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Theresa May rules out appearance on TV debate

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Leaders' debates planned despite Theresa May's refusal to participate

The televised debates will go on - with or without Theresa May. Both the BBC and ITV are planning leaders' debates despite the Prime Minister's refusal to participate.

During an appearance on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mrs May said: “We won’t be doing television debates.

“I believe in campaigns where politicians actually get out and about and meet with voters.

“That’s what I have always believed in, it’s what I still believe and I still do it - as Prime Minister, as a constituency MP, I still go out and knock on doors in my constituency.

"That’s what I believe in doing, that’s what I’m going to be doing around this campaign.”

Theresa May takes place in televised debates every week. However, their audience is smaller than the General Election debates, with Prime Minister's Questions airing on BBC Parliament. Jeremy Corbyn used the opportunity at this week's PMQs to accuse her of running scared and described the debates as “what democracy needs and what the British people deserve”.

The Labour leader added: “She says it’s about leadership, yet is refusing to defend her record in television debates and it’s not hard to see why.”

She has faced calls from most of the Westminster parties to participate in the debates. Angus Robertson, the SNP 's Westminster leader, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and Nigel Evans from her own party have joined calls for the Prime Minister to take part.

Jonathan Munro, the head of news gathering at the BBC, said: “The BBC is working hard to make sure that there are leaders’ debates on the TV in the run-up to the general election because they are overwhelmingly in the public interest.”

A spokeswoman for ITV also said: “ITV will hold a leaders’ debate as we did in 2010 and 2015. We will announce more details in due course.”

The broadcasters went out of their way to accommodate Mrs May's predecessor in the 2015 General Election. David Cameron wanted to include the Green Party in the debates, resulting in a seven-party debate on ITV. The BBC debate omitted Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg, who was reportedly blocked by the then-Prime Minister.

The negotiations effectively ruled out the proposed one-on-one debate between Ed Miliband and Mr Cameron. They instead participated in the collaboration between Channel 4 and Sky, Cameron and Miliband: The Battle for Number 10, where the party leaders took questions from the studio audience and were interviewed separately by Jeremy Paxman.

The political leaders' debates are quite new to the British political landscape, having only featured in the last two general elections. They reached highs of 10.3 million viewers, with 38 per cent of voters saying they were "influenced" by them in 2015.

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