Jeremy Corbyn has said he will not take part in any general election TV debates without Theresa May – effectively ensuring the events won't go ahead.
Labour has repeatedly harangued the prime minister over her decision not to take part in any head-to-head debates ahead of the vote, breaking with the precedent set by party leaders in 2010 and 2015.
In response, broadcasters have proposed going ahead with only the leaders of opposition parties on stage – but Corbyn's team has now confirmed he is not interested unless the prime minister is also involved.
"I don't think having a debate among opposition parties meets the objective of giving the British people a chance to see what the real choices are in this election campaign," said Corbyn's spokesperson, speaking to reporters after the final Prime Minister's Questions of parliament.
"Our challenge to the prime minister is to have the strength and guts to face a direct debate with Jeremy Corbyn on the issues facing the country."
Asked whether Labour would win the general election, Corbyn's spokesperson said it would be possible:
"We are confident that we can win this election once Labour's message is clearly heard."
Despite enormous polling leads for the Conservatives the spokesperson said politics as a whole was in a "fluid situation" and Corbyn would benefit from improved media coverage during the campaign.
"In a general election campaign you have the opportunity to get policy out to the public in a way that is not normally the case," they said.
"We've all come to understand polling has a pretty chequered history recently. We have the fight of our lives on our hands."
Conservative campaign chief Lynton Crosby is known to dislike TV debates, believing they introduce unnecessary risk into a campaign and allow opposition parties extra airtime. He has partly blamed David Cameron's decision to take part in debates ahead of the 2010 general election for enabling the Liberal Democrats to surge and costing the Tories a majority.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who took part in some of the 2015 debates, criticised the decision.
Earlier in the day, at PMQs, Corbyn returned to a tactic he used in his first ever PMQs – reading out emails from voters, who raised concerns about issues such as the NHS and school funding. In return May criticised Corbyn over his fitness to be prime minister, saying "Every vote for him is a vote to weaken our economy."
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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