Election 2017 debate: Jeremy Corbyn to take part in live TV show after Theresa May refuses to attend

The Labour leader accused the Prime Minister of 'weakness' for dodging tonight's head-to-head debate

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Wednesday 31 May 2017 13:18 BST
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Corbyn to take part in TV debate

Jeremy Corbyn has revealed he will take part in tonight's TV election debate and has challenged Theresa May to come and face his questions.

The Labour leader threw down the gauntlet to the Prime Minister, claiming it is "ridiculous" that he would not have a chance to debate her before election day and accusing her of "weakness".

Labour's momentum has been reflected in a shrinking Tory poll lead and one projection pointing to a hung parliament, while Mr Corbyn has grown in confidence following his performances in previous TV events.

In a statement he 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."

Speaking at a campaign event earlier in the day, he said it had been "odd" that both he and the Prime Minister took answers from an audience during the recent Sky/Channel 4 event, but had not faced each other.

Jeremy Corbyn: Debate me, Theresa May

"How ridiculous is that?" he said.

"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."

He again hit home his message at a rally, telling a crowd: "It’s very odd to have an election campaign where we go out and talk to people all the time and the Prime Minister seems to have difficulty in meeting anyone or having a debate.

“And so there is a debate in Cambridge tonight. I don’t know what she’s doing this evening, but it’s not far from London.

"I invite her to go to Cambridge and debate her policies, debate her record, debate their plans, debate their proposals and let the public make up their mind.”

Mr Corbyn had originally indicated he would not take part in any head-to-head contest with other leaders if Ms May did not. But with his party gaining on the Tories, the move to challenge Ms May over tonight's BBC 1 debate, to be broadcast at 7.30pm, marks a more confident Labour campaign.

It comes after a seat-by-seat prediction by YouGov for The Times suggested Britain could be on course for a hung parliament in nine days’ time, with the Conservatives falling 16 seats short of an overall majority.

It indicated Ms May's party is on course to win 310 seats at the election – short of an absolute majority of 326 seats needed to form a Government.

Such a result on June 9 would be calamitous for Theresa May, who called the snap election claiming the country needed certainty, stability and strong leadership as it enters the negotiations to exit the European Union on 19 June.

A Conservative 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 sound bites with six other politicians.

"There is a clear choice in this election: Either the Brexit negotiations are led by Theresa May 11 days after polling day, or they are put at risk by Jeremy Corbyn and his coalition of chaos."

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