David Cameron in favour of change to TV election debates

PM told a Westminster lunch he was in favour of the debates in principle, but felt that in 2010 they sucked the life out of the rest of the campaign

Prime Minister David Cameron today signalled that he wants to see changes to the format of the televised debates with other party leaders introduced in the 2010 general election if he is to take part again in 2015.

Mr Cameron told a Westminster lunch he was in favour of the debates in principle, but felt that in 2010 they sucked the life out of the rest of the campaign.

The Prime Minister said he had not yet decided whether to sign up for another round of TV clashes and indicated that if they did go ahead, he would favour a less formal format for the debates.

"I think TV debates are good. I enjoyed them last time - particularly the last one," he said.

"We have a fixed-term parliament now, so we can think about it in a slightly different way. I haven't made my mind up exactly what we should do but I am in favour of these debates.

"My reflection on last time was that they did take all the life out of the campaign.

"The press and all of us were interested in the run-up to the debate, the debate and the post-debate analysis, not the rest of the campaign, which I really enjoy.

"I like campaigning, I like being out there, the public meetings, the awkward moments, the difficulties - it is an incredibly exciting time, trying to explain what you are about and what you are trying to do.

"I found the TV debates took all the life out of it."

Britain's first-ever televised general election leaders' debates, between Mr Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg, were staged on BBC, ITV and Sky News in 2010 after prolonged negotiations between the parties and the TV companies, which resulted in very strict rules on the style of questioning and the division of time for leaders' answers.

"We started with TV debates that were easy to agree, because they were quite controlled," said Mr Cameron.

"I think that was right because we wanted everyone to sign up, but as a result they were quite dry - what really mattered was just delivering the soundbite down the camera, rather than a proper debate and more interaction.

"I think we could learn from last time. I have got an open mind and there is still two and a half years to go before we have to really think about it.

Mr Cameron's comments came as he fielded questions on a wide range of topics from lobby journalists.

He revealed that he did not watch suspended Conservative MP Nadine Dorries on TV reality show I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, but said that he would be "tempted" to vote for Boris Johnson to undergo a "bushtucker trial" if the London Mayor ever went onto the ITV show.

But he appeared to blunder when recalling another popular reality show, when he claimed the only time he voted by phone was to back Will Young on X Factor on the orders of his daughter Nancy.

However, Young won the first series of Pop Idol in 2002 - two years before Nancy's birth in 2004.

When he was asked whether he would like to see Mr Johnson follow Ms Dorries onto I'm A Celebrity, Mr Cameron admitted he was not a regular viewer of reality TV.

"I think I did vote for Will Young once in X Factor, because my daughter made me," he said. "I didn't vote and I didn't watch any of Nadine."

Mr Cameron revealed that he once had a "fantastic conversation" with Baroness Thatcher, when the former Prime Minister's daughter Carol was a contestant on I'm A Celebrity in 2005.

But he said he would have no influence on whether Mr Johnson followed in her footsteps, telling reporters: "I have very little control over what Boris does. I'm sure he will make up his own mind. I think he is doing a great job as Mayor of London."

Asked if he would vote for Mr Johnson to undergo a "bushtucker trial" - in which celebrity guests are forced to eat disgusting dishes like kangaroo testicles - a laughing Mr Cameron replied: "He might tempt me."

PA

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