Jeremy Corbyn rules out 'empty chairing' Theresa May in televised debates

LONDON — Jeremy Corbyn has dismissed suggestions of “empty chairing” the prime minister after she refused to take part in televised election debates.

Theresa May last week refused requests to take part in televised debates with the Labour leader, after which broadcasters and other opposition parties threatened to go ahead without her.

However, when asked on Wednesday whether the Labour leader would also be willing to empty chair the PM, Corbyn’s spokesperson told Business Insider that doing so would not “meet the objectives” of such debates.

“I don’t think that having a debate among opposition parties in any way meets the objective of giving the British people a chance to see what the real choices are in this election campaign,” he told BI.

“Our challenge is to the Prime Minister to have the strength and guts to actually face a direct debate with Jeremy Corbyn on the issues facing the country, ” he said.

He added that: “If you’re talking about a debate about the possible outcomes of the general election then you’re talking about a debate between the Conservative party and the Labour party.”

Polling doubts

A new poll out today puts Labour 23% behind the Conservatives with Theresa May enjoying better personal ratings than Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher at their peak.

However, Corbyn’s spokesperson today dismissed such “problematic” polls, saying that polling companies had a “chequered record” on recording public opinion in recent years.

Asked by BI whether his hunch was that the current polls were wrong, Corbyn’s spokesperson replied: “I’m just saying it’s obvious, it’s not a contentious point. We’ve had some very problematic polling results in recent times.”

He added: “I’m saying the record of polling in recent times is very chequered so I don’t think it should be taken as a straightforward given.”

Corbyn’s spokesman declined repeated requests to say that Labour will win the election, however, insisting only that “we can win this election yes.”

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