Question Time debate: No comfortable ride in election special for party leaders

Question time audience

Elections are important and full of life, exactly because the public, not pundits or parliamentarians are in charge.

That's what we saw tonight.

It was not a comfortable ride for any of the four who appeared in front of the audience in Sheffield who were pressed on issues as broad as the economy, austerity, Brexit, Bolivia, the Russia report, racism, the NHS and plenty more.

It was particularly uncomfortable for the Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, who was pummelled by the audience over her promise to stop Brexit by simply halting the process altogether in the unlikely event she won a majority.

There were moments of real challenge too for Boris Johnson first on a very simple question - can he be trusted?

The audience's attitude made it clear they have a big question about that, and about him.

It was a repeat of the challenge to him at the first head-to-head in Salford earlier this week.

Jeremy Corbyn was made to squirm over his record on tackling anti-Semitism - one member of the audience telling him he was terrified for his daughters because of Labour's handling of the issue.

Nicola Sturgeon also faced repeated questions on whether independence for Scotland was viable.

But in terms of the impact on the overall campaign, beyond the view from the nation's sofas on just one night, the main revelation perhaps was Mr Corbyn's promise that he would be neutral if there is another referendum on staying on the EU.

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Media captionCorbyn: "I will adopt a neutral stance on Brexit"

Plenty of his supporters will suggest that's a principled stance, even though plenty of his most senior colleagues have already said they would campaign to Remain.

The idea would be that, as the potential leader of the country, he would stay above the fray therefore able to pursue whatever decision the public took.

The risk, though, is that position compounds the sense we have heard from some voters around the country and was seen tonight, that the Labour leader can't make a decision on the most vital issue of the day.

And for the party that wanted to get off the topic of Brexit, Mr Corbyn's new statement tonight may well put it right back in the middle of the campaign again.

The BBC Question Time Leaders Special

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