McDonnell: TV Debate Would Contrast Cynical May With Honest Corbyn

19 April 2017, 17:38 | Updated: 19 April 2017, 17:43

The Shadow Chancellor told Iain Dale that he hoped the Prime Minister would change her mind on doing a TV debate - but did not confirm whether Jeremy Corbyn would appear regardless.

The Conservatives said Theresa May would not take part in any television debate. John McDonnell said it would show her cynicism in contrast to Jeremy Corbyn’s straight forward style.

“In a head-to-head debate I think you’d have that contrast of a Prime Minister who has cynically been quite opportunistic… and some like Jeremy Corbyn who is just straight; what you see is what you get.”

He cited the Labour leadership debates, which he said changed the course of the campaign and helped Corbyn beat his rivals.

“He came across as a sincere, decent, honest person. Principled and actually quite firm and courageous on some issues.”

The possibility of holding a leaders debate with a empty podium - ‘empty chairing’ - for Theresa May. McDonnell did not support that idea but did say broadcasters need to keep the issue alive.

“I think they’ve got to put as much pressure as they can on her.

“It becomes embarrassing after a while, because this will be an issue that’s repeated every day, every hour almost.

While he insisted that Jeremy Corbyn would want to debate Theresa May, McDonnell did not say whether he would appear in a debate if she was not present.