UNSURPRISINGLY, the names lighting up the columns yesterday were Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson, hot on the heels of the leadership debate on ITV on Tuesday night. Here’s what the papers had to say.

The Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph leader is clear that Boris Johnson is the best bet to lead the UK after the General Election, writing that judging by the debate, “the country must pray” that Mr Johnson wins re-election.

Mr Corbyn, according to the paper, “sought to portray himself as an avuncular, unifying figure when his party’s policy prospectus would wreck the economy and delay Brexit, thereby adding to the uncertainty that has paralysed politics and business.

“Even though the cause of the election is Brexit, Mr Corbyn hardly mentioned it in his opening and closing remarks, preferring a reprise of Labour’s 2017 pitch to make an offer of ‘real change for the many not the few’ while demonising wealth creators. But nothing can happen until Brexit is resolved; and Labour’s policy of a fresh renegotiation followed by another referendum is a recipe for greater dither and delay.”

But the clash was a “deeply unsatisfactory event and not the gladiatorial set-to that was billed. It was not so much a debate as a succession of truncated sound bites, with Julie Etchingham never allowing an argument to develop between the two men.

“For Mr Johnson this debate was a gamble. Incumbent prime ministers, especially those leading in the polls, rarely agree to such

an encounter because the risks are so great of something going wrong. But it was a gamble that largely

paid off.”

The Times

The Times leader noted the Boris Johnson took a risk agreeing to the debate but “the prime minister failed to land a decisive blow against Jeremy Corbyn”.

“Since Mr Corbyn only needed to exceed rock bottom expectations, the risk was that this debate was Mr Johnson’s to lose.

“The Labour leader’s inability to answer whether he would back Leave or Remain in a Brexit referendum on a deal that he would have negotiated provoked laughter from the audience. Mr Johnson by contrast succeeded in grabbing every opportunity to emphasise his central message that only he could get Brexit done, which also provoked groans from the audience.” But, “too often the Prime Minister waffled and came across as repetitive , while it was Mr Corbyn whose answers on domestic policy often came across as more coherent.”

“As during the leadership contest last summer, the debate showed again that Mr Johnson is not comfortable with this kind of encounter. Whether that will have any bearing on the election remains to be seen. It is unclear what effects such debates have on public opinion.”

The longer lasting effect of the debate “will only become clear over the coming days as the highlights are clipped, shared and twisted on social media.

“Meanwhile the two candidates will face each other again on December 12. On the evidence of last night. It is Mr Johnson who will have most to lose.”

Daily Record

Political editor Paul Hutcheon wrote the debate “was always always a threat to Boris Johnson and an opportunity for Jeremy Corbyn.

“With Labour trailing in the polls, Corbyn was the candidate for Prime Minister who desperately needed a boost.

“The live TV setting gave the Labour leader the chance to bypass the print media he dislikes so much and communicate directly to voters. Corbyn probably shaded the debate – Johnson’s flippant nature shone through – but not in a way that will seriously alter the polls.”

He went on to say: “Corbyn was at his best when accusing Johnson of wanting to sell off the NHS and comfortable when criticising austerity. His words of rebuke for Prince Andrew’s also stood in contrast to the weasel words of Johnson, who fell back on instinctive support for the royal family.”

The Guardian

Jonathan Freedland wrote: “It was Labour that needed to shake things up, with a Corbyn performance so spellbinding it forced voters to take a second look, shaking up the campaign. Though the Labour leader had some good moments, he did not deliver that.

“Johnson had the clearer plan: to haul the conversation back to Brexit no matter the topic. He did it again and again. He won’t mind if there was a groundhog day quality to his answers: he had one message to ram home and he did it.”