BBC debate: Theresa May defends no-show after Corbyn U-turn

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Media captionTheresa May defends TV debate stance

Theresa May has defended her absence from this evening’s TV general election debate, saying she is taking questions “up and round the country” instead.

Mrs May faced repeated questions after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn changed his position and said he would take part.

The Lib Dems, UKIP, SNP, Green Party and Plaid Cymru are also on the panel for the seven-way BBC debate in Cambridge, which starts at 19:30 BST.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd will take part for the Tories.

Mrs May has already ruled out taking part in head-to-head debates, and Labour had said that Mr Corbyn would not attend unless she was there.

But on the afternoon of the event, Mr Corbyn confirmed he would take part, and criticised the Tories for what he called “a stage-managed arms-length campaign”.

“Refusing to join me in Cambridge tonight would be another sign of Theresa May’s weakness, not strength,” he added.

Taking questions during a campaign visit in Bath, Mrs May said Mr Corbyn “seems to be paying far more attention to how many appearances on telly he’s doing, and he ought to be paying a little more attention to thinking about Brexit negotiations”.

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn announces he’s taking part in TV debate

Asked whether she was frightened of taking on Mr Corbyn, she said she had been doing this every week during Prime Minister’s Questions, adding that it was “so important” to be taking questions from voters.

“That’s why I’ve been doing that up and round the country,” she added.

But Lib Dem leader Tim Farron accused her of “keeping voters in the dark”.

“Theresa May called this election but now won’t even turn up to debate the issues,” he said.

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Mishal Husain will moderate the debate which takes place in Cambridge

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The scene is set for Wednesday’s debate

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Several election programmes with audience participation have been arranged ahead of 8 June

Mishal Husain will moderate the debate, which takes place in Cambridge and will be shown on BBC One from 19:30-21:00 BST and livestreamed on Twitter.

As well as Mr Corbyn and Ms Rudd, the panel will be: Mr Farron, UKIP’s Paul Nuttall, SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson, Green co-leader Caroline Lucas and Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood.

Each panellist will make an opening statement before taking questions from the audience.

The show is the latest in a series of special broadcasts ahead of the 8 June general election.

This includes two Question Time shows – on 2 June featuring Mrs May and Mr Corbyn appearing separately and on 4 June with Mr Farron and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.

Andrew Neil has been carrying out a series of interviews with party leaders.

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