RISHI Sunak and Keir Starmer will go head to head in the first TV debate of the election, it has been announced – with the SNP snubbed.

The hour-long debate, Sunak v Starmer: The ITV Debate, will be moderated by Julie Etchingham and will take place live in front of a studio audience.

It will air from 9pm on June 4 and is the first debate of the election to be confirmed.

It follows a report in The Guardian last week which said Labour had “demanded” smaller parties be excluded from TV debates.

A straight fight between Sunak and Starmer could benefit Labour as they could avoid attacks to their left from the SNP on things like welfare as well as reducing the risk of criticism over their stance on Gaza.

At the last election, ITV saw off a legal challenge from the LibDems and the SNP after their then-leaders Jo Swinson and Nicola Sturgeon were excluded from the 2019 debate.

READ MORE: Labour 'demand' SNP cut from TV General Election debates – reports

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts last week wrote to both Labour and the Tories challenging both to go up against their party’s head in Wales.

It is thought more likely the smaller parties will be included in a BBC debate, though the broadcaster is yet to set out its plans for televised debates.

The SNP may argue they deserve to be included as the third-largest party at Westminster. The party was approached for comment.

Michael Jermey, ITV’s director of news and current affairs, said: “Millions of viewers value the election debates.

“They provide a chance to see and hear the party leaders set out their pitch to the country, debate directly with each other and take questions from voters. ITV is pleased to be broadcasting the first debate in this year’s election campaign.”