Nigel Farage challenges Jeremy Corbyn to a televised debate on EU membership

The Labour leader had challenged David Cameron to agree to an annual 'state of the nation' debate

Jon Stone
Tuesday 29 December 2015 13:47

Nigel Farage has challenged Jeremy Corbyn to a live televised debate on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

Ukip’s leader made the call shortly after Mr Corbyn revealed a plan to challenge David Cameron to annual “state of the nation” televised debates.

“If Jeremy Corbyn is sincere in his demand for more public debates, he should debate me on EU membership. What about it Mr Corbyn?” Mr Farage said in a message posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

The counter-challenge comes potentially just months ahead of an in-out referendum on European Union membership.

The plebiscite is due to be held before the end of 2017 – but the PM has hinted it could be held this summer.

Mr Corbyn had told the Independent that people were entitled to know more about their political leaders and to hold them to account in a public forum.

“Democracy relies on the participation of the people. No political leader should shrink from the chance to engage more fully with the public and to test their arguments in debate,” he said.

“It is clear that televised debates can engage more people in politics, so we should seize the opportunity to hold them more regularly.”

Research by the University of Leeds found that the televised debates at the May general election increased viewers’ interest in politics by 30 per cent.

David Cameron was reticent to take part in the 2015 election television debates and the format was ultimately adapted by broadcasters in order to encourage him to take part.

Head-to-head meetings between Mr Cameron and then Labour leader Ed Miliband were minimised and smaller parties, including the nationalists and Green Party were included.

Mr Miliband received a substantial boost in his leadership ratings after the debates, though he still lagged behind Mr Cameron by most measures on polling day.

A Downing Street source said of Mr Corbyn’s proposal: “We haven’t been approached about this proposal and would need to see more details. But the PM is happy to be held to account every week at prime minister’s questions by MPs.”

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