Jeremy Corbyn WILL take part in leader’s debate tonight despite Theresa May no-show

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

Jeremy Corbyn has decided he will now take part in tonight’s General Election debate, throwing the gauntlet down to Theresa May in the process.

The leader’s debate is being boycotted by the Prime Minister, who is instead sending Home Secretary Amber Rudd in her place.

But Mr Corbyn, who previously stated he would not take part in TV debates if Mrs May was not involved, has now announced he will be taking part in the BBC Election Debate.

Theresa May has refused to take part in the leaders’ debate (Rex)

The Labour leader will join the leaders of the Liberal Democrats, Ukip, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru, and the SNP’s leader at Westminster.

Speaking to a rally of supporters in Reading, Mr Corbyn issued a challenge to Mrs May to join him at the debate in Cambridge.

He said: “It’s very odd that we have an election campaign where we go out and talk to people all the time and the Prime Minister seems to have difficulties in meeting anyone or having a debate.

“There is a debate in Cambridge tonight.

“I don’t know what she is doing this evening, but it’s not far from London.

“I invite her to go to Cambridge and debate her policies, debate their record, debate their plans, debate their proposals and let the public make up their mind.”

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Before he announced he would take part, Mr Corbyn directly challenged Mrs May to debate him on television, which she has refused to do.

The Labour leader told a Westminster press conference on Wednesday morning: “There’s something very odd about going down to Sky the other night, me being brought in front of the audience, very happy to do so and answer questions from the audience, sat in front of Jeremy Paxman, an utter pleasure it was too, to be having a chat with Jeremy Paxman for a while, there’s no finer way to spend a Monday evening.

Jeremy Corbyn will appear on television after his successful spot on The One Show (BBC)

“And then the Prime Minister is hiding away in a room upstairs to come down and do exactly the same, how ridiculous is that?

“Come on Prime Minister, come and have a chat, come and have a debate and I can be ever so polite, but there are a number of questions I want to put to you.”

He added: “I know she’s not too busy because she’s not planning a debate today but why not change your mind? Come and have a debate.”

Hitting back at the Labour leader, the Prime Minister said she wanted to speak directly to voters and answer their questions rather than “squabbling” with other party leaders.

She said: “I’ve been very clear from the start that the sort of campaign I want to do is about meeting people and taking questions.

The Prime Minister has defended her decision to boycott the debate (Rex)

“I’ve not been off the television screens, I’ve been doing things on the television, but predominantly taking questions from voters and listening to voters.

“I think debates where the politicians are squabbling amongst themselves doesn’t do anything for the process of electioneering.

“I think it’s actually about getting out and about, meeting voters and hearing directly from voters.”

A laughing Mrs May added: “I’m interested in the fact that Jeremy Corbyn seems to be paying far more attention to how many appearances on telly he is doing. I think he ought to be paying a little more attention to thinking about Brexit negotiations.”

Mr Corbyn is riding high after a successful appearance The One Show last night, where he was praised for his “warmth”.

Corbyn will take on the leaders of smaller political parties (Rex)

He has now cancelled planned appearances at stump events in Swindon and Stroud, and a rally in Bristol off the back of the interview.

Also appearing in the BBC debate will be Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, Ukip’s Paul Nuttall, Green co-leader Caroline Lucas, Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and the SNP’s depute leader Angus Robertson, who leads the party’s MPs at Westminster.

Ms Lucas welcomed Mr Corbyn’s decision, saying: “Great news, Jeremy Corbyn. Now will Theresa May crawl out from where’s she’s hiding to debate?”

She added: “Theresa May said she called this election because of the actions of other parties, yet she’s unwilling to debate with us on the big issues of the day.

“It is a sign of extreme weakness for a Prime Minister to avoid these debates.”

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: “It is a shame Jeremy Corbyn didn’t come to the ITV debate, but it’s good he has changed his mind and is coming to the BBC one tonight.”

Top pic: Rex