'An establishment stitch-up' to exclude Remain: Jo Swinson hits out at BBC debate

PUBLISHED: 14:31 08 November 2019 | UPDATED: 14:40 08 November 2019

Jo Swinson has called her exclusion from an upcoming BBC electoral debate 'an establishment stitch-up' to exclude Remain. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Jo Swinson has called her exclusion from an upcoming BBC electoral debate 'an establishment stitch-up' to exclude Remain. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

2019 Getty Images

The Liberal Democrats reacted angrily to news that the BBC is set to host a head-to-head debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn - but not Jo Swinson.

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Dubbed the Prime Ministerial Debate, it will be hosted by Nick Robinson on December 6, and will follow a "seven-way podium debate" a week earlier featuring "leaders or senior figures from the seven major GB political parties".

But Swinson accused the BBC of being "complicit in another establishment stitch-up" because she was not selected to take part in the head-to-head debate.

She said that the move would "shut down debate on the most important issue for generations: Brexit".

She added: "Millions of people voted to Remain in 2016. After three years of chaos, it is shocking that the Liberal Democrats - the strongest party of Remain - are being denied the opportunity to challenge Johnson and Corbyn on Brexit."

Earlier, the Lib Dems filed an Ofcom complaint against ITV because Swinson was not invited to its planned November 19 debate. Now Swinson has said her party will "pursue legal avenues", adding that the broadcaster "cannot and should not exclude the only woman leader who is able to be the next prime minister".

Adding to the debate, the SNP also complained about Sky's proposed three-way debate between Johnson, Corbyn and Swinson on November 28, because Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon was not invited. Plaid Cymru also complained about the Sky debate.

MORE: Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru hit out at exclusion from TV debates

The BBC also said a special two-hour long version of Question Time will be broadcast on November 22, in which Johnson, Corbyn, Sturgeon and Swinson will each take questions from the audience for 30 minutes.

A debate aimed at voters under 30 will also be aired and the BBC will host debates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland featuring the main parties in each country.

Televised general election debates started in 2010, with Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg clashing in three debates - famed for the phrase "I agree with Nick" uttered by both main party leaders repeatedly, before the Lib Dems went on to enjoy 'kingmaker' status.

Formats have changed over the years but with the increased destabilising of the two-party system, running battles have taken place between the broadcasters and party leaders over who should be invited.

In 2017, then-PM Theresa May refused to take part in a seven-way debate on the BBC, sending then-home secretary Amber Rudd.

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