Campaigners launch petition urging Boris Johnson to take part in TV leader debates

Posted on the 25th June 2019

Campaigners have launched a petition calling on Boris Johnson not to ‘dodge the debates’, after Sky was forced to cancel this Tuesday’s TV head-to-head [1].

Pressure has been growing from Conservatives and across the spectrum for Mr Johnson to take part, with the petition piling more pressure on the Conservative frontrunner to agree to take part in the series of TV debates planned in the next few weeks [2].

Willie Sullivan, Senior Director at the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“In our fragile democracy, we need all the opportunities possible to hold public figures to account. So it’s all the more galling when one of those opportunities is stripped away, due to Boris Johnson’s apparent refusal to take part in the upcoming TV debates.

“Since the Conservative leadership candidates have ruled out a general election, it is even more vital that voters know what they stand for and have the chance to grill them. Candidates should be open to full scrutiny in front of all the public – not just a handful of unrepresentative party activists. This election will choose the UK’s next Prime Minister – so it really matters.

“The fact that the electorate for this contest is restricted to just 160,000 Conservative Party members means the need for full and proper public scrutiny is even more vital. By appearing to hide from scrutiny, Boris Johnson is denying us all a vital democratic opportunity.

“That’s why we’ve launched this petition for both leadership candidates to take part in at least one televised head-to-head before voting closes. There’s just a week before the next TV debate is scheduled, so we urge both candidates to commit to taking part soon. There’s no excuse for hiding from scrutiny. It is time to stand up for open and transparent debates.”

A poll for the Electoral Reform Society during the 2017 election found 56% of voters, rising to 71% among 18-24 year-olds, back TV election debates, which have been a feature of election campaigns since 2010.

Over a third of viewers said the 2017 Question Time election special influenced their vote. On a UK-wide level, that would amount to 1.4m voters. And more than 80 percent of viewers said they talked about the Question Time special with their friends and family, while 40 percent saying the programme made them more interested in the campaign.


Notes to Editors

The Electoral Reform Society operates on a simple premise – that politics can be better than it is. We campaign for a better democracy. As the Electoral Reform Society is the UK’s leading voice for democratic reform, the Society works with everyone – from political parties, civil society groups and academics to our own members and supporters and the wider public – to campaign for a better democracy in the UK.

Our vision is of a democracy fit for the 21st century, where every voice is heard, every vote is valued equally, and every citizen is empowered to take part. We make the case for lasting political reforms, we seek to embed democracy into the heart of public debate, and foster the democratic spaces which encourage active citizenship.

In 2017 the ERS published a major report on the Question Times special


[2] Hustings and TV debate timetable here


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