Lib Dems and SNP lose High Court challenge against ITV

The Lib Dems launched a 'debate her' ad campaign

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Liberal Democrats and SNP have lost a High Court challenge against ITV over its decision to exclude their party leaders from a televised election debate.

The two parties argued excluding them was unlawful because it breached impartiality guidelines, but two leading judges ruled there was "no arguable breach of the Broadcasting Code".

Lord Justice Davis, sitting with Mr Justice Warby, said: "The clear conclusion of both members of this court is that, viewed overall, these claims are not realistically arguable.

"It follows that the television debate scheduled for tomorrow evening between the leader of the Conservative Party and the leader of the Labour Party may lawfully go ahead."

ITV lawyers had told the court that the debate - and an interview with Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson due to follow it - would have been pulled from its schedule altogether if the judges had found ITV breached its duties under the code.

Lawyers for the Lib Dems had argued that Brexit is the "dominant" issue of the General Election and that "the voice of Remain has been excluded" by ITV's failure to include Ms Swinson in the leaders' debate.

And Lawyers for the SNP said the party represented a range of views which would not emerge in a debate between Labour and the Conservatives, including on Brexit and Scottish independence.

ITV lawyers contended its decision was not capable of challenge in the courts and that, in any event, there is no basis for alleging any unlawful conduct on its part.

Sky News has proposed a November 28 date for its debate, while the BBC has confirmed it will host two debates, on November 29 and December 6, in addition to a series of Question Time specials.

The ITV leaders' debate will take place tomorrow night.

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