Theresa May will not take part in general election debates, say Tory party sources

Leaders from the main political parties took part in televised debates in the run-up to the 2015 vote

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Theresa May will decline any invitation to take part in televised debates held in the run-up to a general election proposed for 8 June, The Independent understands.

Conservative Party sources said the Prime Minister will not be taking part in the customary pre-election TV debates, which have become a regular event in the UK’s election cycle.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, reacting to the news, 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 and the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon called on broadcasters to "empty chair" her, saying the decision not to take part was an "attempt to dodge scrutiny".

Ms May called for an election during an impromptu statement delivered from the steps of Downing Street.

Her proposal for a snap election early in the summer will be voted on in the Commons on Wednesday. It requires a two-thirds majority among MPs in order to bypass the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act.

Critics are likely to seize on Ms May's reluctance to take part in the TV debates as proof that the Tories believe they can sail to victory on the back of the dire performance of the Labour Party.

Ms May is riding high in the polls and is unlikely to want to risk her favourable ratings by going head-to-head with fellow party leaders.

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Ms Sturgeon wrote: "If PM doesn't have the confidence to debate her plans on TV with other leaders, broadcasters should empty chair her and go ahead anyway."

Mr Farron added: “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 – Corbyn can defend her position as they seem to vote the same on these matters. You have a moral duty to hold these debates.

“I believe this election is your chance to change the direction of our country. If you want to avoid a disastrous hard Brexit. If you want Britain to have a decent opposition. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united – this is your chance. You need to vote Liberal Democrat.”

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