Theresa May criticised for snubbing TV election debates

Prime Minister Theresa May has faced criticism for refusing to take part in televised debates in the run up to the General Election.

There have been calls for TV broadcasters to "empty chair" Mrs May after she said she would not debate the frontmen and women of the opposition.

ITV has confirmed it will screen a leaders' debate in the run-up to the June 8 vote.

"ITV will hold a leaders' debate as we did in 2010 and 2015," the broadcaster confirmed. "We will announce more details in due course."

The televised election debates in 2015 saw seven leaders make their case to the nation. Credit: ITV

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn threw down the gauntlet to the PM to appear, saying a debate is "what democracy needs and what the British people deserve".

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron accused Mrs May of "bottling" the debate and said broadcasters had a "moral duty" to allow leaders to lock horns in front of a TV audience.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, whose profile received a boost in the 2015 broadcasts, led calls for Mrs May's absence to be noted in a debate.

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown took part in the historic first televised debates. Credit: PA

"Theresa May should be empty chaired if she doesn't show up to any planned TV debates," she said.

The prime minister announced her intentions earlier as she said she believed campaigning should be getting "out and about" meeting voters.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "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

Televised election debates first took place in the UK in the build-up to the 2010 General Election, and involved three clashes between the leaders of the three biggest national parties - Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

Following considerable wrangling over the formats, the 2015 saw debates featuring Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg alongside Labour leader Ed Miliband, as well as the leaders of Ukip, the SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru.