Boris Johnson tees up Brexit showdown with Jeremy Corbyn in crunch ITV debate

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Boris Johnson lashed out at Jeremy Corbyn for 'absurd dither and delay' over Brexit tonight as they face off in a crunch TV election debate.

With just over three weeks to go until the nation goes to the ballot boxes, the two leaders exchanged vicious barbs in the ITV special. Mr Johnson insisted he is determined to 'get Brexit done', and warned that all Labour had to offer was 'dither and delay, deadlock and division' with more referendums.

'We don't know on which side Mr Corbyn will campaign. Will he campaign for Leave or Remain?' he demanded, saying there was a 'void at the heart of his policy'. 

The premier also laid into the veteran left-winger for doing a 'deal' with Nicola Sturgeon, saying he would need SNP support to govern - and was willing to meet their red line of allowing a new Scottish independence referendum. 

But Mr Corbyn said he was offering 'real change' and would deliver 'for the many'. He said he would negotiate another deal, a referendum would happen within six months, and he would 'implement the choice'.

He said: 'We will negotiate an agreement and we will put that alongside Remain in a referendum and our government will abide by that result. 

'There will be a genuine choice put before the people of Britain and we will carry that out.' 

The pair clashed bitterly over the NHS, with Mr Corbyn accusing the government of wanting to 'sell out' the health service in a trade deal with the US. Mr Johnson insisted the idea was 'total invention'. 

The PM was handed a major boost earlier with a poll showing the Tories surging into an 18-point lead over Labour, helped by crumbling Brexit Party support - enough to give him the outright majority he craves.

But Mr Corbyn's team know his underdog status means that even just holding his own in the exchanges this evening could help turn the tables.

HOW WILL TONIGHT'S ITV DEBATE WORK  

The two leaders are going head-to-head in a television studio for the first time tonight on ITV at 8pm. 

The hour-long debate, hosted by Julie Etchingham, is being split into two halves, with the first devoted to Brexit.

ITV viewers have submitted questions which have been chosen to 'broadly reflect a range of society, from different political backgrounds,' according to the broadcaster. 

There will be a live audience of around 200 people at Media City in Salford.

Both leaders will stand behind lecterns, side by side on the stage.

They will get one minute each to make an opening statement and 45 seconds for a closing statement.

Jeremy Corbyn will go first with both after the two sides drew lots. 

It is the first time in UK political history that the two prospective candidates for PM have gone head-to-head on television during a campaign. In 2010, David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg were involved in the equivalent battle. 

The hour-long programme in Salford is being refereed by Julie Etchingham. The first half will focus on Brexit, before the debate moves on to wider policy issues.  

A dramatic Kantar poll published earlier found the Tories were up eight points on 45 per cent, with Labour trailing far behind and stalled on 27 per cent.

Most of the Conservative advance over the past week was down to plummeting ratings for the Brexit Party.

It was down seven points to just 2 per cent after Nigel Farage withdrew more than half his candidates to avoid splitting the Eurosceptic vote on December 12. 

The lead would be enough to deliver a big majority for Mr Johnson if it was replicated evenly across the country. 

However, a separate survey for YouGov was slightly less rosy for the Tories - showing their advantage coming down from 17 points at the end of last week to a still healthy 12 points.   

Mr Johnson insisted is is determined to 'get Brexit done', and warned that all Labour had to offer was 'dither and delay, deadlock and division' with more referendums

Mr Corbyn said he was offering 'real change' and would deliver 'for the many'

Mr Johnson insisted is is determined to 'get Brexit done', and warned that all Labour had to offer was 'dither and delay, deadlock and division' with more referendums. Mr Corbyn said he was offering 'real change' and would deliver 'for the many'

With just over three weeks to go until the nation goes to the ballot boxes, the two leaders drew battle lines in the ITV special as they set out their pitch to voters

With just over three weeks to go until the nation goes to the ballot boxes, the two leaders drew battle lines in the ITV special as they set out their pitch to voters

Mr Corbyn posed for photographs with members of the public as he arrived for the debate in Salford tonight

Mr Corbyn posed for photographs with members of the public as he arrived for the debate in Salford tonight

The Kantar poll this evening found the Tories were up eight points on 45 per cent, with Labour trailing far behind and stalled on 27 per cent

