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With the leaders’ debate taking place this evening at 8pm on ITV much of today was simply a run-up for the debate. Both main parties have made various eye-catching statements today aimed to set the mood and agenda of the debate.
McDonnell led the charge for Labour setting his sights upon the “grotesque levels of inequality in this country” in an interview on BBC Radio 4. Later at a speech in Westminster he pledged Labour would “rewrite the rules of our economy” reemphasising Labour’s commitment to change how companies operate with employee shares, touting an Excessive Pay Levy to close disparities in pay between senior executives and other employees, and plans to rewrite rewriting the Companies Act to enshrine companies having wider social duties in law. In particular, he argued companies had to “pull their weight” to combat climate change.
In a headline grabbing move McDonnell also promised Labour would scrap student fees entirely, and even hinted at waiving all student debt. Labour looks keen to court the youth vote which flocked to them in 2017 but since has been decisively turned off by Labour’s equivocation on Brexit. Indeed, Labour’s digital advertising seems to be heavily targeting young voters with ads on Snapchat promising a second referendum on Brexit.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives seem to be banking on projecting a tough image focusing on crime. In an interview Justice Secretary Robert Buckland promised life in prison for child murderers. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson pledged a further crackdown on knife crime with faster charging of offenders and by expanding stop and search powers. The latter seems calculated to put Labour in an awkward position. Tough on crime stances are popular and polling shows the general public generally unbothered by stop and search. However, many in the Labour party, not least Shadow Home Secretary Dianne Abbott, are vocal opponents of the policy.