Jeremy Corbyn decides he will go on BBC election debate

31 May

The ‘coalition of chaos’ lined up to slam Theresa May for missing a live TV debate tonight.

But Home Secretary Amber Rudd, representing the Tories in Mrs May’s absence, went straight on the attack to blast Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for believing in a ‘magic money tree’.

Mrs May and the Tories were immediately attacked by all of the other party leaders aty the 90 minute debate in Cambridge just eight days before election.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron jibed that voters should peer out the window to look for Mrs May, quipping ‘she might be out there sizing up your house to pay for your social care’.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson insisted his party was the only one who could stand up for Scotland.

Mrs May earlier dismissed claims she was running scared of her opponents today as a huge anti-Tory crowd gathered outside a TV showdown featuring other party leaders.

The Prime Minister insisted she was focused on talking to voters instead of ‘swapping soundbites’ on TV. 

The politicians on stage tonight are (from left) Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas for the Greens, Leanne Wood for Plaid Cymru, Tory Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Ukip chief Paul Nuttall, and the SNP's leader at Westminster Angus Robertson

The politicians on stage tonight are (from left) Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas for the Greens, Leanne Wood for Plaid Cymru, Tory Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Ukip chief Paul Nuttall, and the SNP's leader at Westminster Angus Robertson

The politicians on stage tonight are (from left) Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas for the Greens, Leanne Wood for Plaid Cymru, Tory Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Ukip chief Paul Nuttall, and the SNP’s leader at Westminster Angus Robertson

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured arriving at the debate in Cambridge tonight) made a last minute decision to take part in tonight's TV clash, which Theresa May is missing

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured arriving at the debate in Cambridge tonight) made a last minute decision to take part in tonight's TV clash, which Theresa May is missing

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured arriving at the debate in Cambridge tonight) made a last minute decision to take part in tonight’s TV clash, which Theresa May is missing

A large crowd of anti-Tory demonstrators gathered outside the BBC venue in Cambridge ahead of this evening’s debate

The protestors greeted the seven senior politicians as they arrived for the debate in Cambridge 

The Tories will be represented by Home Secretary Amber Rudd during the 90-minute debate.

The Tories will be represented by Home Secretary Amber Rudd during the 90-minute debate.

The Tories will be represented by Home Secretary Amber Rudd during the 90-minute debate.

But Mrs May’s absence was conspicuous at tonight’s BBC’s clash, which is set to feature Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after a last-minute decision to take part.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, Ukip chief Paul Nuttall, Caroline Lucas for the Greens, Leanne Wood for Plaid Cymru, and the SNP’s leader at Westminster Angus Robertson will all be on stage. 

Mr Corbyn had previously insisted he would only attend alongside his main rival but was persuaded to contest the TV bout after winning good reviews for Monday night’s leaders’ programme. 

As the debate began, Ms Rudd insisted the other parties would offer ‘bluster’ and ‘shiny promises’ but offer few answers on Brexit.

Mr Corbyn insisted he would ‘transform Britain for the many not the few’. 

Ahead of the debate, Mr Corbyn today refused to rule out doing a deal with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to become PM if there is no clear winner in the election.

Pressed on whether he would forge an alliance with the SNP and the Lib Dems to win the keys to Downing Street, the Labour leader said: ‘You’d better ask me that on June 9.’

The comments will fuel fears that failure by Theresa May to secure outright victory next week could open the door to a ‘coalition of chaos’.

Mr Corbyn has already said that in No10 he would ‘open discussions’ with Miss Sturgeon about her demand for a fresh independence referendum.  

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson and Green leader Caroline Lucas both arrived for tonight’s debate in Cambridge 

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood (centre tonight) is also taking part in the 90 minute BBC clash 

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood (centre tonight) is also taking part in the 90 minute BBC clash 

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood (centre tonight) is also taking part in the 90 minute BBC clash 

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron (left) and Ukip chief Paul Nuttall (right) are also taking part in tonight’s contest 

Announcing his decision, 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.’ 

The Prime Minister refused to take part in head-to-head debates with any other party leaders during the campaign for the June 8 election.

The Labour leader and the PM both appeared on a Channel 4 / Sky debate last Friday – but they were interviewed separately and never appeared on stage together.

Mr Corbyn’s decision comes after he used a campaign even in central London to challenge the PM to debate him head to head on TV.

The Labour leader said it was ‘ridiculous’ that the PM is refusing to debate him directly on the same stage.

He said: ‘How ridiculous is that?

