Petition demands law changes to ensure TV debates at elections

A petition demanding changes to electoral law to force political party leaders to take part in televised general election debates has gone live on the parliamentary website.

The petition, begun by Sky News, calls for the creation of an Independent Debates Commission to take decision-making on the issue out of the politicians’ and broadcasters’ hands and ensure TV debates become a regular fixture of UK elections.

The campaign won the immediate support of shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who said no party leader should be “frightened” of the TV showdowns.

Live televised debates were first seen in the 2010 general election, when Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg went head to head three times during the campaign.

Theresa May declined to take part in any of the debates screened during the 2017 election, instead taking questions separately from her main rivals.

Asked on Sky News whether he would back the campaign for mandatory TV debates, Mr McDonnell said: “Yes I do. I will support the petition. As soon as I get the opportunity to sign it, I will. It’s exactly what we need.

“No leader should be frightened of having a proper debate. It happens in other countries.

“I don’t know why Theresa May ran from the debate last time. We should definitely have it next time.”

Labour is campaigning for an early general election to give it a chance to strike a different Brexit deal, and the party’s leadership has made clear it believes a new poll could come within months.

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