Viewers prefer Supervet on Channel 4 to ITV leaders debate without Corbyn and May

Last night’s ITV leaders debate turned out to be a ratings turn-off with the two potential prime ministers absent.

Described by the Independent’s John Rentoul as “like BBC Question Time without the jokes“, the most memorable part of last night’s election debate for some was one leader accidentally calling another the wrong name.

Paul Nuttall’s night began badly and was made worse by the UKIP leader calling Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood “Natalie” on more than one occasion.

Theresa May had refused to take part, while Jeremy Corbyn said he would only participate if May did too. This decision was criticised by ITV political editor Robert Peston, who labelled both leaders “pathetic” on screen for their decision to dodge the debate.

Without May or Corbyn on board the debate attracted poor viewing figures despite its prime-time 8-10pm slot on ITV. Whereas the 2015 ITV seven-way ITV leaders debate attracted more than 7m viewers, last night’s five-way effort only attracted 1.7m. This was an 8.8 per cent audience share, a figure beaten by ‘Supervet’ on Channel 4.

Philip Sim of the BBC tweeted: “Say what you will about empty chairs etc, but what we’ve ended up with here is a debate between parties that won 69 seats in 2015 .”

Janine Gibson, editor in chief of Buzzfeed UK, made her feelings clear on Twitter: “In the good old days, the controller of ITV would have engineered a power cut or a strike or something by now.”

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