UKIP leader Paul Nuttall brightened up an otherwise uneventful leaders' TV debate Thursday night by repeatedly calling Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood "Natalie" for no discernible reason.
Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May failed to show up to the two-hour debate, which was shown on ITV, leaving Nuttall and Wood to fight it out with Lib Dem Tim Farron, the Green party's Caroline Lucas, and the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon.
The leaders, other than Nuttall, broadly agreed on most topics, which stifled the debate. Instead, most of their arguments were directed to the absent prime minister and the leader of the Labour party in the assumption they were watching at home.
The UKIP leader provided the most memorable events of the evening when he called the Plaid Cymru leader "Natalie", to which she replied: "I'm not Natalie, I'm Leanne". Nuttall then repeated his error shortly afterwards.
On the second time of being called "Natalie" by Nuttall, Wood complained to him and he apologised, while Lucas joked that he was having trouble with "women's names" and Sturgeon raised her eyebrows and laughed to herself.
The debate largely focused on Brexit, the economy, and the NHS, while all the leaders united to criticise the absent May and Corbyn. However, Sturgeon joked that pro-Brexit Nuttall was May's "spokesperson".
Several of the policies that May announced earlier in the day at her party's manifesto launch came under criticism from the leaders, including the abolition of free school meals in English schools and a cap on immigration.
Sturgeon accused May of lacking the "guts" to turn up and debate against the five other party leaders, and said the European migrants whose futures could be jeapordised by Brexit include thousands of NHS workers.
In the absence of May or Corbyn, the leaders spent a lot of time ridiculing Nuttall – particularly when he said there would be an "EU dividend" returned to the UK once it leaves the EU.
On claiming the UK will save £10 billion a year in "membership fees", the four other leaders erupted in laughter and reminded Nuttall of Vote Leave's pledge to give £350 million a week to the NHS.
"The bus is going to come driving past at any minute", joked the SNP leader, referring to the infamous campaign bus that promised the NHS funds during last year's referendum on EU membership.
Speaking after the debate, Conservative party chairman Patrick McLoughlin said the event gave voters an idea of the "coalition of chaos" that he believes would support Corbyn's bid to become prime minister after the election.
“Tonight gave a glimpse of the chaos you could get in just three weeks with all the other parties propping up Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister," said McLoughlin. “Getting Brexit right is central to everything – and it’s clear this coalition of chaos just want to return to division, and would undermine our Brexit negotiation and Britain’s long-term economic security. It’s too big a risk and we’d all pay the price with higher taxes, more debt and fewer jobs."
The SNP's Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, said Sturgeon had provided a "clear, articulate case for progressive politics" across the UK and again criticised May for failing to show up to the debate.
“Theresa May was maybe too scared to have taken part in tonight’s debate, but her spokesperson Paul Nuttall made sure that the hard-right platform of the Tory party was very much on show," Robertson said. “It is this UKIP-driven agenda which makes this election so important – we need MPs who will stand up for a fairer society and keep the hard-right Tories in check.
"Now more than ever, it is vital that we have strong SNP voices standing up for Scotland."
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at email@example.com.
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