No television debates before the next General Election? Conservatives reluctant to give Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg an equal platform in 2015

The three 90-minute debates before the last election attracted huge audiences

The Conservatives may be cooling on the idea of repeating the televised debates between the three main party leaders in 2010 at the next general election.

Although David Cameron’s aides denied he wants to duck a re-run of the US Presidential-style debates held two years ago, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and broadcasters fear that the Tories may throw up obstacles to re-running them next time.

When Mr Cameron failed to win an overall majority in 2015, some senior Tories argued he had been wrong to demand Britain’s first TV election showdowns.  Next time, some Tory advisers may argue that, as Prime Minister, he should not allow Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg an equal platform.

In public, the Tories are unlikely to oppose a re-run, which would be criticised as an attempt to stifle the democratic process. The three 90-minute debates last time attracted huge audiences, the first one drawing almost 10m people.  But other parties suspect the Tories may make unrealistic demands in the negotiations on how the debates would work that could prevent the parties and broadcasters reaching agreement.  Such stalling tactics have  been used by parties in previous elections when they did not believe debates would be to their advantage.

Talks between the parties and TV companies are due to start shortly.  Although many politicians thought the debates would become a permanent feature of UK elections, the broadcasters’ fears were voiced today by Nick Robinson, the BBC’s political editor.  He said no one should assume a second series will happen. “I am beginning to hear doubts about whether agreement will be possible for debates in 2015,” he said. “Many Conservatives are convinced that the 2010 debates ended David Cameron’s hopes of securing a majority. They gave Nick Clegg a huge boost and the hullabaloo that surrounded them diverted the spotlight from Gordon Brown’s record.

“Some close to Mr Cameron will argue that he should not make the same mistake twice. Why risk giving a platform to Ed Miliband to establish himself in the public mind as a potential prime minister?”

If the debates go ahead, they are bound to be very different to 2010 since the Tories and Liberal Democrats will defend the Coalition’s record, potentially giving their leaders an advantage over Labour. At the same time, Mr Clegg will want to fight the election as an independent party and “differentiate” from the Tories.

A Labour source said: “What we hear on the grapevine is very worrying. If the Tories back away from something which engaged the electorate, we will not let them wriggle off lightly.”  Mr Miliband wants to open up the debates more to the audience, so that the public get a right of reply after the three leaders have answered their question.

A Lib Dem source said: “We hope and expect debates will happen next time. The idea that parties could deprive people of something that proved successful would be a very bad thing.”  The first debate in 2010 sparked what became known as “Cleggmania” as the Lib Dems soared in the polls, although it did not last and they ended up with fewer MPs after the election.

A Tory source said last night: “The election is more than two years away. This is just not on the agenda at the moment.”

Some critics believe it was unhealthy that the 2010 debates broadcast by the BBC, ITV and Sky News dominated the entire campaign, leaving less room for debate on policy.  But failure to repeat them in 2015 would be seen by many voters as a backward step.

 

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
football
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Assessor

£26000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: SAP Assessor Job T...

Year 6 Teacher needed for 1 Term- Worthing!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Year 6 larger then life teach...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: SEN Jobs Available Devon

Infrastructure Lead, (Trading, VCE, Converged, Hyper V)

£600 - £900 per day: Harrington Starr: Infrastructure Lead, (Trading infrastru...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering