Only Starmer and Sunak to appear in first UK general election TV debate as smaller parties snubbed

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer’s first TV debate ahead of the general election will air on ITV next week – but without the presence of the any other UK political party leader.

The Conservative and Labour party leaders are set to face off in an hour-long showdown on Tuesday (4 June), starting at 9pm, but without any smaller parties present.

While the leaders of the Tories and Labour clash, the SNP, Lib Dems and the Greens reportedly wont’ be able to join in, with reports suggesting that Labour “demanded” they be excluded.

ITV sources told The Guardian on Friday (24 May) that senior Labour figures had demanded the debate be kept between Sunak and Starmer over fears that the presence of other party leaders could undermine Labour’s surge in the polls.

The first general election TV debate won’t include leaders of smaller parties. (Leon Neal/Carl Court/Geoff Caddick/ Ian Forsyth/Christopher Furlong via Getty Images)

According to the newspaper, the BBC is likely to take the same approach in its upcoming debate, although the broadcaster being publicly funded could force its hand to allow the other parties to participate.

Other broadcasters, such as Sky News and GB News, meanwhile, could miss out on hosting debates altogether after Labour said it was only planning for two televised head-to-heads.

Instead, Starmer will participate in a Q&A hustings with voters for Sky News, saying: “I could do 100 debates with Rishi Sunak, but I know what he’s going to say.

“He’s going to say everything is fine, the cost-of-living crisis is over, the health service hasn’t got any problems.”

Michael Jermey, ITV’s director of news and current affairs, told The National: “Millions of viewers value the election debates. They provide a chance to see and hear the party leaders set out their pitch to the country, debate directly with each other and take questions from voters.

“ITV is pleased to be broadcasting the first debate in this year’s election campaign.”

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