Keir Starmer vs Rishi Sunak Debate: A Christian View

Keir Starmer vs Rishi Sunak Debate: A Christian View June 5, 2024

Sir Keir Starmer and Rushi Sunak Boxing outside parliament
The Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak Debate had no content of interest for  faith groups AI Generated Image by

British politics is not divided on religious lines, unlike the USA.  There was little for Christians to be excited or offended about in last night’s UK election debate between Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak.

It struck me how different politics is between the US and the UK.  The truth is that after the anguish of the Brexit years we just aren’t  as divided along partisan lines as the Americans. In the USA 80% of UK Evangelicals will likely vote for one of the two candidates, over here that is definitely not the case. British Christians see no issue with voting Conservative or Labour. Perhaps partly because there really isn’t the same divide between the parties on social issues.

In the debate itself social issues that are of interest to Christians didn’t come up. The focus was on the contrast between the image the two leaders want to put across with their soundbites.  Sunak wanted us all to believe he was a safe pair of hands who had taken bold action to protect us during COVID and would keep us safe by spending more on defence and sending illegal immigrants to Rwanda.  Starmer stressed his background as having run the Crown Prosecution Service, and portrayed himself as a calm methodical man with a plan to rebuild the UK after 14 years of  the Conservatives breaking it so it no longer worked for us.

The debate was repetitive, and very light on detail.  Personally I did not like the way it was set up or moderated.  The two leaders did seem quite hostile towards each other at points and both were asked not to talk over each other and to talk less loudly.  Wasn’t exactly Christian values on display but at the same time on a number of issues they seemed anxious to agree on.

Neither of them would admit to needing to raise taxes across the board, though Starmer did talk about a few specific taxes he would put up including removing the non-dom loopholes that we know Sunak uses and removing tax exemption on private schools.  Starmer was eager to point out that for all his tax lowering promises Sunak had raised taxes many times in the last few years.

On tax Sunak kept saying Starmer would raise taxes “for every family” by £2000 which he presented as a figure calculated by our independent civil service. Starmer said it was nonsense and the civil service have distanced themselves from this figure saying it should not be presented as their work. This smacked of dishonesty and has been called an outright lie by independent commentators, and just adds to the idea that politicians cannot be trusted to be truthful.

Sunak admitted that he used private healthcare and education. Starmer, however,  said he wouldn’t under any circumstances pay for a family member to jump the mounting NHS waiting lists or get a better education than they could in a government funded school.  For some Brits the NHS and Education are both almost like a religion and Sunak was happy to paint himself as an apostate on that issue, presumably hoping that even those who can’t afford to help themselves in that way would aspire to be able to do so, and hence admire him.

Both of them made valiant attempts to appear understanding and compassionate towards the questioners who reported struggling with the cost of living and failing public services.  Somehow the idea that Sunak understood financial pressures on ordinary working people rang rather flat knowing that he and his family are richer than King Charles III!  Starmer is also currently quite wealthy and insulated from the cost of living crisis, but was eager to stress he grew up in a family who worried about whether they could afford to pay bills.

Both of them were keen to appear tough on immigration. It is sad that nobody is willing to say that giving people who are fleeing from war a fresh start here and an allowing them to work is actually good for society. Instead Starmer said that his prosecution experience convicting with terrorists and gangs has taught him how we can break up the people smuggling gangs currently exploiting the vulnerable by selling unsafe boat trips across the channel.  He was also eager to allege that Sunak clearly didn’t think his deporting illegal immigrants to Rwanda plan wasn’t going to work or he wouldn’t have called the election.

Starmer kept saying it was time for a change and that you couldn’t trust Sunak as he had been part of a 14-year failed government. He did sound like he might be the prime minister in waiting all the polls predict him to be. But he didn’t really inspire huge confidence. He is aiming for a quiet competent image, which is perhaps exactly what we need after all the theatrics of the last few years in UK politics.

As Christians we should be praying for both candidates and that God would have mercy on our nation.


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About Adrian Warnock
Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor. He worked as a psychiatrist and in the pharmaceutical industry on clinical trials. He has been a Christian writer since 2003 and is a published author. Alongside his career Adrian also served on a church leadership team. He was diagnosed with blood cancer in May 2017 and is the founder of Blood Cancer Uncensored an online patient support group. Adrian is passionate about helping people learn to approach suffering with hope and compassion. Adrian qualified in 1995 with an MB BS medical degree from London University (in the USA this would be called an MD). Adrian also has post graduate qualifications in both Psychiatry (MRCPsych) and Pharmaceutical Medicine (MFFM and DipPharmMed). He studied theology through courses organised by Newfrontiers. You can read more about the author here.
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