prime Minister asked if he and his ministers deserved their P45s

Suggesting there had been a series of broken promises over the past 14 years, Ms Rigby asked if Mr Sunak could understand why people thought he and his Cabinet deserved to receive their P45s.

Rishi Sunak taking to Sky’s Beth Rigby
Rishi Sunak taking to Sky’s Beth Rigby (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Prime Minister said he understood why people were frustrated after going through a tough period with Covid and the cost-of-living crisis.

Sunak challenged on tax

Mr Sunak insisted people’s taxes would be cut in the next Parliament under a Conservative government, as Ms Rigby presented him with analysis suggesting the tax burden would actually rise.

The Prime Minister said he could not comment on analysis he had not seen, but added the tax burden was “too high”, prompting further heckles from the audience.

Father tells Sunak he spoilt his daughter’s “hopes and dreams”

The Sky News audience’s first question to the Prime Minister was about the high mortgage rates first-time buyers might face.

Ian, a member of the audience with a 19-year-old daughter, asked him: “Why has your Government spoilt their hopes and dreams, and how do we know you won’t do it again?”

In response, Mr Sunak said “inflation is down” and repeated his promise to “abolish stamp duty for first-time buyers like your daughter buying homes up to £425,000”.

Rishi Sunak getting out of a vehicle as he arrives for the election event
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives for the election event (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He also said “inflation is down”.

Former Tory association chair tells Sunak she feels “ashamed” by party

Amy, a former chair of a local Conservative Association, told the Prime Minister she was now an undecided voter and had been ashamed by Mr Sunak’s decision to leave D-Day commemorations and Partygate.

She added that he had “a long way to go” to rebuild trust in politics and his party.

He apologised for leaving the D-Day commemorations again, and for breaking the rules during Partygate, adding: “Trust takes time to rebuild through actions”.

Rishi Sunak confirms that young people would not be criminalised if they did not do national service

During a discussion about national service, an audience member asked whether young people would be “set up for life with criminal records” if they did not do national service.

The Prime Minister responded with a clear “no”, and suggested his party’s proposed royal commission would look at a range of incentives and sanctions.