General election 2019: Under-30s question politicians in TV debate

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Media captionArgument between Farage and Rayner on Question Time

Senior politicians faced questions on housing, climate change and trust from an audience of young people in a Question Time election special.

The election debate also saw exchanges over Brexit and the possibility of another referendum.

Labour’s Angela Rayner clashed with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage over what she said was a racist referendum poster, in one of the fieriest clashes.

The UK goes to the polls in a general election on Thursday.

Sitting on the panel were:

  • Conservative Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick
  • Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner
  • Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson
  • SNP Justice Secretary in the Scottish government Humza Yousaf
  • Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price
  • Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley
  • Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage

A lively and bad tempered debate

Analysis by political correspondent Sean Curran

This special edition of Question Time certainly didn’t lack passion or drama. At times it was lively and bad tempered, with the politicians talking over one another as they tried to win over younger voters.

We heard the now familiar arguments about Brexit which have been at the heart of this election campaign, but the politicians were also challenged over other issues such as changing the voting system which haven’t made the headlines.

This wasn’t a debate that saw seven party leaders go head-to-head, although four did take part, and as such was unlikely to deliver a knockout blow or even produce a clear winner.

And it probably won’t have converted anyone who was already determined to vote for a particular party.

The young voters in the audience will deliver their verdict, along with the rest of the country on Thursday.

But the gap between the current generation of political leaders and the under 30s was most vividly illustrated by the question about home ownership and underlined the challenge facing whoever is in power on Friday morning.

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Media captionGeneral election 2019: Politicians on when they bought their first house

On the subject of housing, the panel were asked what age they were when they brought their own home.

Mr Farage was the youngest, buying a property at 22, and Mr Price was the oldest at 30.

Mr Farage linked housing problems to population growth which prompted Mr Yousaf to accuse the Brexit Party leader of blaming “everything on immigrants”.

He argued that “One of the best things that we [the Scottish government] did was abolish the right to buy when it came to council houses.”

Mr Jenrick said it was his “personal mission to help more young people on to the housing ladder” adding that his party would “offer discounts and help with deposits”.

While Ms Rayner said she would “make no apologies” for Labour wanting to build 100,000 council homes or introduce rent controls.

‘Meat consumption’

Audience member Aiden Booth asked the panel how governments could say they are serious about climate change without dealing with one of the biggest contributors, meat consumption.

Mr Jenrick said the Conservatives would not “ban people from eating meat”, but would instead encourage people to live environmentally by investing in public transport and energy efficient measure.

But Ms Swinson attacked the government’s record saying it had abolished the climate change department and blocked subsidies for wind farms.

She said tackling climate change “cannot wait” drawing attention to the case of Ella Kissi-Debrah who died aged nine in 2013 after having seizures for three years.

Mr Bartley said: “We can solve the climate emergency and reverse austerity if we’re willing to make the right choices.”

He added: “If the climate were a bank, we would have bailed it out by now.”

On Brexit, Ms Rayner said in another referendum she would vote to leave the EU if “we get a deal that protects jobs and the economy”. Labour has said that, if elected, it would renegotiate a new Brexit deal which would then be put back to the country in a referendum along with an option to remain in the EU.

Mr Price, whose party wants another referendum, argued that “the people are entitled to change their mind”. He said “the opinion polls show a shift” in opinion but added that “only the people can end the impasse”.

Asked if he took responsibility for the instability in politics in the years since the referendum, Mr Jenrick said he wished “we had managed to get Brexit done a long time ago”, claiming that Parliament had blocked the process.

Mr Yousaf said Scotland was the only nation “to get shafted” in the wake of Brexit. He argued that England and Wales voted to Leave, while Northern Ireland who voted to Remain would get a “differentiated deal”.

Mr Farage accused the other five parties of having “broken their promise” to respect the result of the referendum.

The debate became particularly heated over a poster on immigration Mr Farage unveiled during the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Ms Rayner told the Brexit Party leader to “stop peddling hate in our country”. Mr Farage hit back accusing the Labour politician of “bile and prejudice”.


The panellists were also asked about how they would improve trust in politics.

Mr Price said he would introduce a bill to “make lying by politicians a criminal offence” while Mr Farage promised to tackle postal vote fraud and abolish the House of Lords.

“I won’t lie and I’ll call out the people who do,” replied Ms Rayner.

Mr Jenrick vowed to “deliver the outcome of the referendum” while Ms Swinson said she would “stick to my principles” on Brexit “whether it is popular or not”.

Mr Yousaf said his party would “fulfil the promise of the manifesto we stood on”.

And Mr Bartley proposed lifting “the ceiling on the fines” that can be implemented by the Electoral Commission.

Young people make up a big share of non-voters in the UK – the British Election Study estimates that between 40-50% of those aged 18 to their mid-20s voted in 2015 and 2017 compared with about 80% of voters aged in their 70s.

Polling expert Sir John Curtice says age is “the division that nowadays lies at the heart of British party politics and will play a significant role on 12 December”.

Follow election night on the BBC

  • Watch the election night special with Huw Edwards from 21:55 GMTon BBC One, the BBC News Channel, iPlayer
  • As polls close at 22:00, the BBC will publish an exit poll across all its platforms, including @bbcbreaking and @bbcpolitics
  • The BBC News website and app will bring you live coverage and the latest analysis throughout the night
  • We will feature results for every constituency as they come in with a postcode search, map and scoreboards
  • Follow @bbcelection for every constituency result
  • From 21:45 GMT, Jim Naughtie and Emma Barnett will host live election night coverage on BBC Radio 4, with BBC Radio 5 live joining for a simulcast from midnight