Theresa May, pictured out on the campaign trail today in Somerset, has refused to take part in nay live head to head with other party leaders 

Theresa May, pictured out on the campaign trail today in Somerset, has refused to take part in nay live head to head with other party leaders 

Theresa May, pictured out on the campaign trail today in Somerset, has refused to take part in nay live head to head with other party leaders 

The Tories have raised fears that Mr Corbyn could make significant concessions to Nicola Sturgeon (pictured campaigning in Anstruther today) to become PM if there is a hung parliament

The Tories have raised fears that Mr Corbyn could make significant concessions to Nicola Sturgeon (pictured campaigning in Anstruther today) to become PM if there is a hung parliament

The Tories have raised fears that Mr Corbyn could make significant concessions to Nicola Sturgeon (pictured campaigning in Anstruther today) to become PM if there is a hung parliament

‘Come on, Prime Minister, come and have a chat, come and have a debate. I can be ever so polite, but there are a number of questions I want to put to you.’ 

His decision piles pressure on the PM to follow suit and appear on the show.

Bookmakers Ladbrokes have shortened the odds of Mrs May taking part from 10/1 to 3/1, although she is still odds-on to stick with her boycott.

But out campaigning in Bath today, Mrs May said: ‘I think debates where the politicians are squabbling among themselves doesn’t do anything for the process of electioneering. 

FALKLANDS VETERANS VOICE ‘HORROR’ AT IDEA OF PM CORBYN

Falklands veterans have voiced ‘horror’ at the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn becoming PM after he said reclaiming the islands from Argentina by force was wrong. 

Major-General Julian Thompson, who led British forces to victory in 1982, raised fears that the Labour leader could do ‘some deal’ with Buenos Aires over the territory.

Simon Weston, the Welsh Guardsman who suffered terrible burns when his ship was bombed by Argentine jets, branded Mr Corbyn’s stance ‘crassly stupid’.

In a TV election programme earlier this week, the veteran left-winger accused Margaret Thatcher of making a ‘great deal’ of Argentina’s invasion.

Pressed on his previous description of the war as a ‘Tory plot’ and ‘flag-waving nonsense’, Mr Corbyn made clear he believed it should have been resolved through the UN – even though that was regarded as diplomatically impossible.

‘What I wanted was a stopping of that war.’

Asked whether he thought the UK should not have protected the Falklands, the Labour leader said: ‘I don’t think they should have gone in there but I also think there should have been an opportunity to stop that war happening.’

‘I think it’s about getting out and about, meeting voters and hearing directly from voters.’ 

She insisted she had been taking on Mr Corbyn ‘week in week out’ at PMQs.

‘Public scrutiny is for an election campaign. That’s why taking questions from members of the public who are going to be voting on 8 June is so important,’ the PM said. 

‘That’s what I enjoy doing during the campaigns. And I think that’s really important. That is why I’ve been doing that up and down the country. 

In an interview with ITV this afternoon, Mr Corbyn was repeatedly challenged on how he would respond if there was a hung parliament.

Initially he insisted Labour was ‘fighting to win this election’.

But asked for a third time Mr Corbyn said: ‘Well, you’d better ask me that on June 9.’

Mr Corbyn has cancelled planned appearances at stump events in Swindon and Stroud tonight, and a rally in Bristol.

The events will go ahead with shadow education secretary Angela Rayner and shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth filling in, a Labour source said.

The PM and Mr Corbyn both boycotted the first televised leaders election debate of the campaign, held on ITV earlier this month.

The show was widely mocked and branded a borefest by viewers, who pointed out that no one taking part stood a chance of leading a government after June 8.

It was most notable for Ukip leader Paul Nuttall repeatedly calling Plaid leader Leanne Wood ‘Natalie’. 

Conservative Party Chairman Patrick McLoughlin said: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has made clear that he will do a deal in order to get the keys to Downing Street.

‘Corbyn propped up by the Lib Dems and the SNP in a coalition of chaos would be a disaster for Britain and would mean a bad Brexit deal, higher taxes, more borrowing and weaker defences.

‘If you don’t think Jeremy Corbyn is fit to be Prime Minister, if you don’t think he’s up to negotiating Brexit, if you oppose a second referendum – vote for Theresa May and her Conservative team.’ 

Just five leaders went head to head in the ITV televised debate earlier this month. The show was mocked and branded a borefest by viewers who were quick to point out that none of the leaders involved in it stood any chance of leading a government after June 8

Just five leaders went head to head in the ITV televised debate earlier this month. The show was mocked and branded a borefest by viewers who were quick to point out that none of the leaders involved in it stood any chance of leading a government after June 8

Just five leaders went head to head in the ITV televised debate earlier this month. The show was mocked and branded a borefest by viewers who were quick to point out that none of the leaders involved in it stood any chance of leading a government after June 8

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