Jeremy Corbyn was hammered by the audience on Question Time tonight as he struggled to convince voters he is fit to be PM.
The Labour leader was immediately asked whether business should be ‘frightened’ of a left-wing government as he ran the gauntlet of the flagship BBC show.
Another audience member said: ‘Your reckless socialist ideas are genuinely terrifying for me and my family.’
And then Mr Corbyn reeled as he was confronted by more voters over ‘misogynism’ and anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. ‘Why do female MPs need bodyguards at party conference?’ one man said.
They highlighted an incident when Mr Corbyn chatted happily to a protester who had just barracked Labour MP Ruth Smeeth in 2016.
Mr Corbyn was booed when he tried to explain Labour’s convoluted position on Brexit – insisting he would take a ‘neutral stance’ rather than backing Leave or Remain. ‘I’m trying to explain our position,’ he said.
The veteran also floundered as he defended the party’s pledge to nationalist chunks of BT and offer free broadband to everyone in the country – which experts say would cost £100billion.
He initially claimed that South Korea had a similar system and everyone received free broadband, before admitting that many people there still paid for the service.
Mr Corbyn is desperately trying to overhaul the Tory advantage in the polls, which has been running at up to 17 points and consistently in double figures.
Such a margin of victory on December 12 would be more than enough to deliver Mr Johnson the overall majority he craves to ‘get Brexit done’.
Labour launched its most left-wing manifesto for decades yesterday, pledging to hike taxes by £83billion to fund a massive public spending splurge and nationalisation of swathes of the economy.
The party insists only the wealthy will have to pay more tax.
Mr Johnson is due to take to the stage at approximately 8.30pm – with both SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and the Lib Dems’ Jo Swinson slated for their own 30 minute slots after Mr Corbyn.
Jeremy Corbyn faced a battle to convince voters he is fit to be PM tonight as he was grilled on Question Time
Jeremy Corbyn brandished a copy of Labour’s manifesto as he arrived at the Question Time special venue in Sheffield tonight
Boris Johnson (pictured on a hospital visit to Bassetlaw today) and Mr Corbyn will both run the gauntlet of the BBC Question Time audience tonight
Nicola Sturgeon (left) and Jo Swinson (right) arrived in Sheffield for the QT special tonight. Each leader will face 30 minutes of audience questions
In one toe-curling clash. a man told Mr Corbyn: ‘I heard you talk about free speech and standing up for human rights.
‘I have two young daughters and what terrifies me is some of the Labour MPs, some of the female MPs, and the misogyny that has happened in the Labour Party.
‘They have been driven out of the party. I look at a video on YouTube of Ruth Smeeth particularly, because and I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt in terms of maybe people aren’t doing it in your name.
‘But I look at a video of Ruth Smeeth online where she was in a press conference with you and Ruth Smeeth, a Jewish MP, was heckled out of the press conference and there you are at the end of the press conference chatting happily to that same heckler.
‘I don’t buy this whole nice old grandpa. I see that video and that tells me all I need to know and I am terrified for my daughters because I see what you did in that video.
‘I don’t understand how you can say you stand up for human rights and free speech when that is how you support a Labour MP at a Labour press conference.
‘I think that is disgraceful.’
Mr Corbyn responded: ‘Nobody should suffer any abuse in public life or privately.’
The audience member hit back and said: ‘Watch the video.’
It is the second major TV showdown of the campaign so far – after the pair went head-to-head in an ITV special earlier this week.
That clash was generally seen as a draw, with Mr Johnson hammering his opponent over his muddled Brexit stance, while the Labour leader got in his key attack lines on the NHS.
This time they will be interrogated separately for 30 minutes by members of the public in the audience, with host Fiona Bruce trying to keep order.
Despite focus groups conducted for polling expert Lord Ashcroft in constituencies in the north of England last night suggested voters are highly sceptical of populist giveaways such as free broadband for everyone.
Worryingly for Mr Corbyn polling in the constituency of Great Grimsby this week found that the Brexit Party has been siphoning off Labour votes – apparently supporting Nigel Farage’s repeated claim that he will not split the Eurosceptic vote.
There is still time for things to change, with the leaders facing the potential for disaster in unpredictable TV specials like Question Time.
During last night’s regular edition of the show, a motorbike-loving £80,000-a-year IT consultant sparked a huge row after savaging Mr Corbyn’s plan to ‘super-tax’ hard-working Britons.
Rob ‘Bullet’ Barber lashed out at shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon for his party’s policy of imposing £83billion in new taxes to fund Mr Corbyn’s massive spending spree.
The 38-year-old IT consultant and high-profile motorcycle racer from Bury was cheered to the rafters as he vented his rage at the left-wing raid, saying it was a ‘lie’ that Labour was only targeting the very wealthy and billionaires.
But Mr Barber also had some viewers scratching their heads after claiming he was not in the top 5 per cent of earners, despite saying his salary was more than £80,000.
Among a slew of punishing tax rises in the Labour manifesto published yesterday was a new 45p tax rate for those earning over £80,000.
Mr Corbyn (pictured in Stoke-on-Trent today) will be first up for a grilling, while Mr Johnson is due to take to his feet around 8.30pm
Richard Barber accused Richard Burgeon’s party of railing against billionaires and the uber-wealthy, but actually pledging policies which would rinse the pockets of ordinary employees
Nigel Farage today unveiled and signed the Brexit Party’s ‘contract with the people’ which set out a series of policy pledges. He is not taking part in this evening’s event
The scale of the challenge facing Mr Corbyn was illustrated today after a new poll found that less than a quarter of British voters like the Labour leader.
Some 44 per cent of people who took part in a Ipsos MORI survey said they like Mr Johnson.
But just 23 per cent said the same of Mr Corbyn. That number ranks as the lowest likeability rating for a Tory or Labour leader recorded by the polling company since 2007.
Overall, the poll put support for the Tories at 44 per cent, up three points on a month ago, while Labour is up four points to 28 per cent.
Mr Farage will not be taking part in this evening’s Question Time event but he tried to get his election campaign back on track today as he set out his vision for Britain.
He launched the Brexit Party’s election ‘contract’ with the British people as he pledged to abolish the House of Lords and scrap the BBC licence fee.
He also outlined a pledge to make it easier for people to force a referendum on crunch issues.
The Brexit Party wants to introduce ‘Citizens’ Initiatives’ to allow people to demand a national ballot if they are able to secure the signatures of at least five million registered voters.
Mr Farage insisted there would be a decade time limit on repeating votes on the same issue.
But the proposal does raise the prospect of a ‘Neverendum’ series of votes on the UK’s EU membership.
Tonight’s Question Time event represents a risk for Mr Johnson, pictured pouring a cup of tea at a hospital in Nottinghamshire today, given his lead in the polls
But Mr Corbyn will be hoping to use the big set piece event to overhaul the Tory lead. The Labour leader is pictured today at Fenton Town Hall