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Election debate: Boris Johnson laughed at by ITV audience after saying ‘truth matters’

Andy Gregory

Boris Johnson drew considerable laughter from the audience in the ITV leaders debate by saying he thought the “truth matters”.

Chair Julie Etchingham asked the PM: “Forgive me, Mr Johnson, but this is about personal integrity and individual character. Does the truth matter in this election?”

The prime minister responded: “I think it does, and I think it very important to hear from, I’ve been very clear about the deal that I’ve done – there it is, it’s in black and white.”

As an audience member heckled him to “tell the truth”, Mr Johnson asserted that he’s been honest about his Brexit deal but that Jeremy Corbyn “won’t come clean with the electorate about what he is preparing to do”.

Mr Corbyn repeated his party’s pledge to renegotiate a Brexit deal within three months and hold a Final Say referendum, but refused to be drawn on which side he would campaign.

The two leaders had initially been asked by an audience member: “At the heart of all of this is one very simple question – how can we trust you?

“Under your leadership, the debate has become toxic and degraded with an appalling level of lies and childish abuse.

“How can this nation trust you to have the personal integrity and individual strength of character to look after our country’s interest, rescue us from this mess, and bring us back together?”

Mr Johnson called it “a very important question” and said the Brexit deadlock was corroding public trust “in politics and in parliament”, but was later encouraged by Ms Etchingham to give a more personal response.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Party were condemned by Full Fact for an “inappropriate and misleading” decision to rebrand one of its main Twitter accounts from CCHQ to “FactcheckUK” during the debate.

The account, typically home to the Tory press office, removed all mention of the Conservative party from its username and images, before commencing to “fact check” claims made by Mr Corbyn.

“FactcheckUK” concluded their coverage of the debate by declaring Boris Johnson “the clear winner”.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit lead, branded the move “dystopian”, describing it as something not even Europe’s far-right leaders would consider.

By this time, other social media users had also begun to change their usernames and pictures to echo CCHQ’s rebrand and were tweeted a barrage of mocking remarks about the Conservative Party.​

In addition to Brexit, the two party leaders clashed – often heatedly – over Scottish independence, austerity and the NHS.

One of the more memorable moments arrived as Mr Corbyn declared the PM was “going to sell out our national health service to the United States and to big pharma”, while brandishing a redacted transcript of meetings with the US obtained via freedom of information requests.

Mr Johnson called it “an absolute invention” and ”completely untrue”, saying: “There are no circumstances whatever in which this government or any Conservative government will be on the table in any trade negotiation.”

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