Starmer brands Sunak ‘desperate’ and says ‘of course there will be TV debates’

Sir Keir Starmer has accused Rishi Sunak of “sounding a bit desperate” after he accused him of chickening out of TV debates.

The Labour leader told Sky News that “of course there are going to be TV debates” and they are “part and parcel of the election cycle now”.

“I obviously want to spend as much of my time talking to voters directly”, he added.

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Sir Keir said he 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.

“And that is all he ever says.

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“Of course there are going to be debates, but he is sounding a bit desperate now.”

However, Sir Keir would not commit to Sky News’ leaders event in Grimsby, one of our election Target Towns.

He said there will be “negotiations into what exactly we’re doing, but of course there are going to be debates”.

It comes after Sir Keir was accused of “chickening out” of weekly showdowns during the election campaign and even branded “spineless” by his political opponents.

Mr Sunak last night challenged him to take part in six TV clashes debating issues like tax, the cost of living and security.

But Labour said Sir Keir would not agree to “tearing up” the format established in previous elections “just to suit this week’s whims of the Tory party”.

They indicated Sir Keir would be willing to take part in two debates – with the BBC and ITV.

TV election debates took off in the UK in the 2010 general election when Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg took part in three debates, on ITV, Sky News and the BBC.

Realistically, TV schedules in June and early July are packed with the group stages and knock-out matches in the Euro 2024 football tournament – with England the favourites – meaning six election debates are highly unlikely.

In his interview with Sky News, Sir Keir went on to defend a series of policy U-turns, saying they are the “practical reality of Tory damage to the economy”.

Sir Keir has been criticised for rowing back on many pledges he won the Labour leadership on, such as scrapping university tuition fees and bringing utilities into public ownership.

He said the state of the economy meant he had to prioritise other issues, such as NHS waiting lists.

“I did advocate getting rid of tuition fees, you’re absolutely right about that,” Sir Keir said.

“Now, damage has been done to the economy, we’ve got to make a choice.

“We’ve got (NHS) waiting lists that are the best part of eight million – the money is not available to do both.

“In the end, if you can’t do both, you have to make a decision. I’ve taken a political choice.”

He added: “It’s the practical reality of the damage that the Tories have done to the economy”

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