Blair will face Hague in live televised debate

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Tony Blair and William Hague could face each other in a head-to-head live debate on television, the Prime Minister's official spokesman signalled yesterday.

Tony Blair and William Hague could face each other in a head-to-head live debate on television, the Prime Minister's official spokesman signalled yesterday.

Alastair Campbell played down previous opposition by Downing Street to a US-style debate, suggesting that he believed it would happen at some stage. He told the parliamentary press gallery lunch: "My hunch is that at some stage it will happen. They are a perfectly good thing in principle."

He disclosed there had "already been all sorts of discussions" with broadcasters. "I guess it would depend on the circumstances," he added.

Mr Hague, the Tory leader, has repeatedly demanded a television confrontation with Mr Blair so that the public could decide who would make a better prime minister. However, Labour strategists privately cast doubt on Mr Campbell's pledge because there would be logistical problems, particularly over the need to give all parties fair coverage under the Representation of the People's Act. The Liberal Democrats would almost certainly have to be included.

Tim Collins, the Tories' vice chairman, challenged Mr Campbell to live up to his promise. "William Hague has made it clear for some time that he would like a series of debates on TV during the general election between the candidates for the post of Prime Minister. It's ridiculous that Britain is the only advanced country where this does not happen. We are flexible on most aspects of the debate and look forward to this being resolved quickly."

During his address, Mr Campbell also conceded that New Labour had contributed to the growth of "spin" in politics.

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