U.K. Prime Ministership Race: Sky News Live TV Debate Canceled After ‘Disagreements’ Among Candidates Exposed, BBC Showdown Added

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UPDATED: The BBC will broadcast a live debate with the final two candidates Conservative Party leadership candidates on July 25. The corporation confirmed that all four remaining candidates have agreed to take part if they make it to the final two. Tuesday’s debate on Sky News was canceled as frontrunners Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss declined to participate.

Presented by Sophie Raworth, with analysis from BBC political editor Chris Mason and BBC economics editor Faisal Islam, “Our Next Prime Minister” will broadcast live from Stoke on Trent in front of a 80-100 strong audience on BBC One. The 60-minute program will be simulcast on BBC Radio 5 Live with coverage continuing after the debate and across BBC News Online and the BBC News Channel.

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Jonathan Munro, interim director of BBC News and Current Affairs, said: “We’re delighted to be offering BBC audiences the chance to be part of this pivotal moment in politics and hear, first hand, from the final two candidates as they compete to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister.”

The BBC will also invite the final two candidates to take part in a televised one-on-one interview with Nick Robinson in “Our Next Prime Minister: The Interviews.”

EARLIER: The Sky News live television debate scheduled for Tuesday, featuring the remaining contenders for the next leader of the U.K.’s Conservative Party and the country’s next prime minister, has been canceled.

The debate was originally scheduled for Monday.

“Tuesday evening’s live television debate on Sky News between the Conservative Party leadership candidates has been canceled. Two of the ​three candidates currently leading in the MPs ballots — Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss — have confirmed to Sky News that they do not want to take part,” a Sky News spokesperson said in a statement shared with Variety.

“Conservative MPs are said to be concerned about the damage the debates are doing to the image of the Conservative Party, exposing disagreements and splits within the party. Both are very welcome to taking part in future Sky News televised debates,” the statement added.

“Sky News has campaigned for an independent commission to organise the running of TV debates between leaders of Britain’s main parties. Sky News and other broadcasters worked successfully together on televised leadership debates ahead of the 2010 general election,” the statement concluded.

There were heated debates last Friday and Sunday, on Channel 4 and ITV respectively, featuring the last five standing after internal voting amongst Conservative Party MPs — former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch, current Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt current Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat.

The leadership contest will be whittled down to two and decided by a national vote of the Conservative Party ballot membership with the result due by Sept. 5. The winner will be sworn in as U.K. prime minister.

PREVIOUSLY: ITV and Sky News will host live television debates featuring the contenders for the next leader of the U.K.’s Conservative Party and the country’s next prime minister.

Current prime minister Boris Johnson resigned last week amid mounting scandals and the resignations of his top ministers but will continue in the position until a new leader has been elected by the party.

On July 17, ITV will hold a live television debate with the Conservative leadership candidates at White City studios. On July 18, the candidates will face off at the Sky News Studios in West London for a live debate hosted by Kay Burley and will also face questions from a virtual studio audience.

There are 11 contenders so far, including former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and current Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi; former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch, who has the backing of former Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove; Attorney General Suella Braverman; current Foreign Office minister Rehman Chishti; former health secretaries Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid; current Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt; current Transport Secretary Grant Shapps; current Foreign Secretary Liz Truss; and chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat.

There is speculation that current Home Secretary Priti Patel might join the fray. Former Brexit minister Steve Baker has dropped his own leadership bid and is backing Braverman while former Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, considered a front runner for the post, has pulled out of the contest. Johnson will not be backing any candidates.

Michael Jermey, ITV’s director of news and current affairs said: “Television debates at important elections help voters engage with politics. ITV has been the home of some of the biggest political debates over the past decade. Sunday’s debate will be an important event as the country’s next prime minister is chosen.”

John Ryley, head of Sky News, added: “There has never been a more important time to reinvigorate the trust of voters in the office of the prime minister. This live TV debate on Sky News gives the candidates a chance to reconnect with millions by debating the major issues facing Britain. It presents a unique opportunity to re-engage a disillusioned electorate.”

Unlike the U.S., where live TV debates for the U.S. presidential race began in 1956, it is a relatively recent practice in the U.K. with Sky and other broadcasters hosting the first leaders’ debates in 2010.

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