James Forsyth

Corbyn piles pressure on May by agreeing to BBC debate

Corbyn piles pressure on May by agreeing to BBC debate
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Jeremy Corbyn has just announced that he will be doing the BBC Election debate tonight. This means that all the UK-wide party leaders will be there apart from Theresa May.

Corbyn’s move is clever politics. He has little to lose, and by turning up, he’ll be able to accuse May of being both too scared to defend her record and of arrogantly taking the voters for granted. It will enable him to continue his attack on her leadership style, an attack that has more of a chance of succeeding following her social care U-turn.

May being asked about why she isn't doing #BBCDebate is the televisual equivalent of haemorrhoids for the eyes pic.twitter.com/TFxKpfAFON

— Felicity Morse (@FelicityMorse) May 31, 2017

The move isn’t entirely without risk for him, though. The danger for Corbyn is that as the biggest figure on the stage, the others gang up on him. Also, Amber Rudd will be the Tory representative—and she is, as she showed during the EU referendum campaign, a formidable debater. Corbyn might actually find her more difficult to deal with than Theresa May. (If Amber Rudd comes to be seen in Tory folklore as the person who ended the ‘Corbyn surge’ with her debate performance, her standing in the party will rise considerably).

The sense that the momentum is with Labour at the moment, means that Corbyn’s decision is being seen as a bold move rather than a desperate one. Theresa May needs her successor as Home Secretary to put in a solid performance tonight.