THE BLOG

If Jeremy Corbyn Really Is A Vote Winner, He Should Take Part In The BBC's Leaders' Debate

30/05/2017 17:34
POOL New / Reuters

Corbynistas always maintained the more the public saw of the Labour leader, the greater his support would become.

With less than 10 days until the election, and Corbyn delivering assured performances during recent grillings from Andrew Neil and Jeremy Paxman, the polls are closing.

His supporters will say this proves their point, and when the filter which biased journalists apply to Corbyn's words and actions is removed, the voters see a Prime Minister-in-waiting.

If this is true, Corbyn should have the courage of his, and his supporters', convictions, and take part in the BBC's seven-way debate on Wednesday.

The 90-minute show will be beamed into living rooms across the nation between 7.30pm and 9pm on BBC One. There is scarcely a more prime-time slot available for Corbyn to make the case that he should be given the keys to Downing Street next week.

Theresa May has ducked out of the debate. The Prime Minister does not want to engage in a head-to-head clash with Corbyn, calculating that with such a huge lead, such a contest would only benefit their opponent.

With May refusing to take part, Corbyn's team decided their man shouldn't play either, believing having him alongside the leaders of regional and minor parties would diminish him in the eyes of the electorate.

A similar scenario confronted Ed Miliband in 2015, when David Cameron said he would only take part in one seven-way leader debate.

A 'Challengers' debate was organised, featuring the leaders of Labour, the SNP, the Greens, Plaid Cmyru and Ukip.

Miliband's advisor Tom Baldwin said that of the four live shows Miliband took part in during the election campaign, preparing for the one debate without the Prime Minister was the most difficult.

He said: "It turned Ed into the biggest beast in the room and everyone wanted to take him on.

"It became such a strange debate without the Prime Minister there.

"It became a story about Nicola Sturgeon in the end."

But there is a crucial difference between 2017's Prime Minister-less debate and the 2015 event - and I don't mean the inclusion of the Lib Dems.

This time, the Tories are sending someone along: Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

That means there will be a punching bag on the stage for those with grievances against the Government, something which Corbyn could exploit.

Additionally, it allows Labour to put out the message that they are taking this election seriously, whereas May is so complacent she is sending a mere underling to answer voters' questions.

"It will allow Corbyn to say: 'I will take questions, any time, any place, any where,'" says Baldwin.

Miliband's former advisor believes Corbyn should take party in order to keep up the momentum Labour has created in the recent days.

"I would tell them it's probably worth the risk," he says, adding: "They have to find a way of keeping this election interesting and make it look like Labour are making the weather.

"I suspect they may do it."

One man who would counsel against such a move is Corbyn's former spokesperson Matt Zarb-Cousin.

He believes that Rudd's presence doesn't change the fact the Prime Minister is not taking part, and anything remotely controversial said by the Home Secretary can by played down by Tory spinners.

"They have plausible deniability," he says.

"It gives them a kind of out - they can distance themselves from what Amber Rudd says."

Labour is certainly considering sending Corbyn into bat on Wednesday. When the BBC released details of who was taking part at the weekend, it simply said "to be confirmed" next to Labour's name.

A source in Corbyn's team refused to rule out him stepping up to the Labour podium in Cambridge, repeating "we are not saying" when questioned if it would be the party leader.

At this stage of the campaign - indeed, at any stage - it would seem a strange tactic to keep Corbyn off the airwaves if you truly believe he is your greatest asset.

If those who back Corbyn and what he represents genuinely think it is just the dilution of his message by the media that has put Labour on the course for defeat, they should grab this opportunity with both hands.

Quite simply: If you believe Corbyn is a vote-winner, why wouldn't you?

Comments

CONVERSATIONS