General election TV debates: dates and who will take part? Sky and ITV confirm extra televised events

Sky News has confirmed both Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer will take part in a special leaders' event programme this week.

The prime minister and opposition leader are set to once more lock horns after their clash on ITV on June 4 saw both sides fiercely debate whether Labour would raise taxes by £2,000.

By the time of the second debate, on the BBC on Friday, the narrative had shifted to Mr Sunak’s early departure from a D-Day event to take part in a pre-recorded interview he had arranged.

While the BBC debate had seven parties represented, Sky’s The Battle for Number 10: A UK Election Leaders Special Event will feature just Mr Sunak and Sir Keir.

The debate will be broadcast in front of a live audience from Grimsby on Wednesday from 7pm.

The BBC General Election debate featured seven senior political party figures (PA Wire)
The BBC General Election debate featured seven senior political party figures (PA Wire)

Sky’s announcement comes after ITV confirmed it would broadcast a multi-party debate on Thursday. The ITV Election Debate 2024 will be broadcast on ITV1 on June 13 from 8.30pm.

The debate will be moderated by Julie Etchingham, who presided between the Labour and Tory party leaders in the first clash.

This saw Sir Keir and Mr Sunak debate a variety of topics, including immigration, the NHS, taxes and living expenses. The two men were also admonished for talking over each other.

It has not been confirmed which politicians will take part in the second ITV debate.

The Conservative Party is trailing Labour in the polls and the prime minister is keen to use the platform to claw back support.

So when are the general election debates and how can you watch them?

When are the general election 2024 TV debates?

June 12

The Battle for Number 10, a UK Election Leaders Special Event will be shown from 7pm.

June 13

The ITV Election Debate 2024 will be broadcast on ITV1 on Thursday from 8.30pm

June 20

BBC 1 will show Question Time Leaders' Special live from York from 8-10pm.

June 26

BBC 1 will then show its own Sunak v Starmer head to head with Sophie Raworth presiding over a programme from 9-10pm.

How have pre-general election debates worked in the past?

Television debates are a relatively new concept to the election run-up in the UK. Labour’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Tory leader David Cameron and the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, participated in the first one in 2010.

Labour leader Harold Wilson and Conservative Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home were approached in 1964 but the debate didn't materialise.

Conservative Prime Minister John Major and Labour leader Neil Kinnock agreed in principle to a debate in 1992 but this was called off.

Between 1997 and 2005, Tony Blair and successive opponents (John Major, William Hague and Michael Howard) did not engage in televised debates.

The 2015 general election involved a more complex arrangement of debates.

David Cameron (Conservatives), Ed Miliband (Labour), Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats), Nigel Farage (UKIP), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Natalie Bennett (Green Party), and Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) took part.

ITV hosted a seven-way debate; the BBC broadcast a five-way debate featuring parties without the two main leaders (Cameron and Miliband); and a "challengers' debate" featuring opposition leaders was also held.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn participate in a head-to-head debate on ITV before the 2019 general election (ITV via Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn participate in a head-to-head debate on ITV before the 2019 general election (ITV via Getty Images)

In 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May chose not to participate directly in the main debates.

Leaders of other parties, including Jeremy Corbyn (Labour), Tim Farron (Liberal Democrats) and leaders from smaller parties participated.

There was a mixture of debates and Q&A sessions with leaders appearing separately.

Mrs May’s absence was contentious, with some arguing it affected her campaign negatively.

The 2019 general election returned to more traditional head-to-head debates.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Conservatives) and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn participated in an hour-long debate on ITV.

The BBC also hosted a head-to-head debate between the pair and a separate one involving leaders from smaller parties.

Andrew Neil also interviewed Mr Corbyn on the BBC, and the Labour leader appeared on a Channel 4 panel discussion on climate change. A melting ice sculpture replaced Mr Johnson.

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