The Labour Party last night threatened to pull the plug on three-way televised debates at the next General Election after Nick Clegg was inadvertently recorded telling David Cameron that the pair “won’t find anything to bloody disagree on”.
Mr Clegg had been taking part in a post-budget question and answer session with the Prime Minister in Nottingham which ended with the two men being asked where they would be in 2015.
Mr Cameron joked that they’d probably be having election TV leaders’ debates but that this time it might be “a bit better natured between the two of us.”
But as the two men then walked off the stage Mr Clegg forgot he had his microphone on and was recorded saying to Mr Cameron as they left the room: “If we keep doing this we won’t find anything to bloody disagree on in the bloody TV debates.”
His remarks were immediately seized on by Labour who suggested that it would be inappropriate to have a three-way televised debate as Mr Clegg was effectively now just Mr Cameron’s deputy.
“What we think should happen is that David Cameron debates with Ed Miliband while Nick Clegg debates with our deputy leader Harriet Harman.
“Clegg’s comments have reinforced our view that the next election will offer the choice between two directions for the country: a Tory led coalition and a progressive majority represented by Labour.”
He added Labour’s concerns would be raised in negotiations with the broadcasters over the next set of TV debates.
While not on the scale of Gordon Brown and “bigot-gate,” Mr Clegg’s gaffe will cause unease in Liberal Democrat circles about how close the party has become to the Conservatives in Government.
Lib Dem MPs are increasingly divided into those who are serving as ministers and those who are on the backbenches.
The former believe they have to “own” the whole of the Government’s agenda while the latter fear that the Lib Dem’s electoral distinctiveness is being eroded.