Hastings' Amber Rudd to stand in for PM at BBC election debate

The leaders of the Liberal Democrats, the UK Independence Party, the Greens and Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru, and the deputy leader of the Scottish National Party, are also taking part in the debate.

On the night, Corbyn counterintuitively did not spend much time haranguing May for her no-show. "The sort of campaign I want to do is about meeting people and taking questions", she said.

Curtice, a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said there are still many unknowns - especially whether young voters, who have shifted to Labour in large numbers, will actually turn out to vote on June 8. "I genuinely wonder how you sleep at night knowing those figures".

Mishal Hussain of the BBC with, from left Tim Farron, Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas, Leanne Wood, Amber Rudd, Paul Nuttall and Angus Robertson.

"We will make sure that the defence budget is well funded".

But the only way to have the money to invest was through having a strong economy "which does sometimes mean making hard choices, those sorts of choices no other party here is prepared to face up to".

Corbyn doing the right thing by joining TV leaders' debate tonight. "We don't know whether she is going to achieve her original ambition in calling this election or not".

"Good leaders don't run away from a debate, Theresa May undoubtedly should be here", said Lib Dem leader Mr Farron.

"Jeremy Corbyn with his money tree, wish list manifesto and no plan for Brexit or Theresa May with her record of delivery".

"Amber, have you been to a food bank?"

"You have seen the coalition of chaos here in action but in the quiet of the polling booth you have a clear choice".

Meanwhile Mr Roberston pledged to work with other parties who share the SNP's values and to provide "a strong opposition" to the Tories.

Mr Corbyn defended his speech last week linking the Manchester bombing to Britain's military interventions overseas, winning support from Mr Robertson and applause from the audience.

He added: "Our schools are underfunded, our hospitals are overcrowded, our students are saddled with debt, there's a growing housing crisis. I think the public needs to hear that and compare that".

But a Conservative Party spokesman said: "There are no changes to the Prime Minister's plans".

She added: "We will always look after pensioners, ensuring they have dignity and security in retirement". "Refusing to join me at #BBCdebate tonight would be another sign of @Theresa_May's weakness".

But the most powerful finale came from Mr Farron, who won loud applause when he said: "You're not worth Theresa May's time".

"That's with education cuts, that's with NHS cuts. Don't give her yours".

During a Q&A at a factory in Bath, May was asked by journalists if she was "frightened" about facing Corbyn in a head-to-head debate, to which she replied: "No. Jeremy Corbyn seems to be paying far more attention to how many appearances on television he's doing". There was little discussion of Brexit in a debate more focused on issues such as healthcare, pensions and other benefits. "I have the plan for the Brexit negotiations but I've also got a plan to build a stronger and more prosperous Britain and I'm confident we can do that".

  • Leroy Wright