Mishal Hussain: How I moderate the BBC leaders’ debate with voters

  • author, By Mishal Hussain
  • stock, Presenter, BBC Prime Minister’s Debate

On Wednesday night, in a debate stage set up in an atrium at Nottingham Trent University, the two hopefuls to lead the country will face off for the last time in this election campaign.

As Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer go head-to-head, I will chair a 75-minute debate, aiming to get voters’ questions answered – as thoroughly as possible.

I see the role as a privilege, but I know it’s not easy, and there were times when I wished someone was at the helm and I could watch from my couch. But those moments pass.

These events are rare and have a special quality – unfiltered democracy at their heart, where people can speak directly to those in power and those who seek it.

With millions of people watching, listening and making judgments, it can be an unforgiving light on leaders. But with polling day just over a week away, the stakes are high and they should come to that scrutiny.

I have previously done two Seven Way Leaders discussions in 2017 and earlier this month. Each time there are different issues, and as you prepare by improving your knowledge of each side’s key principles — and their points of difference — you’ll gain spontaneity and energy. A proper debate is, in fact, more than just making up a speech.

At the start of the show, we’ll say this for maximum transparency and explain why the two are standing and the order in which they’ll deliver their final thoughts. Spoiler – it’s a coin toss.

You can watch the debate live on BBC iPlayer and BBC One tonight, Wednesday 26 June at 20:15 BST.

More details on how to follow the discussion, as well as future and past discussions of this campaign, can be found here.

Once we hit the ground running, the discussion is straight forward, for about a quarter of an hour. Where necessary, I’ll prompt both men back to points that clarify what was in the question, and yes, maybe stop from time to time.

I can’t predict what the overall tone will be, because it depends on the debaters, and these 75 minutes will carry both opportunity and danger. They won’t know what questions are coming, and the experience will be accurate and viable.

But it’s a way to reach millions of people — some of whom are still undecided about how they’ll vote.

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