Tebbit warns Cameron on TV debates

Published: Sunday 11th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Voters will think that David Cameron is “frit” if he dodges live TV debates with other party leaders ahead of the May 7 general election, former Conservative Party chairman Lord Tebbit has said.

Lord Tebbit warned that other parties would take advantage of Mr Cameron’s failure to take part by sowing doubts in voters’ minds about the reasons for his non-appearance.

Labour and Ukip have accused the Prime Minister of being a “chicken” and “running scared” of televised debates after he ruled out taking part if the Green Party leader Natalie Bennett was left out. Mr Cameron has insisted that the format being suggested by broadcasters is not fair because it includes Ukip leader Nigel Farage but excludes the Greens.

Ed Miliband and Mr Farage also mocked the Prime Minister after it emerged he would not take part in an online question and answer session with young voters – something that the Labour and Ukip leaders, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Ms Bennett have all done.

Under plans for the TV debates agreed by the major broadcasters in October, the Prime Minister would take on Mr Miliband alone in one debate, with another featuring the three mainstream party leaders and a third also including Mr Farage.

Lord Tebbit’s comment that Mr Cameron risks looking “frit” is all the more biting because it is a clear reference to Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 taunt to then Labour deputy leader Denis Healey that he was scared of a general election.

The Tory peer told The Observer: “I don’t think it is going to improve his image. I think the public will take the view that he is frit.

“And anyway, the public enjoy these confrontations. It is obviously going to be the most awful election campaign that anyone can remember, so to rob it even of this little bit of show, I think, would not be particularly pleasing to the public.

“It would certainly provide the opportunity for the other parties to say, ‘What is wrong with him? Why doesn’t he want to do it?’ And for the more sophisticated audience, they will whisper quietly that the reason is that he bungled it in 2010.”

Mr Cameron took on Mr Clegg and Labour prime minister Gordon Brown in the UK’s first ever general election leaders’ debates in 2010, which the Lib Dem leader was widely regarded to have won. Some Conservatives have blamed the debates for denying the party an overall majority.

Published: Sunday 11th January 2015 by The News Editor

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