ITV won’t ’empty chair’ Theresa May during party leaders’ election debate

The Prime Minister will be invited to join the live televised debate despite having indicated that she will not take part

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ITV will not ’empty chair’ Prime Minister Theresa May during its live party leaders’ general election debate on 18th May, RadioTimes.com understands.

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Following Mrs May’s insistence last month that she will not take part in televised debates ahead of the election on 8th June – preferring instead to “get out and about and meet the voters” – there were calls for the Conservative leader’s podium place in debates to be left empty as a reminder of her absence.

But it appears that while ITV will invite leaders from all seven parties – the Conservatives, Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens – it will provide places only for those who agree to attend.

As in the broadcaster’s two previous general election debates, leaders will each be given the opportunity to make a short opening statement at the beginning of the programme and closing remarks at the end. During the live debate, they will get the chance, in turn, to answer questions asked by members of the studio audience, before the floor is opened up to “a period of free flowing debate”. ITV News anchor Julie Etchingham will host the programme.

Despite being a staple of US politics, televised leaders’ debates are relatively new to Britain. ITV broadcast the first one ahead of the 2010 general election and followed it with the only seven-party leaders’ debate in 2015, which drew an average audience of over 7 million.

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The ITV Leaders’ Debate will air on Thursday 18th May