PM agrees to join single TV debate

Published: Tuesday 17th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed to take part in a single televised debate with other party leaders during the general election campaign.

Conservative sources said that the proposal for a single debate hosted by ITV and featuring seven leaders was put forward by the broadcasters and accepted by Mr Cameron over the weekend.

They claimed that Labour was trying to veto the proposal, which would replace earlier plans for three debates including a one-on-one showdown between Mr Cameron and Ed Miliband a week before the May 7 general election.

But a senior Labour source dismissed the allegation as “preposterous” and said the party had not received any information about plans for a single seven-way debate. Labour understood that the existing proposal for three debates, which it has accepted, remains on the table.

A senior Conservative source said: “The Prime Minister accepts the broadcasters’ offer of one seven-way debate at the very beginning of April. It now appears that Labour are trying to veto that deal. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.”

Labour had previously accused Mr Cameron of “running scared” of the TV debates after he insisted that first the Greens and then the Democratic Unionist Party should be included, and said that he was only willing to take part in a broadcast staged before the formal start of the campaign on March 30.

The proposal put forward by the BBC, ITV, Sky News and Channel 4 in January envisaged three debates on April 2, 16 and 30, with the first two involving not only Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg but also Ukip’s Nigel Farage, Green leader Natalie Bennett, the Scottish National Party’s Nicola Sturgeon and Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood.

The final debate – to be screened by Sky and Channel 4 – was slated to be a head-to-head encounter between the two men vying to be prime minister.

But Mr Cameron argued that the TV debates “sucked the life out” of the election campaign when they were first tried in 2010, and should be held before the campaign officially started.

A Labour spokesman said: “Based on the broadcasters’ proposals, we have accepted and plan to attend all three debates on April 2, 16 and 30.

“If the Tories have confirmed they are to attend to one of these debates, then that is progress. It is one down, two to go. But no one should be fooled: David Cameron is still running scared of a head-to-head televised debate with Ed Miliband.”

The Liberal Democrats welcomed the prospect that Mr Cameron was now prepared to take part in a debate and said that Nick Clegg would join in.

A senior source said: “If it is true, then it is to be welcomed that the Conservative Party are going to take part in the debate. We will certainly be there.

“We look forward to hearing from the broadcasters and others about their response to this.”

Published: Tuesday 17th March 2015 by The News Editor

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