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Boris Johnson backs Sky News’ election TV debate campaign



Boris Johnson has given his backing to Sky News’ Make Debates Happen campaign, which aims to make TV set-pieces a permanent fixture of general elections.

The former foreign secretary not only called the debates “essential”, but also said there should be as many of them as possible.

He told Sky News’ deputy political editor Beth Rigby: “I think for all politicians, the thought of a leadership debate is always a bit daunting because you think ‘I might screw it up, I might say something terrible and it could go wrong for me’.

Boris Johnson told Sky News' Beth Rigby he would not apologise for his Burka comments
Boris Johnson told Sky News’ Beth Rigby he thinks there should be multiple leaders’ debates

“My feeling is that they are essential and the public does need to see interchange between their potential leaders and I think the way for politicians to allay their worries about leadership debates is to have as many of them as possible.

“So, you can make a cock-up in one and say something sensible in the next.

“That’s the way to do it and I certainly support Sky’s campaign to have an independent, sort of American-style, commission to make sure we get it right.”

Sky News launched an online petition calling for an Independent Leaders’ Debates Commission (LDC) to moderate and ensure objectivity at head-to-head debates between leaders of the main political parties.

Mr Johnson is the most prominent Tory to support the campaign, after Amber Rudd and Nicky Morgan gave their backing.

Theresa May – who refused to take part in a leaders’ debate in 2015 – would not say whether she backed the campaign.

She skirted the issue by telling Sky News’ political correspondent, Tom Rayner: “The next general election is in 2022.

“There’s plenty of time to think about those issues at that time.”

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The last leaders’ TV debate was in 2010 when David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown went head-to-head every Thursday for three weeks before the election.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has backed Sky News’ campaign, as has his deputy, Tom Watson, and the shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

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Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable has also given his support, so has his predecessor Sir Nick Clegg.

The SNP has given its backing as a whole party.

An online petition has been set up by Sky News so voters can support the campaign.

The petition will be considered for debate in parliament when it gets 100,000 signatures.

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