What time is the BBC election debate tonight? How to watch TV special

Sunak and Starmer debate
Sunak and Starmer debate

The first head-to-head clash between Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer on June 4 kicked off a series of TV debates in the countdown to the general election.

Millions of viewers tuned in to watch the Prime Minister take on the Labour leader on ITV for the first of a slew of political debates happening to win over voters ahead of July 4.

The two men clashed over policies including tax, ending the junior doctors’ strike, social care and immigration over the hour-long discussion, giving audiences a taste of what to expect in upcoming programmes.

It set the tone for the next BBC debate this evening which will see Nigel Farage, Penny Mordaunt and Angela Rayner have their say alongside with four other leading party representatives.

Both ITV and the BBC will host more debates in an array of formats giving different leaders the opportunity to make a lasting impact on the latest opinion polls.

Here is the full debate schedule at a glance:

When is the next general election TV debate?

The next upcoming general election TV debate will be a discussion hosted by the BBC tonight featuring leading figures from Britain’s largest seven political parties and starting at 7.30pm.

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

What channel are the debates on?

Both ITV and the BBC have confirmed they will host general election debates over the course of the campaign.

The programmes will be available on BBC1, BBC News and ITV1, as well as live on their streaming platforms BBC Iplayer and ITVX.

For those watching from Scotland, the ITV debates will be on the equivalent channel STV.

ITV also streamed the first debate on June 4 live on their Youtube channel and are expected, along with the BBC, to do the same for the following programmes.

The BBC have also confirmed they will air their debates on local radio.

Seven-party debate - June 7, 7.30pm on the BBC

The first BBC televised debate programme will take place tonight on Friday June 7 and feature “leading figures” from the seven biggest political parties across Britain.

The debate will be held in London from 7.30pm to 9pm, where questions will be put to them from the audience and host Mishal Husain, the BBC Radio 4 presenter.

The parties taking part will include the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party (SNP) Reform UK, Green Party and Plaid Cymru.

Each party may choose who to represent it and the full line for the seven-way debate features:

  • Penny Mordaunt (Conservatives)

  • Angela Rayner (Labour Party)

  • Daisy Cooper (Liberal Democrats)

  • Nigel Farage (Reform UK)

  • Stephen Flynn (SNP)

  • Carla Denyer (Green Party)

  • Rhun ap lorwerth (Plaid Cymru)

The Battle for Number 10 - June 12, 7pm on Sky News

Sky News will host both Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer in a UK election leaders “special event” on Wednesday June 12.

The pair will be asked to “pitch” to voters in an in-depth interview before taking questions from the live audience in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, halfway through their election campaigns.

In a statement to Sky News, however, the Conservative Party said: “We hope that Sky will continue to work with the Labour Party to find a way to ensure both leaders are on stage taking questions from the live audience at the same time for at least part of the programme.

“And we hope that Keir Starmer can find the courage to agree,” it added.

The Battle for Number 10 will air 7pm to 10pm and be streamed on Sky News’ channel, website and app.

Seven-party debate - June 13, 8.30pm on ITV

Another seven-way debate will happen the following week as ITV will give the same seven parties another chance to have their say on Thursday June 13.

The debate will start at 8.30pm and run for 90 minutes with moderation by Julie Etchingham, the ITV newsreader who also oversaw the Labour and Tory leaders’ head to head on June 4.

Senior representatives from the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, Reform UK, Green Party and Plaid Cymru will face questions from Ms Etchingham as well as a studio audience live from Salford, Manchester.

It is likely that Mr Sunak and Mr Starmer will not partake in the larger debates following their head to heads and similarly, each party is able to choose its representative.

No party has confirmed who will represent them at this debate.

Question Time special - June 20, 8pm on the BBC

On Thursday June 20,  the BBC will return to host a Question Time special with leading members of the UK’s four largest parties: the Conservatives, Labour Party, SNP and Liberal Democrats.

Fiona Bruce will lead the broadcast from 8pm to 10pm in York and speak to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has confirmed his attendance, with Rishi Sunak, John Swinney and Sir Ed Davey also invited.

Sunak and Starmer head to head - June 26, 9pm on the BBC

The BBC will host what is likely to be the 2024 election campaign’s final TV debate on Wednesday June 26 – one week before the country will head to the polls.

The programme will be another head to head between Mr Sunak and Mr Starmer only, similar to the ITV debate they took part in on June 4 and hosted by Sophie Raworth, the BBC news presenter.

It will kick off at 9pm and run until 10pm.

Sir Keir agreed to the two head-to-head discussions only and said he would not speak at the larger debates happening on either channel.

How many debates will there be before the election?

So far, a total of six debates will be held in the run up to the general election on July 4, with five left to go after Mr Sunak and Mr Starmer went head to head on June 4.

This number could be subject to change as other broadcasters, including GB News, have also placed bids to host some form of political debate.

The debate announcements were confirmed after the Tories had pressed Sir Keir to take part in a record six debates during the six-week election countdown.

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.

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

Will the debates clash with any football fixtures?

There will be several clashes between debate timings and football fixtures – an inevitability with the jam-packed TV schedules.

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

England will play Denmark on June 20 – the same day as the BBC’s Question Time Leaders’ Special – but at an earlier kick-off time of 5pm before the election programme at 8pm.

So there is only one BBC clash taking place as the channel managed to avoid competing with the Men’s European Championship fixtures.

There are no more ITV football fixtures clashes after the broadcaster moved the England Women’s Euros match with France, which had been due to air on ITV1, to ITV4 as it coincided with Mr Sunak and Mr Starmer’s head to head on June 4.

When is the general election?

The general election will take place on July 4 as the country heads to the polls between 7am and 10pm to have their say over the next prime minister.

It was confirmed by Rishi Sunak in a rain-sodden speech outside of Downing Street on May 22 that the election would happen six weeks later.

Both the Prime Minister and other party leaders have been on the campaign trail since then in a bid to win over voters through measures such as the TV debates.