Sunak-Starmer debate on ITV watched by five million

The ITV debate between Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was watched by an average of five million viewers, the broadcaster has said.

This includes those watching on streaming service ITVX.

The head-to-head, moderated by Julie Etchingham, had a peak of 5.5 million across devices, according to overnight ratings.

This marks a sharp drop in ratings since the 2019 general election debate on ITV between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, which was the only occasion the two leaders went head-to-head on TV during the campaign, and had an average audience of 6.7 million based on overnight ratings.

Boris Johnson (right) and Jeremy Corbyn going head to head in the BBC debate in 2019
Boris Johnson (right) and Jeremy Corbyn going head to head in the BBC debate in 2019 (Jeff Overs/BBC)

The record for the highest ever TV ratings for an election debate in the UK was set in 2010, by the first leaders’ debate between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, which was broadcast by ITV and had an average overnight audience of 9.4 million.

During the debate on Tuesday night, the two leaders traded blows on the economy and the NHS and frequently spoke over each other.

The ITV Election Interviews, presented by Anushka Asthana, which followed the debate on ITV1 and ITVX and featured Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, Reform’s Richard Tice, the SNP’s Stephen Flynn and the Green Party’s Adrian Ramsay, was watched by 1.3 million with a peak of 2.6 million.

The BBC will broadcast a seven-way election debate on Friday but Mr Sunak and Sir Keir will not take part, with Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt representing the Conservative Party, facing off against deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner and others.

Sir Ed will also not be attending, with his deputy Daisy Cooper stepping in.

ITV will also host another multi-party debate on June 13, which will feature “leaders or senior representatives” from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Reform UK, Greens and Plaid Cymru.