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
i100
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Sport
Neil Warnock
football'New' manager for Crystal Palace
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

IT Teacher September strt with view to permanent post

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: IT...

Qualified Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: This independent Nursery is looking fo...

Qualified Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: This independent Nursery is looking fo...

Merger and Acquisition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis