Theresa May is 'running scared' of a leaders' debate with Nicola Sturgeon


She added: "I think we've got a really strong message into this general election campaign and I am happy to go on telly. and to speak to the nation about it".

Asked about the snap general election, a Number 10 source said: "We won't be doing TV debates".

Although a mainstay of United States presidential elections for decades, the first live TV debates during a United Kingdom general election was only held in 2010.

He said: "It seems to me she feels she has got everything to lose by going on television and debating myself and others".

THERESA May has been accused of running scared from a debate with Nicola Sturgeon after the Prime Minister steadfastly refused to take part in any televised debates ahead of the election.

"You can't say an election is part of a liberal democracy and then refuse to debate", said Natalie Fenton, co-director of the Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy at Goldsmiths, University of London.

If Theresa May is so proud of her record, why won't she debate it?

"She says it's about leadership, yet is refusing to defend her record in television debates".

Broadcaster David Dimbleby, who hosted leaders' debates on the BBC in both 2010 and 2015, said a refusal to take part in TV showdowns with her rivals could be "rather perilous" for Mrs May.

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And Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood - whose profile received a major boost from her involvement in two of the 2015 broadcasts - said: "Theresa May should be empty chaired if she doesn't show up to any planned TV debates".

She ruled it out, saying it was more important to "go out and knock on doors" - but she is now reported to be open to the idea of a televised Q&A with voters.

United Kingdom party leaders first took part in televised debates back in 2010 when Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg clashed during three live broadcasts ahead of the general election.

In 2010, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown took part in three such events - but there was much wrangling over the formats for the debates which followed in 2015.

The SNP leader and Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, argued that TV debates should go ahead without May.

He said: "The British people deserve to hear party leaders set out their plans and debate them publicly".

"Politicians may moan about shallow, personality led political reporting but the debates are the essence of public service broadcasting", said one broadcaster who was involved in previous discussions over the televised debates. Executives denied plans to "empty chair" or embarrass any leaders, including the prime minister, with any visual reminder of their absence.

Although unpopular, observers consider May's decision to be a political calculation as she holds a roughly 20-point lead in the polls. Unlike in 2010 and 2015, Downing Street is more convinced of a majority vote and is understood to believe that it does not need the potentially risky TV debates to reach parts of the electorate that may be turned off by politics as usual.