UK election: May decision to shun leaders’ debates criticised

Elections and democracy about public debate, says Corbyn, as MPs prepare to vote

Television crews arrange their lighting and recording equipment in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament in central London after British prime minister Theresa May on Tuesday called for an early election. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Television crews arrange their lighting and recording equipment in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament in central London after British prime minister Theresa May on Tuesday called for an early election. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

 

Opposition leaders have accused Theresa May of running scared after the Conservative Party said she will not take part in any leaders’ debates ahead of the election on June 8th.

“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 party spokesman said.

David Cameron took part in just one leaders’ debate in 2015 but the three main party leaders participated in three televised debates ahead of the election in 2010. Mr Corbyn condemned Ms May’s decision, saying that elections and democracy were about public debate.

“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. Well, 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 the British people deserve,” he said.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the prime minister was showing contempt for the public and he called on broadcasters to go ahead with debates without her.

“If the prime minister won’t attend, empty chair her. Corbyn can defend her position as they seem to vote the same on these matters. You have a moral duty to hold these debates,” he said.

Commons vote

In a statement outside 10 Downing Street on Tuesday morning, the prime minister said she had changed her mind about calling an early election because a fresh mandate would strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations with the EU. She accused Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party and the anti-Conservative majority in the House of Lords of seeking to force a change of course on Brexit.

“If we do not hold a general election now their political game-playing will continue, and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election. Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country,” she said.

Reluctant

“Let everybody put forward their proposals for Brexit and their programmes for government, and let us remove the risk of uncertainty and instability and continue to give the country the strong and stable leadership it demands,” she said.

Speaking to ITV later, the prime minister rejected the suggestion that her decision to call a snap election was a cynical move designed to exploit Labour’s weakness in the polls.

“I think, I hope, what people will see is I am somebody who likes to just get on with the job and get the job done and what I want to do is to be able to do that for the future.

“To deliver a real success of Brexit, deliver for working people up and down this country and to deliver a future, an ambitious future, for a stronger Britain in the future. I believe I can do that with a stronger negotiating hand in Europe and with the backing of the British people at an election,” she said.