There were calls for TV broadcasters to “empty chair” Theresa May in election-time leaders’ debates, after sources close to the Prime Minister indicated she will refuse to take part.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn threw down the gauntlet to the Prime Minister, also MP for Maidenhead, to agree to televised debates, which he said were “what democracy needs and what the British people deserve”.

But a Downing Street source indicated that the Prime Minister would flatly reject any proposal for a TV showdown, telling the Press Association: “Our answer is no.”

Veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby, who hosted debates on the BBC in 2010 and 2015, warned the “perilous” stance could backfire on the PM.

“I don’t think other parties will refuse to take part in debates, and I wonder whether Number 10 will stick with that, because it may look a bit odd if other parties are facing audiences and making their case,” Mr Dimbleby told Radio 4’s PM.

“When you are trying to say ‘I speak for Britain’, you’ve got to get out there and listen to what Britain says back to you and argue your case.

“I don’t think you can just stand aloof from it, I think people would look down on that rather.”