Theresa May takes cross-party flak over TV election debates snub

Posted On: 
19th April 2017

Theresa May has been accused of “running scared” of other party leaders by refusing to take part in television debates ahead of the early general election.

An image from the BBC's 2015 general election debate
PA Images

In the Commons chamber this lunchtime Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats lined up to challenge the Prime Minister after she confirmed this morning she would not face off against them before 8 June.

Jeremy Corbyn was first out the traps at Prime Minister’s Questions to question Mrs May’s decision, asking why, if she is so proud of her record in power, she would not debate it.

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The Labour leader also said his opposite number “cannot be trusted” after she moved hold an early election despite previously ruling it out a number of times.

Mrs May responded: "I would point out to the Right Hon Gentleman that I have been answering his questions and debating these matters every Wednesday Parliament has been sitting since I became Prime Minister.

“I will be taking out to the country a proud record of a Conservative government, a stronger economy, an economy with the deficit nearly two-thirds down, with 30m people with a tax cut, 4m people taken out of income tax altogether, record employment and £250 a year more for pensioners - that's a record we can be proud of."

But the Prime Minister was then attacked by the SNP’s Angus Robertson and Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, who both accused the Prime Minister of being “scared” to take part in TV debates.

“If the Prime Minister is so confident that her hard Brexit, pro-austerity, anti-immigration case is right, then she should debate it with opposition leaders during the campaign,” the SNP's Westminster leader argued.

“We look forward to the straight fight between the SNP and Tories. Can the Prime Minister tell the people why she is running scared of a televised debate with Nicola Sturgeon?”

To the ire of SNP MPs, the Prime Minister replied: “I will be out there campaigning in every part of the United Kingdom, taking out there our proud record of a Conservative government that has delivered for every part of the United Kingdom.

“And I might suggest to the Scottish Nationalists that actually now is the time for them to put aside their tunnel vision on independence and actually explain to the Scottish people why under the SNP they're not putting as much money into the health service as they’ve been given from the UK, they're not exercising the powers they've been given and Scottish education is getting worse - it's time they got back to the day job."


Speaking to the Today programme this morning, Mrs May explained why she was refusing to take part in TV debates.

“I’m not [running scared], because I believe in campaigns where politicians actually get out and about and meet the voters," she said.

“It’s what I’ve always believed in, it’s what I still believe in – I still do it – as Prime Minister, as a constituency MP, I still go out and knock on doors in my constituency.

“That’s what I believe in doing and that’s what I’m going to be doing around this campaign.”

Debates were first broadcast in 2010, when Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron faced off, while there were a series of televised events for the 2015 election and Brexit referendum.

Today’s PMQs came just over 24 hours after Mrs May outlined her plans to hold a snap vote on 8 June.