'Bring It On': Keir Starmer Challenges Rishi Sunak To General Election TV Debates

Labour leader dismisses as "nonsense" reports he could duck face-to-face clashes with the prime minister.
Leon Neal via Getty Images

Keir Starmer has said it is “nonsense” to suggest he would avoid live TV debates with Rishi Sunak during the general election.

Asked on Thursday if he would take part in “several” debates with the prime minister, the Labour leader said: “I am happy to debate any time.

“I don’t think anyone can accuse me of ducking scrutiny or debate. Just bring it on.”

It had been reported by The Sunday Times that Starmer’s advisers were not keen on him taking part.

Sunak is widely expected to call the general election in October or November, but he could also go early in May or delay it as late as January 2025.

There is no law that requires Sunak, Starmer or other party leaders to take part in debates.

But the prime minister did go head-to-head Liz Truss in his losing 2022 Tory leadership campaign.

General election TV debates first took place in 2010, which saw Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg capture the limelight.

In 2019 there were - for the first time - two head-to-head debates between the PM and Opposition leader, with Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn facing-off.

The first clash drew an average audience of 6.7 million viewers - a third of the British TV audience.

Theresa May infamously ducked the debates during her disastrous 2017 campaign, sending then-home secretary Amber Rudd in her place.

While in 2015, David Cameron featured in one debate with other party leaders.


What's Hot