Will Cameron be replaced by an empty podium for TV debates?

That’s what the other party leaders have called for, in formal letters

David Cameron could be left out in the cold during televised debates in the run-up to the election, after he said he would not make an appearance unless the Green Party is also included.

But the pressure to attend has now increased.

Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage have all written to the prime minister to say that refusing to take part is “unacceptable” but that they will press on with the debates with him or without him.

The letters, which were sent separately but were all the same, also said that the three leaders would ask the broadcasters to provide an empty podium on the stage to highlight Cameron’s refusal to take part.

The letters said: “It would be unacceptable if the political self-interest of one party leader were to deny the public the opportunity to see their leaders debate in public.

“Therefore, if you are unwilling to reconsider, the three party leaders who have committed to participate will ask the broadcasters to press ahead with the debates and provide an empty podium should you have a last-minute change of heart.

“These debates are not the property of the politicians and I do not believe the public will accept lightly the prospect of any politician seeking to block them.”

Scaredy-cat?

Party leaders Cameron Clegg Miliband

Cameron’s critics have said his refusal to sign up to the debates shows that the Tories are running scared.

Even within the PM’s own party, there are major concerns that the six key election issues Cameron has outlined are, to quote Tory commentator Tim Montgomerie, “boringsville conservatism”.

Meanwhile a Tory MP moaned to the FT that “they’re going to spend 121 days beating us round the head on the economy.”

But is Cameron really running scared? The competition isn’t exactly red-hot.

Cameron’s refusal to stand in the debate puts him in a particularly strong tactical position.

This is firstly because he appears to be giving a helping hand to the Green Party, which is all to his advantage if they are included or not. If they are included, he can use it to demonstrate his concern about both fairness and the environment, and if they are not included, he can still claim that.

Secondly, if the Green party are left out, and Cameron sticks to his guns, then it will show he is a man of his word; but more importantly, a no-show from the prime minister will seriously undermine the validity and weight of the debates.

This could be to his advantage.

Without him, a debate will merely be a televised squabble that doesn’t provide viewers with a complete picture, and who will be interested in that?

In televised debates there are always losers. Non-attendance means that Cameron can’t lose.

Nonetheless, there is plenty of time for Cameron to surrender this high ground – as the pressure ramps up, he may yet find himself on stage, regardless of anything to do with the Green Party, but that is a scenario he’ll surely want to avoid.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • David is absolutely right, why inviting only few parties, if we have to make a choice we need to hear 'all parties' and this includes the Green, of course the Lib.dems and Labour would not like this as more people would find out what 'could be built' in their 'neighbour back gardens' and how many trees they would pluck out so the water could invade our land even more.... all greed and no sense

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