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Theresa May ‘showing contempt for public’ with refusal to debate

Jeremy Corbyn said the Prime Minister’s reluctance to debate him is a sign of weakness.

Labour have accused Theresa May of “going into hiding” as the General Election campaign reaches the end of its second week.

Jeremy Corbyn said the Prime Minister’s refusal to participate in TV debates or meet members of the public on the campaign trail was “a sign of weakness”.

Mrs May has put “strong and stable leadership” at the heart of her campaign, repeating the slogan as she ventured into constituencies deep in traditional Labour territory like Leeds East, Bridgend and Bolton North East.

But the Labour leader said she was appearing only at “staged” events in front of party activists, while he was attending public events and meeting ordinary voters.

Speaking at Labour’s HQ, Mr Corbyn said: “Theresa May is hiding from the public; she won’t take part in TV debates and she won’t talk to voters.

“Refusing to debate Labour in this election isn’t a sign of strength, it’s a sign of weakness.

“In showing contempt for the public in this way, the Prime Minister is showing that it’s Labour that stands up for the many, while she speaks only for the few.

“What is she afraid of? Voters deserve to know what political parties are offering.”

Mr Corbyn’s assault came as Mrs May took a day off campaigning to hold talks with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe at her country residence Chequers.

Labour’s attack came as a poll suggested a majority of voters want TV debates featuring the leaders of all the main parties.

Conservatives have said Mrs May does not intend to take part in any televised showdowns with her rivals, though she may take questions from studio audiences.

And Labour has indicated Mr Corbyn would only take part in a debate if Mrs May was also involved.

Research for the Electoral Reform Society found 56% of voters, rising to 71% among 18-24 year-olds, regard TV debates as important in helping them decide how to cast their ballots.

And almost half (46%) think all major party leaders should commit to take part, against just 23% who said there was no need for them to.

A majority of Conservative supporters (52%) agreed the debates are important, but Tory voters were split over whether leaders should commit to taking part, with 37% saying they should against 38% who disagreed.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “These figures show voters now see TV debates as ‘part of the furniture’ of a General Election.

“That’s particularly the case for younger voters, meaning it’s therefore crucial for youth engagement that they take place.

“With both Conservatives and Labour voters agreeing TV debates are important, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn should now both commit to taking part.

“It would be a travesty for the debates to be cancelled simply because one side decided to torpedo this now-crucial part of 21st century politics.”

:: Pollsters BMG Research questioned 1,499 adults between April 21 and 24.

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