Johnson Edges Snap Poll After Final Leaders Debate: U.K. Votes

Alex Morales and Joe Mayes

(Bloomberg) -- A snap YouGov poll found that Boris Johnson narrowly beat Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by 52% to 48% as the leaders went head-to-head in the final debate before the Dec. 12 election. The Conservatives still enjoy a healthy lead in national opinion polls.

Ahead of the debate, the premier accused Corbyn of trying to “fiddle” the result of the second Brexit referendum the Labour leader wants by allowing European Union nationals to vote. Corbyn in turn said Johnson is misleading voters over the impact of the divorce agreement with Brussels.

Must Read: Johnson Is Heading for a Majority, Labour and Tory Officials Say

For more on the election visit ELEC.

Key Developments:

Corbyn accuses Johnson’s government of misleading voters on the impact of his Brexit dealJohnson-Corbyn debated on BBC TV. A YouGov snap poll gave Johnson a win by 52% to 48%BBC interviewer Andrew Neil attacked Johnson for refusing to be interviewed by him, accusing him of avoiding scrutinyBetting odds show a 71% chance of a Conservative majority, according to LadbrokesYouGov announces it will publish its last polling using the MRP model on Tuesday at 10 p.m.

YouGov Snap Poll: Johnson 52%, Corbyn 48% (9:35 p.m.)

A snap YouGov poll of 1,322 voters who watched the debate gave a narrow victory to Johnson over Corbyn by 52% to 48% -- the same margin by which Leave won the 2016 Brexit referendum.

The voters were asked “Leaving aside your own party preference, who do you think performed best overall in tonight’s debate?” Those who didn’t express a preference were excluded from the published result, which the pollster said should be regarded as a draw as it falls within the margin of error.

“The public remains divided on who won the debate, just as with last month’s head-to-head, with most Labour voters thinking Jeremy Corbyn won, most Conservative voters thinking Boris Johnson won, and very few people changing their minds,” YouGov’s Chris Curtis said in a statement. “But given the Conservatives went into this debate in the lead, they will hope the lack of a knockout blow means they can maintain this until voting day.”

Johnson and Corbyn Trade Barbs on Racism (9:25 p.m.)

Johnson attacked Corbyn over anti-semitism in the Labour Party, saying his unwillingess to stand up for Jewish people was a ‘failure of leadership’.

Corbyn defended himself, saying antisemitism is an evil and he does not ever use racist language at any time. He sought to contrast himself with Johnson, who’s come under pressure for past offensive remarks.

“A failure of leadership is when you use racist remarks to describe people in other countries and parts of our society,” Corbyn said.

Debate Focuses on London Bridge Attack (9:15 p.m.)

Boris Johnson said it was “extraordinary and wrong” that terrorist Usman Khan, who killed two people in an attack near London Bridge last week, was out of jail on automatic release, and said his government would change sentencing laws so terrorists serve their full sentences.

Corbyn used the topic to criticize Johnson on the criminal justice system, saying police numbers had been cut and the probation and prison services under-funded. “You end up with a breeding ground for all the horrors of the future,” Corbyn said.

Johnson contested the point, saying the Tories are putting ‘a huge amount of cash’ into justice, and that is only possible through a strong economy.

Leaders Clash Over Capitalism (9:05 p.m.)

The two leaders traded blows over their visions for the economy after they were asked about their attitudes to capitalism.

Corbyn said democratic socialism “has raised the living standards of the poorest” where it has been pursued around the world and had lifted the U.K. after World War II. “Our labour government will do the same again,” he said.

Johnson said he would champion free-market capitalism. “I believe in supporting businesses,” he said and criticized Labour’s economy spokesman John McDonnell, who has said that he wants to foment the overthrow of capitalism.

Corbyn hit back that under nine years of Tory government inequality has got worse. “150 billionaires in the county and more people than ever living in poverty,” he said.

Leaders Spar Over NHS Privatization (9:00 p.m.)

