Election debate: Key facts as Johnson and Corbyn prepare for live ITV clash

Prime minister and Labour leader expected to argue over Brexit, NHS and economy during hour-long showdown

Tom Parfitt
Tuesday 19 November 2019 20:55
Johnson v Corbyn: Opening statements

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn will go head-to-head tonight in the first televised debate of the general election campaign.

The prime minister is expected to clash with the Labour leader over a range of key issues including Brexit, the NHS and the economy, ahead of the poll on December 12.

With Labour trailing significantly behind the Conservatives in most opinion polls, the contest could prove a vital opportunity for Mr Corbyn to make progress in the battle for Downing Street.

Meanwhile Mr Johnson will be seeking to avoid any major gaffes following his reluctance to take part in TV debates during the Tory leadership election earlier this year.

Here is everything you need to know about tonight’s event.

What time is the debate and how can I watch?

The hour-long showdown will be broadcast on ITV1 from 8pm, with a live stream available on the ITV Hub for UK-based viewers.

It will be moderated by Julie Etchingham, who hosted the leadership debates during the 2015 and 2017 election campaigns.

Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn will answer questions submitted by viewers which “broadly reflect a range of society, from different political backgrounds”, ITV said.

Both leaders will stand behind podiums to deliver a minute-long statement before the debate, followed by a closing statement of 45 seconds.

The Labour leader has chosen to speak first, after Labour and the Conservatives drew lots to see who would open the debate.

The event will take place at the MediaCityUK studios in Salford, in front of an audience of about 200 people.

Why are the SNP and Liberal Democrats not taking part?

Tonight’s event will be the one-on-one TV debate in British electoral history, as smaller parties including the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Green Party and Brexit Party have been excluded.

The leaders of those four parties – Jo Swinson, Nicola Sturgeon, Sian Berry and Nigel Farage respectively – will instead be interviewed at 10pm following the main debate.

ITV presenter Julie Etchingham will moderate the election debate

The Lib Dems and the SNP remain angry at the exclusion of Ms Swinson and Ms Sturgeon, two leading anti-Brexit campaigners, from the debate.

The two parties contested ITV’s decision at the High Court yesterday, arguing it was unlawful because it breached impartiality rules, but the legal challenge was rejected.

Which other election debates are planned?

Ms Swinson is due to take part in a three-way debate with Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn hosted by Sky on November 28.

The following day, the BBC will host a seven-way debate in Cardiff, between leaders or senior figures from the seven major UK political parties.

The full list of people taking part has yet to be confirmed.

The BBC will then host a “prime ministerial debate” between Mr Corbyn and Mr Johnson from Southampton on December 6, just days before voters head to the polls.

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