Corbyn to take part in TV debate – but no May

31 May

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, at the BBC event, which has been boycotted by the Prime Minister.

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The Tories are to be represented by Home Secretary Amber Rudd, after Mrs May made clear that she would not take part in a face-to-face showdown with any other party leaders during the campaign.

Mr Corbyn had also previously refused to take part in a leaders’ debate unless the PM also took part.

The veteran left-winger’s decision to attend reflects a growing confidence in the Labour camp, buoyed by the latest YouGov poll that suggested the UK could be heading for a hung parliament on 9 June, with the Tories falling short of an overall majority.

There will also be a political calculation in seeking to make the PM look weak and “running scared”.

Mr Corbyn said: “I will be taking part in tonight’s debate because I believe we must give people the chance to hear and engage with the leaders of the main parties before they vote.

“I have never been afraid of a debate in my life. Labour’s campaign has been about taking our polices to people across the country and listening to the concerns of voters.

“The Tories have been conducting a stage-managed arms-length campaign and have treated the public with contempt. Refusing to join me in Cambridge tonight would be another sign of Theresa May’s weakness, not strength.”

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Speaking to a rally of supporters in Reading, Mr Corbyn called challenged 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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Mr Corbyn will appear alongside Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, UKIP’s Paul Nuttall, Green co-leader Caroline Lucas, Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and the SNP’s deputy leader Angus Robertson, who leads the party’s MPs at Westminster.

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

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

Mr Robertson said: “Theresa May called this election in the hope of crushing parliamentary opposition but instead the campaign has exposed her weak and wobbly leadership, as well as Tory plans to attack the incomes of older people and their increasingly reckless approach to Brexit.”

But a Conservative Party spokesman said: “There are no changes to the Prime Minister’s plans. She is out campaigning today, engaging with voters about the issues that matter, not swapping soundbites with six other politicians.”

Mr Corbyn had already called on Mrs May to “come and have a chat” when he appeared at a Labour event in London earlier.

He referred to Monday’s Battle For Number 10 programme on Sky News where he and Mrs May separately faced tough questioning from voters and veteran interviewer Jeremy Paxman.

Mr Corbyn said: “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.

“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.”

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