During a lengthy section of the debate on the National Health Service, Jeremy Corbyn pledged to end privatization in the NHS, and repeated his accusations that a Conservative government would allow it to creep into the NHS through a trade deal with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Johnson, for his part, rejected the notion as “pure Bermuda triangle stuff” and said “under no circumstances” would his government allow the NHS to be sold off.

Corbyn pointed to trade talks between the Tories and Trump’s administration over the past two years, and asked, to applause from the audience, “why did the talks go on for two years? It doesn’t take two years to say no to privatizing the NHS.”

Corbyn and Johnson Clash Over Hospitals (8:55 p.m.)

Corbyn criticized Johnson’s claim that the Tories would build 40 new hospitals.

“He seems to have a problem with the figures,” Corbyn said, saying only six new hospitals are actually proposed under the Conservative plans.

Johnson hit back, saying seed funding is in place for new developments, and 40 new hospitals would be in place within 10 years. He also defended his party’s record running the free-to-use service, which he said is admired around the world.

“It’s not credible to make those kinds of statements,” Corbyn said of Johnson’s hospital claims. Corbyn said the NHS is at a ‘crisis point’, and his party would invest 40 billion pounds in the service.

Johnson and Corbyn Spar Over Brexit Plans (8:45 p.m.)

Boris Johnson said Britain would leave the EU by Jan. 31 under a Conservative government, allowing it to do things like “control our immigration system for the first time in a long time” and “improve animal welfare”.

Corbyn said he’d give the British people a final say on Brexit within 6 months, and warned that Johnson would not get a trade deal with the EU by the end of 2020, meaning “queues up the M20 in Kent” and “job losses on a huge scale”.

“He knows he can’t get a deal quickly with the U.S. because of the way in which the U.S. political system works,” Corbyn said. “He will walk out of the EU into a relationship with nobody, and that’s where the chaos will come”

Johnson, Corbyn, Make Opening Pitches (8:35 p.m.)

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn made their opening statements in the BBC head-to-head debate, with both rolling out the platforms they’ve espoused throughout the campaign.

Corbyn promised to build a society “with real opportunity for all” which would involve those with the “broadest shoulders” paying a bit more in tax.

Johnson, for his part, promised to “unleash” Britain’s potential if granted a parliamentary majority, and stressed the need to avoid a hung parliament, which he said would lead to fresh referendums on Scottish independence and EU membership.

Blair Urges Tactical Voting to Stop Johnson (5:45 p.m.)

Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair urged voters “constituency by constituency” to choose the candidate best placed to stop Boris Johnson and give them their support.

“Don’t give Boris Johnson a majority, he doesn’t deserve it,” Blair, who said he would be voting Labour, told a rally in central London. “It’s not Brexit that’s getting done, we’re getting done.”

The former prime minister said it is “undemocratic” to decide the fate of Brexit through a general election when so many other issues are at stake and said a hung-parliament, in which no party has a majority, would be the best outcome. “Better a parliament that’s hung for want of a majority than a country that’s hung for want of leadership,” he said. “I beg you with all my heart and all my mind, choose wisely.”

U.K. Diplomat Quits Over Brexit ‘Half-Truths’ (4:05 p.m.)

A senior British diplomat in the U.S. has quit, criticizing the U.K. government over Brexit, CNN reported.

Alexandra Hall Hall, the lead envoy for Brexit in the British Embassy in Washington, told colleagues she couldn’t “peddle half-truths” for political leaders she doesn’t trust, CNN reported, citing her letter of resignation.

She said her departure was unrelated to Brexit in itself -- but was a reflection of her frustration at how it is being carried out, the network said. A spokeswoman for the foreign office said it would not comment on the details of an individual’s resignation.

DUP Lambast Johnson over Northern Irish Impact (2:30 p.m.)

The Democratic Unionist Party issued a statement saying the internal Treasury document released by Jeremy Corbyn (see 10:30 a.m.) further proves Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal will damage Northern Ireland. The DUP, which propped up Theresa May’s government, crucially refused to support the prime minister’s deal when he tried to get it through parliament in October.

