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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Labour leader Keir Starmer and Labour MP Diane Abbott. Alamy Stock Photo
head to head

UK election: Sunak and Starmer confirm first TV debate as Diane Abbott's future unclear

The debate will take place on ITV on 4 June.

RISHI SUNAK AND Keir Starmer will go head-to-head in the first televised leaders’ debate of the UK general election campaign next week.

The British Prime Minister and the Labour leader will face off in an hour-long debate that will be broadcast on ITV at 9pm on Tuesday, 4 June. 

ITV has confirmed that the debate will take place in front of a live studio audience and be moderated by journalist Julie Etchingham. 

It will be the first of a number of debates between the two party leaders ahead of the election on 4 July.

The Conservative’s campaign has gotten off to a shaky start, after Sunak announced the election outside 10 Downing Street with the rain drizzling down on him and the famed Labour campaign song ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ blasting from an unofficial loudspeaker. 

The Tory leader was also asked if he is the “captain of a sinking ship going into this election” during a visit to Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.

The Spectator labelled it a “tortuous Titanic exchange” while Ruth Davidson, the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives party, questioned the optics in a “site visit to something famous for sinking”.

The party’s plan to reintroduce compulsory national service for 18-year-olds has also received a mixed reaction, with one Tory minister claiming it was “sprung” on MPs and Labour deeming it a “gimmick” and a “teenage Dad’s Army”. 

While Labour’s campaign has arguably garnered fewer headlines, the party has become embroiled in controversy over whether Diane Abbott has been barred from running as a candidate. 

The veteran MP, who became the first black woman elected to Parliament in 1987, was suspended from the party in April last year pending an investigation over comments she made in a letter to The Observer. 

Referring to Irish, Jewish and Traveller people, Abbott wrote that “many types of white people with points of difference” can experience prejudice, but that they are not subject to racism “all their lives”. She later apologised for her remarks.

Abbott had the whip restored on Tuesday, but it was then reported that she had been barred from standing for Labour in her constituency of Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

The BBC reported that Abbott had confirmed to them that she had been barred.

However, writing on X this morning, Abbott said she was “very dismayed that numerous reports suggest I have been barred as a candidate”. 

Speaking this afternoon, Keir Starmer denied reports that she had been barred from standing for Labour and told reporters that no decision has yet been taken.

“No decision has been taken to bar Diane Abbott. The process that we were going through ended with the restoration of the whip the other day,” he said.

“She’s a member of the parliamentary Labour party and no decision has been taken barring her.”

Rishi Sunak has said that Labour has to be “transparent” about Abbott’s position.

With reporting from Press Association

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