Both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition have said that they won’t attend the live ITV Leaders Debate in Media City tonight. The prime minister has calculated that the Tory lead is so large she can absorb any damage. The Labour Leader, if the current polls are right, has little to gain.
Surely that’s not the point. In a democracy our leaders have a responsibility to put themselves up before the voters. They have a moral obligation to have their policies and character tested in public and before the huge audiences that only television can bring. Anything else is contempt for voters and contempt for democracy itself.
The remaining party leaders will be taking part in a televised debate this evening on ITV at 8pm. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, UKIP’s Paul Nuttall, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and Green co-leader Caroline Lucas will all be there for the two-hour show being broadcast from the dock10 studios in Salford.
ITV said the invitation to take part remains open until the programme starts at 8pm, but if they do not show up they will not being empty chaired as ITV said the stage will have “the right number of podiums for leaders who attend on the night”.
This is the Brexit election. It was called because of Brexit. It will define Brexit and all of the parties have Brexit at the core of their manifestos.
The Conservatives are asking us to back a hard Brexit. Lowering immigration at the core and would come at the expense of a trade deal if necessary. In Theresa May’s Lancaster House speech in January, when she warned that “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal”.
Labour wants a soft Brexit. Keir Starmer MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, set out Labour’s approach to Brexit: “We will scrap the Government’s Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that…will have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union”.
A vote The Liberal Democrats leaves the option to Remain. Leader Tim Farron said ” the Liberal Democrats are committed to keeping Britain in the single market. We believe the British people should have the final say on the Brexit deal, including the option to remain in the EU”.
That’s right, we can remain in the EU if enough people vote for the LibDems but the polls say that’s not happening. Perhaps people don’t understand or believe that we have the democratic option to reverse a decision that was more about the political ambitions of a bunch of old Etonians than it was about the future the 65 million.