“This latest leak from Her Majesty’s Treasury is further demonstration that the prime minister’s deal would be bad for Northern Ireland,” said Jeffrey Donaldson, the party’s chief whip. “The DUP warned the prime minister about this. Despite his protestations, the facts are in black and white. That is why we opposed the deal in the House of Commons and why Northern Ireland needs the deal changed.”

The DUP accused Johnson of selling-out loyalists in Northern Ireland to get his agreement with the EU. The deal “siphons off” the province from the rest of the U.K. by introducing checks on trade across the Irish Sea, the party’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said at the time.

Tory Lead Narrows, Corbyn Unpopular: Poll (1:05 p.m.)

The Conservatives hold a 12-point lead over Labour, narrowing by four points from two weeks ago, according to the latest Ipsos Mori poll for the Evening Standard newspaper. Support for Johnson’s Conservatives stood unchanged at 44%, while Labour gained four points at 32%.

Johnson’s net personal ratings are at -20, lower than Theresa May’s a week before she lost her majority in 2017. But he can take solace from the fact that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s are significantly worse. His net rating is -44, lower than at this stage of the 2017 campaign and the lowest for a major party leader going into an election since records began, according to Ipsos Mori.

Tories: Document Released by Corbyn ‘Flash Analysis’ (1 p.m.)

The Conservative Party said the Treasury document released by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (see 10:30 a.m.) was produced immediately after Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal was struck with Brussels and represents a “flash analysis” and is “based on a partial reading of the final deal.”

The party also said the document has not been seen by either Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid or Johnson. “It is an incomplete analysis,” the party said in an emailed statement.

Former Tory PM Major Backs Rebel Candidates (12:45 p.m.)

Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major endorsed three former Tory ministers -- David Gauke, Dominic Grieve and Anne Milton -- each of whom disobeyed Johnson over Brexit and are running against the party’s official candidates.

“Let me make one thing absolutely clear: none of them has left the Conservative Party, the Conservative Party has left them,” Major said in an emailed statement ahead of an event Friday where he’s expected to appear alongside former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. “Without such talent on its benches, Parliament will be the poorer, which is why -- if I were resident in any one of their constituencies -- they would have my vote.”

Major repeated his call for a second referendum on Brexit. Boris Johnson called Major’s intervention “very sad” during a campaign event in Kent. “I think that he’s wrong and I think he represents a view that is outdated,” he said.

Johnson Denies Brexit Means N. Ireland Checks (12 p.m.)

Boris Johnson dismissed as “complete nonsense” Labour’s statement that his Brexit deal would mean checks on goods passing between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, though he said he hadn’t read the government document Jeremy Corbyn’s party produced earlier (see 10:30 a.m.) to back up its position.

Speaking to journalists at a campaign event in Kent, Johnson said voters should “believe exactly what I say” on Brexit, and repeated his assertion that there would be no checks on goods traveling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. -- unless they were destined for the Republic of Ireland.

But the Treasury document released by Corbyn matches what government ministers, including Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay, have previously conceded: That some checks will be necessary on goods traveling in both directions.

At the event, Johnson attacked Corbyn’s decision not to pick a side in the second Brexit referendum the Labour leader has pledged to hold if he wins the election. He also repeated the line that the divorce deal with Brussels allows the country to leave the EU “as one whole U.K.” It’s a line his former Northern Irish allies, the Democratic Unionist Party, do not agree with.

Corbyn Says He’s a ‘Marmite’ Choice for Voters (11 a.m.)

Jeremy Corbyn acknowledged he’s a divisive figure among voters, a trait that’s borne out regularly in opinion polls. Following his speech in central London on Friday, he compared himself to Marmite -- a spread made from yeast extract that’s long been sold in the U.K. under the slogan “love it or hate it.”

