The Speaker
Friday, 14 June 2024 – 09:36

First TV election debate announced but criticised as ‘undemocratic and wrong’

ITV is to broadcast the first head-to-head debate of the 2019 UK general election campaign between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday 19 November.

The debate is due to be hosted by news presenter Julie Etchingham and will take place just over three weeks before Britons head to the polls.

TV debates have become a key part of election campaigns in the last decade, however, this particular debate has been criticised by some for only involving the leaders of currently the two largest parties – Conservative and Labour.

ITV has said the debate would just be between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn, but a live-interview based programme would be held following the debate in order to get the views of the other political parties. The Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said this week that she should take part in a three-headed encounter with Mr Corbyn and Mr Johnson, while the SNP have said the proposed line-up of the announced debate would be “deeply misleading for viewers”.

Multi-party debates are also expected to be held in the run-up to voting day.

While the Conservatives and Labour have been the largest parties for decades, new and smaller parties have emerged, grown and redeveloped and it could be argued that they should be included in the debate. The Liberal Democrats, the SNP, the Green Party and the Brexit Party could all potentially take some seats from the Conservatives and Labour in the upcoming election – as could parties in Northern Ireland and Wales.

Liberal Democrats MP, Chuka Umunna tweeted:

“Whatever your politics, this is discriminatory, undemocratic and wrong. Not only is it two blokes deciding to have a debate excluding women, we are not a two party country and the sizeable proportion of the public who want to #StopBrexit won’t have a voice in the room.”

In a tweet, Jeremy Corbyn claimed that Mr Johnson had accepted the invitation to the debate, saying:

This is a once in a generation election. So it’s welcome that Boris Johnson has accepted our challenge of a head to head TV debate.

Party leaders are not legally required to commit to the TV debates. Earlier this year, Boris Johnson was empty-podiumed in one of the televised debates in the Conservative leadership election after failing to turn up. In 2017, Theresa May declined to take part in the televised debates, saying she would rather “get out and about and meet voters”.

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