In the last Question Time programme before next week’s General Election, former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg took the opportunity to claim that the Prime Minister’s decision not to appear suggests she doesn’t have the mettle to negotiate Brexit.
The former deputy Prime Minister said it was a “great shame” Mrs May chose not to attend, adding: “This tendency to take a rather standoffish and slightly haughty approach… is not the kind of demeanour you’d want when you’re having to cajole and charm and persuade 27 other countries to see our point of view.
Theresa May's absence from Wednesday night's debate has been widely condemned
Whatever happened to ‘strong and stable’? Where did that go?
“I think it was a disservice to this election, I also don’t think it’s a great advertisement for the kind of skills needed for a complex negotiation.”
Labour’s shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner was also quick to condemn Mrs May’s decision, particularly after his own party leader Jeremy Corbyn had a last minute change of heart and decided to appear on the programme.
Mr Gardiner said: “I think she should have done the British people the courtesy of turning up and arguing for her policies.
The TV election debate – in pictures Wed, May 31, 2017
The televised debate saw Jeremy Corbyn, Amber Rudd, Paul Nuttall, Caroline Lucas, Angus Robertson, Tim Farron and Leanne Wood go toe-to-toe
PA 1 of 15
The politicians taking part in the debate
“Was it arrogance? Was it fear of being confronted in the way that she had been on Monday night and laughed at?
“If you are the Prime Minister of this country and you have called an election… you have show real mettle, turn up, take the flack, and show that you’re the person who can do that.”
Get Quotes on Home Insurance
SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson, who appeared on the BBC debate on Wednesday night, also joined in the attack on Mrs May – despite the fact that his own party leader Nicola Sturgeon was not present.
This week's Question Time is the last before the election
He said: “I turned up, and I’m sorry the Prime Minister didn’t.
“What is normal in pretty much every democracy, is that you see party leaders debate one another.
“So far, the only debate I’ve seen the Prime Minister involved in was sitting on a couch with her husband on The One Show! That is not serious!
“The Prime Minister should be tested by colleagues, she should have the confidence in her arguments, and it leaves you with thought… what trust can we have in her abilities to negotiate on our behalf?
Snap election 2017: The pictures politicians may not want you to see Sat, May 27, 2017
Protests, fights and daleks, it's all happening as the politicians hit the campaign trail for the snap election
PA 1 of 48
Jeremy Corbyn during a visit to Hackney Marshes Football Pitches, to highlight Labour's manifesto commitment to ensure 5% of the Premier League's television rights income is diverted to the grassroots game, during a General Election campaign
“Whatever happened to ‘strong and stable’? Where did that go?”
During the 90-minute programme on Wednesday evening, party leaders accused Mrs May of lacking “guts” and “running away from the debate”.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron launched a string of attacks on Mrs May during Wednesday’s debate, saying: "Where do you think Theresa May is tonight?
"Take a look out your window. She might be out there sizing up your house to pay for your social care."
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were both present at the debate
Meanwhile, Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas said the "first rule of leadership is to show up".
She added: “You don't say it's the most important election of our lifetime and not be bothered to show up."
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood added that Mrs May was absent because "her campaign of soundbites is falling apart".