Former adviser reveals why May refused to debate Corbyn but Johnson will

19 November 2019, 16:16

Former advisor to Theresa May Tom Swarbrick tells Shelagh Fogarty why Mrs May didn't agree to a television debate against Jeremy Corbyn, but why Boris Johnson did - and what he needs to do to be successful.

Tom Swarbrick, also an LBC presenter, said that when Theresa May refused to do the seven way debate in 2017, "the damage was done and the narrative was set of a Prime Minister who was running away from public criticism and public scrutiny."

Swarbrick continued: "These kind of things tend to disrupt a campaign and tend to mean a win for your opponent. Certainly the narrative of tonight is that Jeremy Corbyn is going to have to pull off something spectacular and essentially win tonight in order to receive this boost in the polls."

Shelagh proposed that Theresa May's refusal to partake in debates was because she'd decided to step back and remain the current leader above the fray - but asked if she actually would have survived that fray.

Theresa May&squot;s former advisor "wasn&squot;t sure" if she&squot;d have survived the TV debate
Theresa May's former advisor "wasn't sure" if she'd have survived the TV debate. Picture: PA

Swarbrick said he was unsure, but did note when the Cabinet discussed if Mrs May would partake in the TV debate, the answer was a "straight up no" as she was "never going to be brilliant in a head-to-head debate."

He also added that "the person who is in the lead tends to have that lead shortened by the underdog who scraps from the start and does very well.

"That's the problem for Boris Johnson tonight as he is, according to the polls, in a lead - how does he disrupt Jeremy Corbyn so Corbyn can't get the soundbite that travels around the internet and travels around news bulletins and television channels. You might see him literally interrupting Jeremy Corbyn quite a lot in order to stop him having that moment."