Boris Johnson throws down gauntlet to Jeremy Corbyn ahead of TV debate

18 November 2019, 23:38

Boris Johnson has challenged Jeremy Corbyn ahead of the leadership debate
Boris Johnson has challenged Jeremy Corbyn ahead of the leadership debate. Picture: PA

By Sylvia DeLuca

Hours before the leadership debate the prime minister has, in a letter, asked Jeremy Corbyn to answer questions he claims he has so far "ducked".

Ahead of the first televised leadership debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, the prime minister has told the Labour leader "the public have a right to know where the two candidates for Prime Minister stand on the big questions facing the country at this election."

In his letter, the prime minister has asked Mr Corbyn to respond to the four following questions ahead of the debate, the first one being focused on what his stance is on Brexit.

"You are proposing a second referendum on EU membership. In that referendum, would you recommend the UK should remain or leave?

"Your previous manifesto promised to end freedom of movement, but following your conference it is now Labour Party policy to “maintain and extend” free movement. Would you end, maintain or extend free movement, and would immigration be higher or lower under Corbyn’s Labour?

"Asked on Sunday if you were prepared to continue to pay into the EU budget on an ongoing basis, you replied “clearly if you want access to a market there are costs involved”. How much would you be willing to pay into the EU budget in return for “access to markets”?

"All 635 Conservative candidates standing at this election have pledged to me that, if elected, they will vote in Parliament to pass my Brexit deal. Can you guarantee that every Labour candidate supports your Brexit policy?"

Boris Johnson has asked Jeremy Corbyn what his stance on Brexit is
Boris Johnson has asked Jeremy Corbyn what his stance on Brexit is. Picture: PA

The prime minister warned that "without satisfactory answers to these questions, the public will have no choice but to conclude that Mr Corbyn’s Labour, propped up by the SNP, will mean dither, delay, and uncertainty with two more chaotic referendums next year."

Johnson v Corbyn: The ITV Debate will be screened at 8pm on Tuesday.

The Lib Dems lodged a complaint to ITV earlier this month for excluding Jo Swinson from the debate. The party said that “failing to have Liberal Democrats in the debate is misrepresenting the current political reality.”

The SNP also wanted the issue of Scottish independence to be debated.

However both parties lost their legal challenge against ITV yesterday, when a High Court ruled that there was "no arguable breach of the Broadcasting Code".

Jo Swinson argued: "There are millions of people in our country who want to remain in the European Union, a key issue in this election.

"So to have a debate just between two people who want to leave the EU leaves out a whole side of that debate, leaves out and silences the voices of millions of people in this country."

An advertising van showing Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson.
An advertising van showing Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson. Picture: PA

The leadership debate will be Boris Johnson's first TV debate as Conservative leader, but he debated his Tory leadership rival Jeremy Hunt in July this year.

It will be the first time Mr Corbyn goes head-to-head with a Conservative leader.

In 2017, Theresa May refused to debate with Mr Corbyn or other party leaders, although before leaving office this year, she admitted that she should have taken part.

A major year for TV election debates was in 2010, when Sky News, ITV and the BBC each staged debates between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

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