Brexit TV debate: Corbyn and May locked in row over BBC or ITV
Labour accuse Tories and BBC of stitch-up as Corbyn says he favours pre-I'm A Celebrity showdown
ITV or BBC? A bitter rivalry that has now engulfed Brexit as Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May have become locked in a battle over which TV channel should broadcast their debate.
Downing Street revealed they had accepted BBC One’s offer “to clear its schedule for a special 8pm debate on 9 December between the prime minister and Jeremy Corbyn on the terms of Britain’s departure from the European Union”, reports The Guardian.
A BBC spokesperson said the broadcaster was “delighted” the prime minister had accepted the offer and hoped to hear confirmation from the Labour leader soon.
The government “chose the BBC over rival broadcasters to host the debate as it would address the crux of the issue, namely the deal”, according to the BBC’s Norman Smith.
But Corbyn said on ITV’s This Morning that he had yet to formally accept any debate but that ITV’s Sunday night programme made sense as it would enable people to watch other programmes later in the evening.
“One should always have respect for the viewers,” he said, adding that he was keen to watch the final of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! “It is important because parliament will have to vote on the 11 December on the agreement that prime minister has reached.”
Labour has previously said Corbyn would be happy to take part in a debate that kept the format as a head-to-head debate and excluded third parties, such as those proposing a second referendum.
A source with knowledge of Labour’s position told Politics Home the party “believes the ITV slot would reach a bigger and more diverse audience, and is angry about the BBC format”.
The BBC’s proposal “would feature a 12-strong panel of 'prominent' campaigners, potentially backbench politicians, business and sports figures rather than frontline political figures, who will ask questions directly to the leaders”, says Broadcast Now. A moderator would then put additional questions submitted by the public through social media.
But the source suggested to Politics Home that the Labour leadership “felt bounced into the plan – possibly as part of a stitch up between No 10 director of communications Robbie Gibb and his former employer the BBC”.
The furore has not gone down with rival politicians or broadcasters. Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, said it would be “an absolute travesty of democracy” if proponents of all the options – including remaining in the EU – were not given a voice.
While Channel 4 News’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy described the BBC’s proposal as “gimmicky crap” on Twitter.
Others seemed less enamoured with the idea of a debate at all.