Theresa May 'rules out taking part in TV debates' ahead of snap election

Sean Morrison
Theresa May will refuse to take part in TV debates in ahead of the snap general election: Jeremy Selwyn

Theresa May will refuse to take part in televised leaders’ debates ahead of the snap General Election, it has been claimed.

Broadcasters have received calls to “empty chair” the Prime Minister if she does not show up to the head-to-heads.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hit out at Ms May’s decision, revealed by Number 10 aides, saying public debates were “what democracy needs and what the British people deserve”.

But a Downing Street source said the Prime Minister would flatly reject any proposal for a TV show down, saying: “Our answer is no”.

Veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby, who hosted debates on the BBC in 2010 and 2015, warned the "perilous" stance could backfire on the Ms May.

Prime Minister Theresa May will not take part in televised leader debates in the run up to the general election (Getty)

He said: “I don't think other parties will refuse to take part in debates, and I wonder whether Number 10 will stick with that.

“It may look a bit odd if other parties are facing audiences and making their case.”

Mr Dimbleby added: "When you are trying to say 'I speak for Britain', you've got to get out there and listen to what Britain says back to you and argue your case.

"I don't think you can just stand aloof from it, I think people would look down on that rather."

Mr Corbyn said: "Elections and democracy are about public debate.

"So it's rather strange that only a couple of hours after calling for a General Election, the Prime Minister is saying she's not going to take part in TV debates.

"I say to Theresa May, who said this election was about leadership: Come on and show some.

"Let's have the debates. It's what democracy needs and what the British people deserve."

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron accused Mrs May of "bottling" it, and said broadcasters had a "moral duty" to take part in televised leaders' showdowns.

He said: "The Prime Minister's attempt to dodge scrutiny shows how she holds the public in contempt.

"The British people deserve to see their potential leaders talking about the future of our country.

"I expect the broadcasters to do the right thing, don't let the Conservatives call the shots.

"If the Prime Minister won't attend - empty chair her."

Asked why Mrs May did not want to take part in any debates, a Conservative spokesman said: "The choice at this election is already clear - strong and stable leadership in the national interest with Theresa May and the Conservatives or weak and unstable coalition government led by Jeremy Corbyn."

A BBC spokesman said that it was too early to say whether the broadcaster would seek to stage a debate ahead of the election on June 8.

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