Lib Dem women urge broadcasters to include leader Jo Swinson in TV election debates
Liberal Democrat women are demanding their leader Jo Swinson be included in TV election debates to “inspire women and girls into leadership roles”.
A group of Lib Dem MPs, MEPs and peers have written an open letter to broadcasters calling for the only female leader of a UK-wide party to be given a platform along Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in the run-up to the 12 December poll.
The move comes after the party lodged a formal complaint to ITV after it announced its first election debate will take place between just the Labour and Conservative leaders.
“As Liberal Democrat women, we are immensely proud to have elected our first woman leader,” they said.
“We believe it is important, in terms of inspiring girls and women into leadership roles in future, that the only woman to lead a major UK party is not locked out of the leadership debates.
“Over the course of this parliament, women in particular have been subjected to verbal abuse and threats of violence, with many deciding not to seek re-election.
"We have also seen, in our wider society, outrage at the discrepancies between the pay of men and women in some of our greatest institutions... Sadly, these issues of discrimination and marginalisation of women still remain relevant, and must be challenged.”
The group also pointed to the party’s polling at now being “consistently around 20%” and its success at the local elections in May.
“If Jo were not to be included in the leadership debates that are proposed, it would deny these people a voice. Her exclusion would fail to represent any balance or provide a platform for a unique position that has undeniably garnered significant public support,” they added.
Lib Dem president Sal Brinton also wrote to ITV Chief Executive, Dame Carolyn McCall, calling for the station’s decision to exclude Ms Swinson from the 19 November debate to be reversed.
Baroness Brinton said failing to include the “strongest” national Remain party in the debates was “misrepresenting the current political reality".
“The voters of this country deserve to hear from a Remainer on the debate stage, not just from the two men who want to deliver Brexit. They deserve to know that there is another way,” she said.
“Please, ensure that there is a plurality of voices in the debate, ensure that the biggest Remain Party is represented, ensure that Jo Swinson is up on the debate stage with Corbyn and Johnson.”
ITV plans to include the Liberal Democrats in a later debate prior to the election, which will also include the SNP, the Brexit Party, the Greens, Plaid Cymru as well as representatives from Labour and the Conservatives.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford also hit out at ITV's proposed head-to-head debate between Labour and Conservatives as "deeply misleading for audiences."