Election debate 2024: Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer went head-to-head, but what do parents need to know? Check out our 4 key takeaways

Main points parents and families need to know

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer during the election debate 2024
(Image credit: Jonathan Hordle - ITV via Getty Images)

In the first debate in the run-up to the General Election, Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer battled it out to have their say - we share the key takeaways parents need to know about.

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer went head-to-head on June 4, in their first debate of the General Election campaign. In recent months, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has come under fire for his controversial plans to bring back National Service if his party is re-elected on July 4. Not only has this suggestion garnered the PM negative headlines, but he's angered parents over increasing school fines from August this year, and his stance on teaching gender identity in schools.

The leaders of the two main political parties had often heated discussions during their debate, arguing over tax, tackling immigration, and the state of the NHS. The two men appeared largely bad-tempered as they spoke over each other, and the immense pressure they were under became evident. Some have been left wondering what the debate potentially means for families, as we look at the top takeaways for parents. 

4 things parents can take away from the debate

  1. The NHS. With stories in the news about mis-diagnosed children and the recent Traumatic Birth Inquiry, a funded and functioning NHS is something families and expectant mothers care deeply about. Sunak claimed waiting lists were coming down, although they've only gone from 7.5 million people waiting to 7.2 million. Keir Starmer shared plans to create 40,000 new appointments and discussed personal links to the NHS where his wife works in occupational health. 
  2. Education. A priority for all parents amid crumbling schools and industrial action by teachers. Starmer's VAT policy to tax private schools came under fire from Sunak, who believes hard-working parents should have the option to send their children to private schools. Starmer pledged that Labour would recruit 6,500 teachers to fill current gaps, although concedes that getting rid of tax breaks on private schools to pay for them is a difficult decision. 
  3. Climate change. An ongoing issue for parents concerned for the future of their children, the state of the climate came under discussion. Sunak defended plans to slow down policies related to reaching zero carbon emissions - he suggests targets will still be met, but the new strategy will cost households less. Starmer weighed in on the opportunity to use renewable energy to reduce bills and create jobs. 
  4. Cost of living crisis. Also an ongoing issue affecting families up and down the country, Sunak suggests Labour's improvement plans would require tax rises of £2,000. Starmer instantly dismissed these claims, pointing out the tax burden stands at the highest level for 70 years, pointing to Sunak's estimated £651 million in personal wealth as something preventing him from ever understanding a cost of living crisis. 

Following the debate, YouGov ran a snap poll to get an idea of the general public consensus towards the two party leaders. The results suggest very little difference in performance, with Rishi Sunak seen as having given the best performance by 51%, and Keir Starmer slightly behind with 49%.

However, the public did feel Starmer came across as more in touch with ordinary people, appearing likeable, and trustworthy. Although 62% deemed the debate 'frustrating,' the public felt Starmer won arguments relating to the NHS, cost of living, education and climate change. 

Prince George, Charlotte and Louis aren't exempt from Rishi Sunak's plans if the Conservatives regain power. NHS reform should also really focus on maternity services and not demonising women asking for elective c-sections. Alongside increasing school fines, Conservatives will give more power to authorities that could see an increase in parents being fined, prosecuted and imprisoned for unauthorised school absences.  

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.