Luisa Porritt: BBC must empty chair the Mayor

Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London, Luisa Porritt, has called on the BBC to ’empty chair’ Sadiq Khan, and any other withdrawn candidate, following confirmation he has pulled out of BBC Politics London’s scheduled Mayoral debate.

This Sunday, a four-way Mayoral debate was due to take place on BBC One at 10.15am. It was reported yesterday (Tuesday) that Sadiq Khan had pulled out, prompting Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey to also withdraw.

Today the Liberal Democrats received confirmation that both candidates intend to send stand-in replacements.

All candidates were notified of the debate at the end of March.

In a guidance note sent to broadcasters by Ofcom about the May elections, it was confirmed that the practice of ’empty chairing’ a candidate is an ‘editorial matter’.

Luisa Porritt, Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London, said:

“It is an utter disgrace that the Mayor is engaging in the sort of runaway tactics we expect of scrutiny-dodging Boris Johnson. Londoners deserve better.

“The Mayor for London is a directly-elected role where the candidate that wins holds the power. It is totally unacceptable to send a party stand-in to a BBC One debate – espeically in the final week of the campaign.

“The Mayor cannot claim to have a diary clash. Candidates were notified about this weeks ago and what is more important than presenting your case to millions of Londoners on live television in the final week of the campaign?

“This is a political tactic. Plain and simple. The Mayor has been engaging in fake news tactics the entire campaign, misleading Londoners into believing it is a choice between him or the Conservative candidate. Under London’s different voting system, that simply isn’t true.

“He is running scared of defending his record against progressive challengers. On the economy, he has failed to set out a plan for the recovery. On housing, he has built just half the homes he promised. On the environment, he’s motoring ahead with a £2 billion polluting road project. On policing, he has overseen the biggest breakdown in trust in a generation.

“If the Mayor, or any other candidate, cannot find the time to debate this Sunday the BBC should do the right thing and empty chair them. No “stand-in” can be Mayor this May, so they should not take part in the Mayoral debate.”

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