Sky News’ campaign to make TV debates a permanent fixture of general elections will be looked at “very closely and carefully” by the government, a minister has said.
James Brokenshire said he was sure there would be “debate and discussion as to the interaction between party leaders” when the next election comes around, but claimed “there isn’t an election in the offing” and said “our focus is on getting Brexit right”.
Sky News is lobbying for an independent commission to run TV debates between party leaders ahead of polling day.
Under the Sky News proposals, in which we call for head-to-head debates between the leaders of the main political parties, a Leaders’ Debate Commission (LDC) would:
:: Set the format and rules of the debates
:: Handle moderation
:: Outline the criteria for political party participation
:: Ensure the objectivity of audiences
:: Steer negotiations between broadcasters and parties.
Since it was launched on Monday, party leaders, MPs, former parliamentarians and influential groups, including the Electoral Reform Society, have signed up.
The following MPs have backed the campaign so far:
:: Amber Rudd, Conservative
:: Peter Bone, Conservative
:: Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader
:: Sir Vince Cable, Lib Dem leader
:: Hannah Bardell, SNP – on behalf of the whole party
Former MPs who have backed it are:
:: Sir Nick Clegg, ex-Lib Dem leader
:: Caroline Lucas, ex-Green Party leader
:: Natalie Bennett, ex-Green Party leader
Following Sky News successfully lobbying for TV debates in the 2010 election campaign, three head-to-head clashes were held between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg.
But since then, broadcasters and politicians have failed to agree on terms for future clashes.
There were no head-to-head debates between the leaders of the main parties in the 2015 or 2017 general election campaigns.
Sky News editor-at-large Adam Boulton has delivered a letter outlining the proposals to Theresa May at Downing Street, with Conservative sources indicating earlier this week they were considering their response.
When asked about the campaign on Wednesday, Communities Secretary Mr Brokenshire said: “Obviously we have had leaders’ debates at elections in the past, there is no election on the horizon…I’m sure there will be debate and discussion as to the interaction between party leaders for taking part in that election campaign.
“This is one proposal that’s being put forward, I’m sure we will look at this very, very closely and carefully.
“But ultimately, there isn’t an election in the offing, our focus is on getting Brexit right and that’s what the prime minister is doing.”