BBC scraps bid to host Theresa May v Jeremy Corbyn debate on Brexit deal

Posted On: 
4th December 2018

The BBC has withdrawn its bid to host a live TV debate between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn on the Brexit deal.

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May were due to take part in a debate next Sunday
PA Images

The corporation said it was "disappointed" to have been unable to reach an agreement with Labour over the format of the clash, which had been pencilled in for 9 December.

Under the BBC's plan, which was Downing Street's preferred option, the pair would have gone head-to-head and would have been followed by a discussion involving a panel of experts and representatives of smaller political parties.

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But Mr Corbyn’s team favoured ITV’s offer, which proposed a straightforward head-to-head clash with the Prime Minister.

Mrs May initially challenged Mr Corbyn to a one-on-one debate ahead of the Commons vote on her Brexit deal, which will take place on 11 December.

Failure to agree however led to an exchange of barbs between the two parties, with Number 10 yesterday accusing Mr Corbyn of “running scared”.

A Labour spokesman hit back by accusing Mrs May of “running away from the scrutiny of a real head to head debate”.

A BBC spokesman said: “We have been clear throughout the whole process that, as well as a substantive head-to-head debate, any programme we broadcast would need to include other voices, including other political parties, to reflect the wide range of views he public and parliamentarians hold about Brexit," they said.

“The final proposal we put to both of the main parties was for a head-to-head debate between the prime minister and leader of the opposition, followed by a discussion between eight panellists, including politicians, with a range of views on Brexit, and ending with further head-to-head debate and closing statements.

“We believe ours was a fair and appropriate format for those taking part and, crucially, for our audiences around the country, and it is a shame, we will not be able to bring them this programme."

Following the BBC’s statement a Labour source told PoliticsHome that Mrs May should "join us on ITV".

The intervention comes hours after the party accused the corporation of being the Prime Minister's "preferred broadcaster" and said its proposal for the Brexit clash was a "mish-mash" which should be ditched.

An ITV spokesperson last night said the invitation to both leaders open, adding: "As always, it is up to those invited to decide whether they want to accept the invitation."