JEREMY Corbyn faced accusations by Home Secretary Amber Rudd he believes in “fantasy economics” and “a magic money tree” in last night’s live BBC TV debate.

The Labour leader responded to the jibe by grilling Ms Rudd about whether she had even been to a food bank or seen a rough sleeper.

He asked Ms Rudd: “Have you ever seen people sleeping around our stations? Have you seen the levels of poverty that exist because of your government’s conscious decision on benefits?”

He highlighted his plans for an end to the public sector pay cap and the introduction of a £10 an hour living wage by 2020 in the debate in Cambridge.

With polling day in a week’s time, Mr Corbyn had earlier predicted his party was on course for victory after a YouGov/Times poll suggested the Tories would fall short of an overall majority by 16 seats leading to a hung parliament.

But a new poll for Kantar put the Conservatives back ahead, on 43 per cent compared to Labour’s 33, with the Liberal Democrats on 11.

But there was praise for Ms Rudd, who held the fort in the seven-party debate after the Prime Minister Theresa May declined to take part. It emerged that the Home Secretary’s father had died on Monday. 

She defended the Tories’ welfare record saying they had taken low
earners out of income tax and increased the amount of money paid out in disability benefits.

But Ms Rudd was laughed at by the studio audience in Cambridge as she called for voters to “judge us on our record” on public finances.

“We have cut the deficit, we have reduced taxes for the lowest paid and we have made sure we have continued to invest in the NHS, which is getting another £8 billion a year by the end of this parliament,” she said.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson said Mrs May did not have the “guts” to explain her plans for pensioners, while others claimed the Prime Minister had been too lazy to show up. 

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said Ms Rudd’s response on disability benefits was “downright insulting”.

Mr Corbyn also clashed with the Ukip leader Paul Nuttall over corporation tax, insisting it was “complete nonsense” to warn that Labour’s plans to increase the levy could put jobs in jeopardy.

Mr Farron accused the Conservatives of running an immigration policy to “appease Ukip”, and drew applause when he highlighted the case of an Asian doctor who was spat at and abused as he returned home after treating the injured in the Manchester bomb attack.

“That is what happens if you demonise immigrants,” he said.

“Do we need, as I’m afraid the Prime Minister has done for the last seven years, to set completely barmy, bogus targets that she fails to meet every year. No we don’t.”

Last night a YouGov snapshot for the Times put the Tories on 
42 per cent, down one point from a comparable poll on May 27, and Labour on 39 per cent, up three points.