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Battle for Number Ten: Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn put on the spot in live TV grilling

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May were forced to defend their records as they faced a live TV grilling.

The Prime Minister came under fire from members of the studio audience over her cuts to public services and her plans for social care.

Mr Corbyn faced questioning on his attitude to security issues and past comments about the IRA and the Falklands War.

Appearing on a Sky News/Channel 4 "Battle for Number 10" broadcast, the Labour leader refused to be drawn on whether he would authorise a drone strike against a terrorist plotting overseas to attack the UK.

"It is a hypothetical question," he said. "We have to look at the evidence that is there at the time to make that fatal decision one way or the other."

Mr Corbyn, a lifelong opponent of nuclear weapons who has made clear that he would never authorise their use, nevertheless indicated he would issue the customary final instructions to the commanders of the Trident submarine fleet if he became prime minister.

"I will write the appropriate letter to our commanders who are obviously very responsible, very loyal naval officers," he said.

During her grilling from the studio audience, Mrs May was accused by a police officer of presiding over "devastating" cuts, asked by a midwife to justify her "chronic underfunding" of the NHS and heckled over school funding.

The Prime Minister insisted that she was determined to do the right thing for the country, referring to her reputation as a "bloody difficult woman".

"Doing what is the right thing by the country. Sometimes you have to be difficult in order to do that," she said.

"We need to have a government that is open about these things and is willing to find ways of addressing them.

"If in order to address them and do the right thing by the country, it takes being a difficult woman, then that's exactly what I will be."

Mrs May also reaffirmed that she would walk away from the forthcoming Brexit negotiations without a deal rather than accept a "bad" deal.

"I think you have to. In negotiations you have to recognise that you're not in there to get a deal at any price."

Under the format agreed by the two parties, the two leaders each faced 20 minutes of questions from the audience with a further 18 minutes in front of interviewer Jeremy Paxman, with Mr Corbyn going first.

During her grilling from the studio audience, Mrs May was accused by a police officer of presiding over "devastating" cuts, asked by a midwife to justify her "chronic underfunding" of the NHS and heckled over school funding.

The Prime Minister insisted that she was determined to do the right thing for the country, referring to her reputation as a "bloody difficult woman".

"Doing what is the right thing by the country. Sometimes you have to be difficult in order to do that," she said.

"We need to have a government that is open about these things and is willing to find ways of addressing them.

"If in order to address them and do the right thing by the country, it takes being a difficult woman, then that's exactly what I will be."

Mrs May also reaffirmed that she would walk away from the forthcoming Brexit negotiations without a deal rather than accept a "bad" deal.

"I think you have to. In negotiations you have to recognise that you're not in there to get a deal at any price."

Under the format agreed by the two parties, the two leaders each faced 20 minutes of questions from the audience with a further 18 minutes in front of interviewer Jeremy Paxman, with Mr Corbyn going first.

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Twitterati poke fun

The pair's appearance on the Sky News/Channel 4 "Battle for Number 10" broadcast is trending on Twitter with popular hashtags including #BattleForNumber10 and #mayvcorbyn, while thousands of tweets made reference to the programme's hosts Jeremy Paxman and Faisal Islam. 

Jim Pickard tweeted: "Love the audience guy who stood up to give May standing ovation then sheepishly sat down when he realised he was alone."

George Hales appeared to be referencing Mrs May's "no deal is better than a bad deal" comment by tweeting: "No debate is better than a bad debate."

Alastair Stewart tweeted: "TM just about managing the 'just about managing' question."

But Mrs May had a clear supporter in the form of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who tweeted: "Jezza was dodging questions & denying his past. We need a PM who'll stand up & make the tough decisions - that's Theresa."

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon was scathing in her assessment of Mrs May's performance, tweeting: "It has become painfully clear in last half hour why the PM is dodging leaders' debates in this election."

Kevin Maguire described Mr Corbyn's interaction with Mr Paxman by writing: "Corbyn adopting the tone with Paxo of a kindly neighbour explaining to the oddball next door why the bins must be put out on a Tuesday."

Matthew Champion's tweet appeared to have a sarcastic air about it as he wrote: "Great to see Paxman quizzing Corbyn on the pressing issues of the election like the Falklands and abolishing the monarchy."

Sophie Long tweeted: "Look at his lovely smile and socialist ways. That man would rather die than kill a fox. #MAYvCORBYN"

Owen Jones' assessment of the political quizzing was: "This is like watching a bemused polite commuter being accosted by someone who's had one too many #BattleForNumber10"

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