Corbyn wants to watch 'I'm a celebrity'

May drawn into new row over Brexit television debate

Mrs May prefers a BBC debate


Prime Minister Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are embroiled in a new dispute over plans for a televised Brexit debate.

Mrs May has accepted the BBC’s offer to appear on Sunday 9 December, two days before MPs vote on her plan.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told ITV’s breakfast show This Morning he preferred ITV’s offer and claimed it was out of “respect” for viewers who wanted to watch the final of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! that evening.

“I want to watch it myself,” he said.

Timings could be crucial in determining the date, with both channels likely to adjust the schedules to accommodate the event. The BBC has offered to postpone an episode of David Attenborough’s Dynasties on BBC One.

However, other parties are unhappy at not being invited. The SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and Greens have demanded to be involved to ensure a range of views is reflected.

Mrs May has rejected calls for smaller political parties to join in, saying she and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn represented almost 90% of MPs in the Commons between them.

Green MP Caroline Lucas tweeted that the debate should include dialogue “about all possible routes forward” – including another referendum.

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable – who has also campaigned for a further referendum – said he was “raring and willing to go” in the TV debate, adding it would be a “travesty” if only Mrs May and Mr Corbyn were involved.

He said: “May is running scared of the real opposition. A debate shouldn’t take place between two cosy Brexiteers.

“The public demand the full facts and figures on the cost of Brexit. They also deserve to hear all the options. A People’s Vote, including the option to remain, is the only real alternative. I will make that case anytime, anywhere.”

Here is the text of Sir Vince Cable’s letter to broadcasters,  including BBC Director General, Tony Hall, Chief Executive of ITN, John Hardie, and Head of Sky News, John Ryley – to argue the case for fair and balanced representation in the TV debate.

Dear X, 

You will be aware of reports indicating that the Prime Minister wishes to engage the Labour Leader in a televised debate on Brexit.

Their clear preference is that this should be a head-to-head debate between the two of them. It is easy to understand why this suits their respective party-political agendas. But two leaders who are both committed to Brexit offers little in meaningful debate. We hope you will agree that this is unsustainable and would lack relevance or political balance.

The Liberal Democrats are advocating a vote on the Brexit deal, with the public being given an option to remain in the EU – a distinctive view that is not represented by either Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn. This policy was included in our 2017 General Election manifesto, in contrast to other parties. 

The BBC editorial guidelines state the need to “aim to give due weight and prominence to all the main strands of argument and to all the main parties”. The Ofcom Broadcasting Code emphasises the need for “due impartiality” and “an appropriately wide range of significant views must be included and given due weight” in such proposed programmes. This is something that could not be achieved in a head-to-head debate between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May without a Liberal Democrat representative. 

Recent polls and surveys show there is considerable support for the public being given a final say on the Brexit deal through a people’s vote. It is unthinkable that the views of millions of people could be unrepresented in any televised debate on the Brexit deal.  

The Liberal Democrats have called for the format and rules for inclusion for TV debates to be formalised for some time, and in the current circumstances it is easy to see how this could be useful in future. A quickly arranged debate now must not sacrifice the principles of fairness, impartiality and balance – something the apparent proposed format would do.

The distinctive position the Liberal Democrats offer on Brexit must be considered in arranging any forthcoming debates on the Brexit deal, in which we would hope – and expect – to be included. 

Sir Vince Cable
Leader, Liberal Democrats 

Scottish parliament

Holyrood to deliver new snub to May as parties unite

The Scottish parliament will deliver a further snub to Prime Minister Theresa May next week after four parties agreed to back a motion opposing her Brexit plan.

SNP, Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat MSPs in the parliament will unite on Wednesday when Holyrood debates the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration which set out the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the UK.

Spokesmen for the four parties (Michael Russell, Neil Findlay, Ross Greer and Tavish Scott) said in a joint statement: “We have been in discussion regarding a single motion for the debate next week which would be agreed by the four parties and would represent what we hope will be the overwhelming view of the Scottish Parliament. 

“We are now confident that we can agree on such a motion which will reject a “No Deal” scenario, recommend rejection of the Prime Minister’s negotiated agreement and point the way towards the alternatives that exist.  

“The day after the Prime Minister’s stage-managed visit to Scotland, during which she failed to engage with any politicians or individuals who oppose her proposals, this unique and positive cooperation between four of the five parties at Holyrood indicates Scotland’s strength of feeling on Brexit and the Prime Minister’s untenable position, as well as illustrating the isolation of the Tories on this matter.”

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