Jo: Is he going to run scared of debating with a girly swot?

The smell of chicken pervades the political atmosphere this morning.

Probably the most predictable aspect of this General Election is that Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn would try to cut Jo Swinson out of the Leaders’s Debates. I mean, why would they want to be completely shown up by a fresh, original opponent with compelling arguments?

And so it looks very much like they are doing just that.

Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesperson told the BBC

However, when asked about a three-way discussion with Ms Swinson, the spokesman replied: “There are only two people who can be prime minister at the end of this campaign and I think the British public have a clear right to see them debate head-to-head on TV and hear their cases.”

And when Jo put Boris Johnson on the spot in  Parliament yesterday, he ignored her, choosing to make some bizarre crack about how Lib Dems were about dither and delay on Brexit. You couldn’t actually get much clearer than “Stop Brexit.” Watch here:

The exchange in full from Hansard:

At this general election, voters deserve better than a choice between the two tired old parties, and in the TV debates people deserve to hear from a leader who wants to stop Brexit and build a better future, so will the ​Prime Minister commit today to take part in those three-way debates, or is he going to run scared of debating with “a girly swot”?

Boris Johnson

I think what the people of this country want is the promises made to them kept, and I am not disposed to believe in the promises of the Liberal Democrats when their leaflets in London say they want to revoke the result of the referendum and their leaflets in the south-west of the country do not mention Brexit at all. That is what they stand for—a bunch of hypocrites, the lot of them. They stand for nothing but a policy of dither and delay and indecision. To take this country forward with fantastic environmental policies and fantastic policies on education of a kind that I think will appeal to all the hon. Lady’s constituents, she should join this party, vote for this Government and support us at the general election.

The Guardian reports that we face being frozen out of the tv debates:

While the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Sky News are all vying for the position, Swinson’s place in any forthcoming debate is less than assured. The Tories are thought to prefer simple one-on-one debates between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in a bid to reduce the election to a simple choice between the two. Labour have adopted a similar stance amid fears they could lose pro-remain votes to the Lib Dems due to the party’s pledge to revoke Brexit.

You would have thought that broadcasters would have cottoned on to the fact that two men fighting about which form of Brexit they want would not exactly set the heather on fire, while the addition of a major contrast might make it all much more compelling viewing.

If we end up with Johnson vs Corbyn, I’m sure that Jo will come up with some creative way to get in on the action.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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15 Comments

  • chris moore 31st Oct '19 - 8:08am

    This is part of the ritual of recent General elections.

    Tory and Labour agree to exclude the Lib Dems from debates. Lib Dems push back and nearly always have been included.

    I think if Labour and Tories insist on this, it’s a big own goal. Jo can push the line about not wanting to debate with “girly swot” and heap scorn on their cowardice.

  • Ryan McAlister 31st Oct '19 - 9:26am

    Just another reason pushing for this election was a mistake.

    In a brutal, personal campaign between BJ and JC (which we know it is going to be) there is going to be next to no oxygen for anyone else to get a look in in terms of coverage and opportunity. Unfair? Yes, but politics isn’t fair.

    If Jo DOES get in on a debate, I would bet a few quid it will be part of some farcical 6 way nonsense that gives nobody any chance to achieve anything.

  • I think the Lib Dems will do well in the GE, but I have to agree with Corbyn on this – the contest for PM is between Johnson and Corbyn. A 3-way debate would not be fair to the other smaller parties. Why the Lib Dems when the SNP have more seats and the Brexit party won the Euro elections so easily? The problem then is that you could have so many party leaders taking part it just gets silly. Perhaps the answer is to forget about debates altogether and just have Andrew Neil interviewing party leaders in the lead up to election day. I think the voters will find out far more about our party leaders that way.

  • John Marriott 31st Oct '19 - 10:30am

    Ryan McAlister is perfectly correct. You know, it might actually be a better idea for Johnson and JC to slug it out on the telly. It just might put a few more people off the pair of them.

    The grim reality is that, despite the many defiant yet emollient words that will undoubtedly flood into the many threads that will be entangling themselves on LDV in the run up to 12 December, as long as FPTP continues to cling to the nation’s consciousness, it will always only take two to tango in the eyes of most people. You see, most people just do NOT get coalitions. Martin Kettle has an interesting article on Hung Parliaments and the (lost) art of compromise in the ‘Journal’ section of today’s Guardian.

  • Ryan McAlister 31st Oct ’19 – 9:26am………………Just another reason pushing for this election was a mistake………..If Jo DOES get in on a debate, I would bet a few quid it will be part of some farcical 6 way nonsense that gives nobody any chance to achieve anything……………….