Asked whether he’s turn-off for voters, Corbyn replied: “I think Marmite’s really good for you. Some people like it and some people don’t.”

Must Read: Britain’s Brexit Election Is Now a Referendum on Jeremy Corbyn

Corbyn has the lowest leadership satisfaction rating for any opposition leader since 1977, according to a recent poll by Ipsos Mori. Even some of his allies have commented on the issue. “There have been some reservations about Jeremy on the doorstep, because every single leader of every single political party is not to everyone’s taste,” Labour’s education spokeswoman Angela Rayner told Sky News last month.

Labour: Document Shows Threat to N. Ireland (10:30 a.m.)

The document presented by Jeremy Corbyn is a Treasury assessment of the economic and political impacts of the Northern Ireland protocol -- the part of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal covering how goods moving across the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain are checked and taxed.

According to the document, customs declarations and physical checks will be “highly disruptive” to the Northern Irish economy. The Treasury also says that 98% of Northern Irish exporters to Great Britain are small-to-medium sized enterprises, who are “likely to struggle to bear” the cost of these changes.

In terms of imports to Northern Ireland, high street goods are likely to increase in price. Johnson’s deal will constitute “tariff equivalents of 30% on purchases in Northern Ireland,” according to the document.

The document also appears to cast further doubt on Johnson’s repeated assertions that his withdrawal agreement takes the U.K. “whole and entire” from the EU. It’s not a new dispute -- the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which propped up the Tories in government, declined to back the Brexit deal because they said it treats the province differently to the rest of the U.K.

The deal “has the potential to separate Northern Ireland in practice from whole swathes of the U.K.’s internal market,” the document reads.

Corbyn Says Johnson Hiding Truth on Brexit Deal (10 a.m.)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn unveiled what he called a confidential government document he said proves that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hiding the truth about the impact of his Brexit deal on the U.K.

In a speech in London, Corbyn said the 15-page document “drives a coach and horses” through Johnson’s claim that there will be no border in the Irish Sea after Brexit and that it was a “great deal” for Northern Ireland. It shows, he said, that the government has admitted there will be customs declarations and security checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain.

“Johnson’s deal will be disastrous for businesses and jobs across the whole U.K.,” Corbyn said. “And the government’s confidential report confirms this.”

Gove Defends Johnson Swerving Neil Interview (9 a.m.)

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove denied that Boris Johnson is avoiding accountability by being the only major party leader not to do a televised interview with BBC journalist Andrew Neil. “The prime minister has done more than 100 interviews during the campaign so far,” Gove told BBC Radio. “It’s an unprecedented amount of scrutiny that the PM has allowed to happen.”

Neil himself challenged Johnson to agree to an interview at the end of his grilling of Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage on Thursday. “We have an interview prepared -- oven-ready, as Mr. Johnson likes to say,” he said.

Click here for Neil’s monologue.

“The theme running through our questions is trust, and why at so many times in his career in politics and journalism, critics and sometimes even those close to him have deemed him to be untrustworthy,” Neil said. “The prime minister of our nation will, at times, have to stand up to President Trump, President Putin, President Xi of China. It was surely not expecting too much that he spend half-an-hour standing up to me.”

Labour campaign coordinator Andrew Gwynne sent a complaint to the BBC Thursday, accusing the public broadcaster of being “complicit in giving the Conservative Party an unfair electoral advantage.” He said Labour had arranged party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the understanding Johnson had agreed the same terms.

Johnson has also declined an invitation to be questioned by ITV’s Julie Etchingham as part of her series of leader interviews. ITV said they will run a profile of Johnson featuring archival footage instead.

Earlier:

Britain’s Brexit Election Is Now a Referendum on Jeremy CorbynU.K. Election Primer: Britain’s Economic Future Held in BalanceThe Big Brexit Bet That Hasn’t Paid Off: Therese Raphael

--With assistance from Thomas Penny, Jessica Shankleman and Greg Ritchie.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net;Joe Mayes in London at jmayes9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Mark Williams

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