TV debate chaos: Cameron agrees to just one debate with all seven leaders

The revolution will hardly be televised

Despite championing the TV debate format in 2010 when he was leader of the opposition, David Cameron has changed his tune considerably over the prospect of televised debates this year.

All other parties have agreed to take part, but David Cameron has changed the conditions of his appearance so many times, the whole thing is becoming farcical.

A UKIP spokesman said the PM was “chicken”, Labour said he was “scared”, and on Radio 4 this morning, the Lib Dems’ Paddy Ashdown accused the prime minister of being “cowardly”.

A letter from Number 10 today said that the prime minister’s “final offer” would be to take part in just one debate featuring six other party leaders, and that it must take place before the 30th of March – after which electoral campaigning will begin in earnest.

Broadcasters had originally planned a total of three debates.

Cameron’s chosen date would also mean that the debate would occur before the Tories had unveiled their manifesto, making it very difficult for contenders to challenge any new or changed policy proposals.

Cameron’s diktats also mean that a planned head-to-head debate with Labour leader Ed Miliband now looks unlikely.

According to the FT, the Conservative’s campaign manager Lynton Crosby has said that the prime minister has nothing to gain with sharing a podium with Miliband. The paper also quotes a “senior Tory”, who said: “Do you really think we’re going to give Miliband the publicity of a two-way debate just before the election?”

Meanwhile, a Labour source said to the Guardian: “Cameron is terrified of going head to head with Ed Miliband because he does not want the British people to decide who would be the best prime minister unmediated by the Daily Mail and everyone else.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • "... the prime minister has nothing to gain with sharing a podium with Miliband."

    But everything to lose.

    He is scared of the debate, there is no other explanation for why he would not engage.

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