    Even a three way debate is usually farcical; (a) talks, (b) interrupts (a) and (c) talks over both.
    I preferred the 2017 when Paxman? interviewd Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn separately; Jo Swinson could be added, easily, to such a format.

    BTW…Could we have grown-up debates instead of ‘girly-swots’ and ‘smells of chicken’ being thrown around?

  • malc:

    the contest for PM is between Johnson and Corbyn

    This assumes that the election will result in an majority for one or other of their parties. If, as seems likely, we get a hung Parliament, then there’s a good chance we have neither. Jo has repeatedly made clear she will not lead the Lib Dems into coalition with either Johnson or Corbyn.
    Most Lib Dem target seats are Tory-facing, so it will be practically impossible for Johnson to win an overall majority if Lib Dems get more than about 50 seats. And if the Lib Dems do that well, then they could be in a position to determine not only which party forms the government, but also who leads the governing coalition. I can see no circumstances in which the Lib Dems could go into any sort of arrangement with the Tories after this election. So a possible result is a coalition with Labour but someone other than Corbyn as PM (note that this is saying nothing about who leads Labour). So the next PM could be Jo, or it could be someone no-one had thought of before.

  • Richard Underhill. 31st Oct '19 - 11:24am

    Threaten to sue the broadcasters.
    Even bad publicity affects them in competition with their rivals.

  • I know an election was inevitable but the timing is not good and we may have fallen into Johnson’s trap, I believe anything that he and his entourage are in favour of is not by any means a good idea, we should have made him sweat a bit longer. I have a very uncomfortable feeling that I might spend my twilight years under a Johnson government, perish the thought, and good luck to the country!!

  • David Allen 31st Oct '19 - 1:11pm

    Johnson vs Corbyn will inevitably get star billing. The others will have to settle for secondary events. If they’re lucky, the broadcasters will set up a seven-way or eight-way debate as a secondary event. If they’re not lucky, the only secondary events will be the one-at-a-time series of leader interviews and eviscerations by Andrew Neil. You don’t gain votes by being interviewed by Andrew Neil.

    The telly people will run a seven-way event if they think it will make good telly. Thank heavens for Nigel. He makes good telly. They’ll enjoy staging a knockabout between Nigel and Boris.

  • Yeovil Yokel 31st Oct '19 - 2:42pm

    malc, a multi-leader TV debate for the UK as a whole should have 5 participants: Johnson, Corbyn, Swinson, Lucas (the leading Green voice though not the Leader, of course), and Farage. I reckon the 2 women would wipe the floor with the 3 men.

    Although MP’s from all 4 nations sit at Westminster, Scotland, Wales, and N. Ireland have their own distinctive national parties whom only the constituents of those 3 nations can vote for. Therefore, those 3 nations can have their own separate leaders’ debates, with representatives from the British parties (eg Scottish Lib Dem’s) involved.

    Surely that would be fairer, as well as less unwieldy?

  • Paul Barker 31st Oct '19 - 3:05pm

    C4 & The BBC are already hinting at Johnson/Corbyn Debates.
    We have to fight hard on this, if all else fails then disrupt any Broadcasts that dont include Jo.
    We have 3 Voters for every 4 of Labours, whats the big difference ?
    There may be a case for Farage but The Greens have been consistently on 4%, les than a quarter of our Vote share, they arent even Fringe.

  • Paul Barker 31st Oct '19 - 4:15pm

    If we just look at the 3 Leaders on their own the satisfaction ratings fall in a Ratio of 3:2:1 in the order Johnson:Swinson:Corbyn.
    On that basis theres a case for Swinson vs Johnson Debates & leaving Corbyn out.

  • Yeovil Yokel 31st Oct ’19 – 2:42pm……………….malc, a multi-leader TV debate for the UK as a whole should have 5 participants: Johnson, Corbyn, Swinson, Lucas (the leading Green voice though not the Leader, of course), and Farage. I reckon the 2 women would wipe the floor with the 3 men……………Although MP’s from all 4 nations sit at Westminster, Scotland, Wales, and N. Ireland have their own distinctive national parties whom only the constituents of those 3 nations can vote for. Therefore, those 3 nations can have their own separate leaders’ debates, with representatives from the British parties (eg Scottish Lib Dem’s) involved….Surely that would be fairer, as well as less unwieldy?………….

    I absolutely disagree. The SNP have representation in the commons.

    As for the bit about SNP only voting in Scotland’????????????? Jo Swinson represents a seat that only those registered there (Scotland) can vote in, What is the difference between there and England?

  • John Probert 1st Nov '19 - 10:09am

    Doesn’t the last word on this matter of fairness and balance lie with Ofcom?

    See The Ofcom Broadcasting Code section six: Elections and referendums.

    We have nothing to fear.

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