Lib Dems and SNP set for ITV court showdown over 'unfair' election debates

Posted On: 
18th November 2019

The Liberal Democrats and the SNP will mount legal challenges to ITV's "grossly unfair" election debates format at the High Court on Monday.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and the SNP's Ian Blackford have blasted the Tuesday night debate format.
Credit: 
PA

The broadcaster is facing criticism from both parties for organising a head-to-head exchange between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, set to take place on Tuesday.

The parties say it is unfair to exclude their own leaders from the clash, with two separate legal challenges now due to be heard at the top court.

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Speaking ahead of the legal showdown, the SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford hit out at the "grossly unfair" debate format.

"We are the third party at Westminster," he told the BBC.

"We’ve been in the government in Scotland for the last 12 years, we’re leading the polls in Scotland...

"And we’ve got to recognise that the public take their views from these debates."

He added: "We may be in a minority government situation, and I think it’s right that the public hear the views of the other parties that are standing this election. That’s democracy. That’s fairness."

Liberal Democrat candidate Layla Moran meanwhile told the BBC's Westminster Hour on Sunday night: "I think that in the end the key argument is that this is a Brexit election and the Remain voice is missing from these debates."

Arguing that the Lib Dems were "the only party" that could credibly form a government opposed to Brexit, she added: "The main issue I have is that by framing it as a head-to-head, that these are the only two people who can [become Prime Minister], it pre-empts the decisions of British people, which is counter to what our democracy is about."

The Lib Dems have also challenged the BBC over its decision not to include leader Jo Swinson in a debate set for 6 December, while the SNP is taking on Sky News over its decision to hold a three-way debate between Mr Johnson, Mr Corbyn and Ms Swinson.

ITV has said Tuesday's debate will take the format of a live head-to-head clash between the Prime Minister and the Labour leader, with host Julie Etchingham moderating.

The broadcaster will also host a live interview programme allowing other party leaders to comment on the head-to-head clash and set out their plans.

Next month it will hold a live, seven-way election debate including the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, Brexit Party, SNP and Plaid Cymru.

A recent YouGov poll found that 53% of the public backed Ms Swinson being included in the main televised debate between Mr Corbyn and Mr Johnson.

ITV's director of news and current affairs wrote to the Lib Dems earlier this month to defend its plans, saying the broadcaster had met its impartiality obligations.

"Politicians are obviously entitled to have a view on our decisions, but who is invited to take part in a programme is ultimately a matter for ITV," he said.