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TV debates: Ed Miliband to debate himself if David Cameron continues to 'run scared'

But Labour elections chiefs say the idea of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg stepping in for the PM would be 'ridiculous'

Adam Withnall
Thursday 05 March 2015 12:13 GMT
Ed Miliband said he was happy to debate himself if David Cameron refused to turn up
Ed Miliband said he was happy to debate himself if David Cameron refused to turn up (PA)

Ed Miliband could appear in a TV debate on his own one week before the general election if David Cameron refuses to take part, Labour has said.

As the Prime Minister said he was issuing a “final offer” of a single TV appearance alongside all six other vying political parties, even former spin doctor Alastair Campbell admitted that the torturous debate about the debates was making British politics look “pathetic”.

Lucy Powell, the deputy in charge of Labour’s election campaign, told BBC News that it was all getting “ridiculous” after the Deputy Prime Minister, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, said he was “very happy” to step in to replace Mr Cameron in the head-to-head.

But she appeared straight-faced when she suggested that “if [David Cameron] doesn’t want to take part in those debates, he should be honest about why and then he should let Ed Miliband have some free media time on his own”.

Broadcasters said they were pressing ahead with plans to put on a debate for the two people in the running to be the next prime minister on 30 April, due to air on Sky News and Channel 4.

And after the Lib Dem chair Lord Ashdown urged broadcasters to “empty-chair” the Prime Minister, Labour sources suggested they would be happy for Mr Miliband to instead be subjected to an hour-long grilling by Jeremy Paxman.

Appearing on his weekly LBC radio phone-in earlier, Mr Clegg said: “Having been in government for five years, I also have this old-fashioned view that I want to defend the record of this Government. If David Cameron is too busy or too important to defend the record of this Government with Ed Miliband, then I offer myself. I'll do it instead.”

But Ms Powell said: “Ed Miliband wants to go head to head with David Cameron - there’s not an option on the table for a debate with Nick Clegg.

“Mr Miliband is up for it, he wants to lead this country. David Cameron says he does but he is… running scared from that debate.

“Not only is that wrong but it’s also totally hypocritical. There should be outrage about David Cameron’s decision to opt out – we’re outraged and we believe the public are too.”

Mr Campbell, who famously discouraged Tony Blair from taking part in TV debates in 1997, said times had changed and that Mr Cameron himself had called debates “vital to the democratic process” in 2010.

Asked if Mr Miliband should take part in a solo debate, Mr Campbell told the BBC it would be a “tactical judgement” but that he “probably” should if all attempts to pin down Mr Cameron failed.

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