General election TV leaders' debate: Lib Dems and SNP lose battle to join ITV programme
18 November 2019, 16:09 | Updated: 18 November 2019, 19:02
The Liberal Democrats and the SNP have lost a High Court challenge to be included in a leaders' election debate on ITV on Tuesday.
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn will now go head-to-head without Jo Swinson and Nicola Sturgeon, as planned.
The judges concluded that "no arguable breach of the broadcast code" had occurred and the format of the debate was a matter of "editorial judgement".
They also refused permission for the two parties to appeal against the decision.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the decision was a "democratic disgrace", while Lib Dem president Sal Brinton declared: "This is an incredibly disappointing verdict.
"Not just for the Liberal Democrats but also for democracy in this country, and for every remainer who deserves to have a voice in this debate."
ITV's lawyers told the High Court that if it had lost, the debate would not have gone ahead on Tuesday.
It said in a statement after the decision was announced: "We welcome the court's decision and will continue with our comprehensive election coverage as planned."
The two parties took the broadcaster to court, saying their exclusion deprived voters of the chance to make their own decisions.
As the High Court appeal got under way on Monday morning, the Lib Dems launched a large poster outside the court with a picture of Ms Swinson, Mr Corbyn and Mr Johnson, with the words: "Debate her."
SNP's legal team was asked by a judge in the opening exchange: "Why have you left it so late?"
Speaking ahead of the case, Mr Blackford said people in Scotland voted Remain in 2016 and "overwhelmingly backed the SNP as their party of choice in the European elections".
He claimed polls show about half of voters support Scottish independence and if the SNP was not represented in TV debates "these key positions won't be heard".
Ahead of the High Court hearing, the Lib Dems sent a legal letter to the BBC about Ms Swinson being left out of a debate on the channel.
The letter to the BBC's director-general Tony Hall said Ms Swinson's exclusion was "clearly unlawful" as there were three main UK-wide national parties taking part in the December election.
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