Mr Johnson was in fighting mood earlier as he visited Jimmy Egan's Boxing Academy in Manchester - where Tyson Fury trains

Mr Johnson was in fighting mood earlier as he visited Jimmy Egan's Boxing Academy in Manchester - where Tyson Fury trains

Nigel Farage was trying to keep his spirits up in Peterborough today as he joined Brexit Party candidate Mike Greene on the campaign trail

Nigel Farage was trying to keep his spirits up in Peterborough today as he joined Brexit Party candidate Mike Greene on the campaign trail  

Mr Johnson travelled with his partner Carrie Symonds to the event - their first joint appearance of the election campaign.

This morning the premier posed in Jimmy Egan's Boxing Academy in Manchester - with 'Get Brexit Done' across his boxing gloves.

Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn opted for a more leisurely pre-debate routine, posting pictures of himself visiting a barber for a beard trim. 

Boris Johnson's four questions for Jeremy Corbyn 

1. You are proposing a second referendum on EU membership. In that referendum, would you recommend the UK should remain or leave?

2. Your previous manifesto promised to end freedom of movement, but following your conference it is now Labour Party policy to 'maintain and extend' free movement. Would you end, maintain or extend free movement, and would immigration be higher or lower under Corbyn's Labour?

3. Asked on Sunday if you were prepared to continue to pay into the EU budget on an ongoing basis, you replied 'clearly if you want access to a market there are costs involved'. How much would you be willing to pay into the EU budget in return for 'access to markets'?

4. All 635 Conservative candidates standing at this election have pledged to me that, if elected, they will vote in Parliament to pass my Brexit deal. Can you guarantee that every Labour candidate supports your Brexit policy?

As he arrived at the venue this evening he said he had braced himself for the face-off by 'eating a Caesar salad' and 'drinking cups of tea'. 

Mr Johnson has promised to launch a full-frontal political attack on Mr Corbyn with an ultimatum to stop 'dithering' on his Brexit plans. 

But Mr Corbyn is laying out a populist hard-Left platform, after he pledged to spend up to £100billion nationalising chunks of BT to provide free broadband for everyone. 

In fresh evidence that Labour is abandoning the traditional centre ground, shadow chancellor John McDonnell today vowed to target 'obscene' billionaires, force private firms to slash pay for top executives, and oust companies from the London Stock Exchange if they do not meet climate change targets. 

The Prime Minister issued a challenge to his Labour counterpart warning that failure to answer on key points would leave the public with 'no choice but to conclude that Corbyn's Labour, propped up by the SNP, will mean dither, delay and uncertainty'.

In a letter published by the Tories last night he set Mr Corbyn four questions to answer: how he would vote in a second Brexit referendum, what Labour's position on freedom of movement is, how much he would pay the EU for 'market access', and whether all of his MPs would back his Brexit policy. 

Tory sources said the Prime Minister would use the debate to hammer home his central message that only the Conservatives can be relied upon to deliver Brexit – while also raising concerns about Labour's opposition to immigration  controls.

But Mr McDonnell made clear that Labour is also spoiling for a fight, declaring war on the wealthy and business in a speech in London earlier.

He vowed to target 'obscene' billionaires, force private firms to slash pay for top executives, and oust companies from the London Stock Exchange if they do not meet climate change targets.

In a fresh lurch to the Left, the shadow chancellor said it was 'obscene' that people could become billionaires, saying 'no-one deserves to have that kind of money'.

The veteran socialist said bosses at firms with public sector contracts should not be paid more than around £350,000.

He hailed Labour's proposals to force medium-sized firms to give 10 per cent of their shares to workers, and bolster union power by having a third of their board made up of staff. Companies who fail to meet objectives to tackle climate change also faced being 'delisted' from the stock exchange.

And Mr McDonnell vowed to neuter the 'Big Four' accountancy companies, saying he would create a new state-backed auditor to stop them behaving like a 'cartel'. 

Labour declares war on wealthy in fresh lurch to the hard-Left 

John McDonnell declared war on the wealthy and business tonight as he vowed to target 'obscene' billionaires, force private firms to slash pay for top executives, and oust companies from the London Stock Exchange if they do not meet climate change targets.

In a fresh lurch to the Left, the shadow chancellor said it was 'obscene'

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