Kent

Corbyn-Johnson debate gift question: Ben West has 'no regrets'

Ben West Image copyright ITV
Image caption Ben West asked the leaders what they would buy one another for Christmas

A mental health campaigner says he has no regrets about asking political leaders what they would buy each other for Christmas.

Ben West, who set up the Sam West Foundation in memory of his brother, pitched the question during the debate on ITV.

He was criticised on Twitter for a "wasted opportunity".

Mr West said he wanted to help spread kindness and break up a debate dominated by Brexit.

The 19-year-old, from Cranbrook, set up a petition to make mental health first aid training compulsory for teachers after brother Sam took his own life in January 2018.

Image copyright Ben West
Image caption Sam West enjoyed art and music, as well as skiing.

Mr West, a winner of ITV's Pride of Britain regional award, said: "Everyone was talking about Brexit and I thought 'let's just step away from politics'.

"The world can be such a hostile place. We can all be kinder to each other, whether that is smiling on the tube or holding the door or giving someone a present."

While Jeremy Corbyn joked he would leave a copy of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens under Boris Johnson's tree, the PM responded by suggesting he would give Mr Corbyn a copy of his Brexit deal and a jar of Damson jam.

Image copyright ITV
Image caption Boris Johnson said he would give Jeremy Corbyn a jar of Damsen jam

Mr West admitted he was "surprised" there were no questions regarding mental health and may have changed his question in hindsight.

While audience members laughed at the light-hearted question, Twitter users questioned a missed opportunity.

One wrote: "Can't believe Ben West from Kent wasted the young person's vote on that silly question."

Another said: "Imagine! The planet is dying, this country is going to **** and this is what he asks."

He said he has no regrets and that the Save Our Students petition received an extra 2,000 signatures overnight after his question trended on Twitter.

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