Row breaks out after debate host trots out Tory lines after Boris Johnson fails to turn up

PUBLISHED: 14:11 09 December 2019 | UPDATED: 14:22 09 December 2019

A row has erupted over whether a Channel 4 presenter was right to give the Conservative Party a voice in a debate which they didn’t attend. Photos: Channel 4

A row has erupted over whether a Channel 4 presenter was right to give the Conservative Party a voice in a debate which they didn’t attend. Photos: Channel 4

Archant

A row has erupted over whether a Channel 4 News presenter was right to give the Conservative Party a voice in a debate which they didn’t attend.

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Representatives from five of the UK's main political parties attended Channel 4's Britain Decides: Everything But Brexit Debate, but the Tories were noticeably absent.

In an attempt to give parity to every party, even those not there, presenter Cathy Newman consistently interjected to answer on the party's behalf.

Newman was called out during the debate by Labour's shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, and has faced criticism online for the decision.

During the programme, Rayner said: "The Tories have failed and what's really frustrating is they're not here tonight and every now and again you [Cathy Newman] have to pitch in and say 'this is what the Conservatives have done'. Why are they not here to talk about their record?"

The panel were discussing crime rates, and at that point Newman goes on to incorrectly say that violent crime has not risen as Rayner had rightly suggested.

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Responding to some of the online criticism she received, Newman said: "I had to reflect the views of those who sadly declined to attend in order to comply with broadcasting law."

Broadcasters like Channel 4 are bound by purdah to give equivalent coverage to each party during an election campaign, but for many critics online, the Tories' decision not to attend the debate said enough about their view, and Newman should not have given the a voice.

"As Tories have refused to go on #C4Debate tonight I don't see why Cathy Newman has to say what they might have said on their behalf. They had their chance and ducked it. As I typed that Angela Rayner made the same point to applause. Newman didn't like that though," said Twitter user Briefcase Michael.

Another person said: "Why the hell is Cathy Newman speaking for the Tories?! The Tories declined to take part, thats THEIR call. It should not he up to anyone else to defend their position if they cant be arsed even turning up tonight!"

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