British leader says no to televised debates

Theresa May criticised for ruling out live TV debates

In a BBC interview on Wednesday, Mrs May said: "We won't be doing television debates".

"If Theresa May refuses, the BBC, Channel 4 or ITV should host a debate with an empty chair for the Prime Minister".

A number of senior politicians - including Nigel Farage and Nicola Sturgeon - lined up once again in the run up to the 2015 election, while many more took part in EU Referendum debates organised by a series of media outlets past year. In 2010 and 2015 the number of young and first time voters going to the polls was up on previous elections. "We will announce more details in due course".

The BBC's head of newsgathering Jonathan Munro told The Telegraph that he did "not want to get in a position where any party leader stops us doing a programme that we think is in the public interest".

"That's what I have always believed in, it's what I still believe and I still do it - as prime minister, as a constituency MP, I still go out and knock on doors in my constituency".

Only 31% of those surveyed thought no such events should take place between now and polling day on 8 June - while 5% said they were unsure.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called the move "rather odd".

And at PMQs in the Commons, he told her: "She says it's about leadership, yet is refusing to defend her record in television debates and it's not hard to see why".

Opposition leaders said May should be "empty-chaired" by the broadcasters if she refused to participate in the debates.

Theresa May could agree to a televised question-and-answer session with voters after ruling out a head-to-head election debate with other party leaders.

Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: "In Scotland, we have a longstanding tradition of TV debates and I relish the opportunity to challenge Nicola Sturgeon face-to-face about her reckless plans for a second independence referendum, and to challenge Ruth Davidson about her support for Theresa May's reckless plans for a hard Brexit".

"So it's rather odd 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".

"We think it is very much in their interest that peak time debates go ahead".

The apparent concession comes after Mrs May faced taunts of "frit" from Labour backbenchers at Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, as leader Jeremy Corbyn accused her of running scared of scrutiny on her record.

Meanwhile, Scottish LibDem chief Willie Rennie has called for a televised Scottish leaders' debate. Basking in the spotlight, his debate performances as party leader in 2010 and 2015 helped the Conservatives increase their seat count.

The political considerations are many.

He led the Remain campaign in the European Union referendum as its highest-profile spokesperson, while May avoided most chances to speak forcefully in favour or against Brexit (officially, she campaigned to remain and is now the prime minister who's leading the country out of the EU).

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