Election 2015: David Cameron suggests five-way debate between party leaders

Deputy Political Editor

David Cameron has paved the way for a televised showdown with the Ukip leader Nigel Farage in the run-up to next year’s general election.

He signalled his support for a five-way debate with the leaders of all the main parties, as well as a separate head-to-head confrontation with Ed Miliband, the Labour leader.

The other parties have accused Mr Cameron of trying to stall discussions over the format of debates in an attempt to avoid an appearance.

The Tories have said talks on the issue should not take place until after the party conferences in October.

Many Conservatives are still scarred by the three televised debates of the 2010 campaign, some arguing that his performance was a factor in failing to secure an overall Commons majority.

The party would also be wary of pitting the Prime Minister against Mr Farage, whose populist style has helped Ukip to pick up widespread support from disillusioned Tory voters.

But Mr Cameron insisted he was not opposed to the principle of pre-election debates as long as the parties and broadcasters could reach agreement on their format.

He raised the prospect of one session bringing him together with Mr Miliband, Mr Farage, Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, and Natalie Bennett, the Green Party leader.

He said: “I have suggested perhaps we should have one debate with all of the parties and so everyone can have their say, and perhaps we need a debate where the two people who could be Prime Minister debate directly with each other.

“You can have a debate where you have all of the parties. I don't think we could have a party like Ukip without an MP if you don’t have a party like the Greens, who have an MP.”

It was reported last week that Mr Cameron favoured three debates in a “two-three-five” format: encounters between him and Mr Miliband; between him, Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg; and between the five leaders.

He told the BBC he believed some of the debates should take place before the formal launch of the election campaign and added: “There are still a number of issues that have to be ironed out. But I helped make the debates happen last time. I’m pro-TV debates.”

But Mr Farage, who was widely judged to have “won” two recent televised debates with Mr Clegg on the European Union, claimed the Tory leader would ultimately duck the confrontation. He said Mr Cameron would not want to discuss immigration or Europe with him.

“They are thinking about it and they won't say anything until after the party conference season in October and then they will decide it’s not a very good idea,” the Ukip leader said.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats accused Mr Cameron of trying to dodge talks over the debates.

Michael Dugher, the shadow Cabinet Office Minister, said: “If he is serious about this, he should stop dithering, appoint his negotiators and get on with it.

“It’s nonsensical for Cameron to say he wants to start the debates early, but the negotiations late.”

A senior Lib Dem source said: “If the Tories are serious about TV debates, they should stop dragging their feet and get round the negotiating table.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own