David Cameron has been challenged by Jeremy Corbyn to take part in an annual “state of the nation” televised debate with other political leaders.
The Labour leader said making general election-style set-pieces a yearly fixture would help the public “engage more in politics” and urged the Prime Minister not to “shrink” from a public contest.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and the Liberal Democrats’ Tim Farron would sign up if Mr Cameron accepted the challenge, reports yesterday claimed.
But a senior Conservative source dismissed the call as a “desperate attempt by Labour to distract voters from the deep divisions that have left the party in turmoil”.
TV debates were first held at the 2010 election, when Mr Cameron took on then prime minister Gordon Brown and then Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg in three debates.
Mr Cameron’s reservations resulted in tortured negotiations ahead of the 2015 election, which produced a head-to-head with Labour leader Ed Miliband, a seven-way clash also including the Lib Dems, Greens, Ukip, SNP and Plaid Cymru and one between opposition leaders. It is thought any annual debate would have to adopt the wider format including all major parties.
The call for a debate came after Leeds University found they increased viewers’ interest in politics by 30 per cent.
“I am challenging the Prime Minister to an annual televised ‘state of the nation’ debate of the party leaders,” Mr Corbyn said. “People are entitled to know more about their political leaders and to have their government held to account by the elected opposition in every way possible.”
A No 10 source said: “We haven’t been approached about this and would need to see the details.”
But an SNP spokeswoman said: “The televised debates earlier this year brought the election campaign alive.”