General election TV debates: Date, time and how to watch Sunak vs Starmer

Sunak and Starmer
Starmer and Sunak will go head to head in the first of various TV election debates on June 4

The first head-to-head election debate between Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer will take place at 9pm on Tuesday, ITV has confirmed.

The broadcaster is set to host the first televised event with both major political party leaders on June 4 – exactly one month before the general election takes place.

The debate will set the tone for further debates taking place in the weeks leading up to the general election on July 4, including an ITV broadcast featuring representatives from all seven main political parties in a “multi-party” discussion.

The BBC will broadcast the first of its election debates on June 7, with leading figures from the seven main parties.

On June 20 there will be a Question Time special with leaders from the four parties.

The schedule builds up to what is expected to be the final televised debate of the election campaign, which will be a head to head between Sir Keir and Mr Sunak on June 26, a week before the nation goes to the polls.

On June 13, senior representatives from the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Reform UK, Green Party and Plaid Cymru will all have an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the latest opinion polls.

The announcements from ITV came after the Tories pressed Sir Keir to take part in a record six debates during the six-week election campaign.

Labour headquarters had indicated instead that their leader would take part in two head-to-head debates, matching what Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn did in the 2019 election campaign.

Conservative sources had dubbed the Opposition leader “the knight that won’t fight” and “Sir Fear Starmer” after he failed to sign up to their weekly debate demand.

However, more debates are expected between different party leaders, with Sky News, LBC, Channel Four and GB News all believed to be bidding for some form of debate or audience question session.

Live TV election debates have been held in the UK since 2010 and will take place in the weeks running up to polling day.

When is the first leaders’ TV debate?

ITV has confirmed the specifics of the first general election debate, which will be held on June 4 and titled Sunak v Starmer: The ITV Debate.

Taking place exactly one month before the UK will head to the polls, the programme will last for an hour and start at 9pm.

Michael Jermey, ITV’s director of news and current affairs, said: “Millions of viewers value the election debates. They provide a chance to see and hear the party leaders set out their pitch to the country, debate directly with each other and take questions from voters.

“ITV is pleased to be broadcasting the first debate in this year’s election campaign.”

What time is the Sunak v Starmer debate?

ITV has confirmed the debate will be broadcast at 9pm on June 4.

It will be moderated by Julie Etchingham, the ITV News anchor, and take place live in front of a studio audience. Ms Etchingham previously moderated general election debates in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

The programme will be made and produced by MultiStory Media, part of ITV Studios.

Who will take part in Sunak v Starmer?

As the name suggests, the debate will see Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer go head to head, although other parties expressed desire to get involved.

Nigel Farage, the honorary president of Reform UK, had attempted to get involved, challenging Mr Sunak to a live TV debate on immigration.

But the Tories declined the challenge. A party spokesman said: “We respect Nigel but there’s only two people who can be prime minister at the end of this campaign, Rishi or Starmer, and that’s who should be up on stage debating each other.”

The party leaders in 2017, Theresa May and Mr Corbyn, skipped the TV debates and were criticised for it. Mrs May, who eventually lost her majority in the election, later said she regretted not taking part.

In 2015, the party leaders held a debate that was shown on Sky News. Separately, there was a live television interview with Jeremy Paxman and the Conservatives’ Lord Cameron and Labour’s Ed Miliband. It was jointly broadcast by Channel 4, Sky and the BBC News channel.

In 2010, when the first election TV debates were held in the UK, Labour’s Gordon Brown, Lord Cameron, and Nick Clegg debated three times on BBC, ITV and Sky.

When are the BBC debates?

The first BBC televised debate programme will be held on Friday June 7, and will feature “leading figures” from the seven biggest political parties in Britain.

Less than a fortnight later, there will be a Question Time “Leaders’ Special” on June 20, featuring leaders of the Conservatives, Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats and Labour Party.

The BBC will host what is likely to be the final TV debate of the campaign, with a head-to-head between Mr Sunak and Sir Keir to be held on June 26 that will be hosted by Sophie Raworth in Nottingham.

Sir Keir agreed to the head to head debate with the Prime Minister, but Labour confirmed he would not be attending the debate involving seven party leaders on June 7.

When is the following ITV multi-party debate? 

After Sunak v Starmer has taken place, the channel will give other five political parties the chance to have their say in a larger debate involving all seven of the main parties.

The debate will be followed immediately by The ITV Election Interviews presented by Anushka Asthana at 10.10pm.

What time is the wider party debate?

The programme will start at 8.30pm and run for 90 minutes, also involving moderation from Julie Etchingham, who is set to oversee Sunak v Starmer: The ITV Debate.

The debate will also take place in front of a live audience.

Who will take part in the larger ITV debate?

Leaders or senior representatives from the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Reform UK, Green Party and Plaid Cymru will all take part.

This means that Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer might not appear in this debate following their own head-to-head sparring session.

There was also a debate involving the seven main parties in 2019.

What channel are both debates on?

ITV confirmed it will broadcast the programme on ITV1 and STV and its streaming services, ITVX and STV Player.

Its has also previously broadcast significant events, such as PMQs and political speeches, live on its YouTube channel.

Will the debates clash with any football fixtures?

The BBC has managed to avoid a clash with any Men’s European Championship fixtures with its debate schedule.

England will play Denmark on June 20, the same day as the Question Time Leaders’ Special, but at an earlier kick-off time at 5pm.

ITV have had to move the England Women’s Euros match with France, which had been due to air on ITV1, to ITV4 as a result of a clash on June 4.

Football fans and politics watchers will however be torn on June 7, when the BBC’s debate with the seven parties clashes with England’s international warm-up with Iceland on Channel 4.

When is the general election?

It was confirmed that the UK will head to the polls on July 4 by the Prime Minister, who made the announcement on May 22 in a raid-sodden speech outside No 10.

Both he and the other party leaders have been on the campaign trail since then trying to win over voters. However, the polls currently make for grim reading for the Tories given Labour’s 20 percentage point lead.