Election debates to go ahead even if leaders do not take part

Broadcasters have issued new proposals for television debates ahead of General Election - with plans to continue if any party leader refuses to take part.

The planned schedule will see two programmes featuring seven party leaders, with one further debate between David Cameron and Ed Miliband alone.

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Broadcasters turn down DUP TV debate request

DUP leader Peter Robinson had asked for his party to be included. Credit: PA

ITV and BBC have written to Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party to explain why they will not be included in TV debates ahead of the General Election.

In the letter, the broadcasters said it would be unfair to include one party from Northern Ireland but no others.

They added that the alternative of including all five major parties in the country - DUP, Sinn Fein, the Ulster Unionist Party, the SDLP and the Alliance Party - would be "disproportionate" and "not in the wider interests of viewers throughout the UK".

At present, the broadcasters have proposals in place to involve party leaders from seven parties: Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Ukip, Green Party, SNP and Plaid Cymru.

The letter noted: "Including all the major Northern Ireland parties in the network programmes would mean having 12 participants - and 97% of viewers in the rest of the UK would not be able to vote for at least five of those twelve parties."

Both the BBC and UTV plan dedicated debates in Northern Ireland involving all the larger Northern Ireland parties.


Poll: Half of Britons think seven-party debates will be more interesting

Just under half (49%) of Britons think that election debates involving seven political parties will make for a more interesting debate, a poll has found.

Only around one in five (22%) respondents to the ComRes/ITV News poll said it would make the debates less interesting.

All seven party leaders will be invited to take part in debates on ITV and the BBC Credit: ITV News

However, only two in five (39%) said that the televised debates will be important in helping them decide who to vote for. This proportion rose to over half (51%) among respondents between the ages of 18 and 24.

Almost two-thirds (64%) said the debates should go ahead even if David Cameron does not take part.

Cameron refuses to confirm if he will join TV debates

Despite admitting that his requests to extend the party leaders have now been met the Prime Minister still refused to confirm he will definitely be taking part on them.

David Cameron was asked by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener if he would now take part in the the televised debates, he said:

We're making good progress. I was told that it was appalling and outrageous that I'd suggested you couldn't have one minor party without having the other minor party and i'm delighted the broadcasters have gone away and thought again.

They've actually come up with rather more minor parties than I had in mind, but I'm sure they've thought it all through and they know what they're doing.

I want to take part and I said they need to do the minor party thing and they've certainly done that.

– David Cameron

Farage: 'You can't debate with seven on the podium'

Farage: 'You can't debate with seven on the podium' Credit: PA

Ukip leader Nigel Farage has criticised the revised plan for televised debates saying they will not work with "seven people on the podium".

You can't have a debate with seven people on the podium.

And if you are going to have seven, you have got to have the Northern Irish DUP, they are after all the fourth biggest party in Parliament.

The broadcasters made a decision, Ofcom backed that decision up: there are four major parties in British politics.

Mr Cameron, I'm afraid, has managed to upset the whole debate, to dilute the thing.

And I think these debates are now looking less likely to happen than they were before.

– Ukip leader Nigel Farage speaking to Channel 4 News

Plaid Cymru: People of Wales deserve a 'true choice'

Plaid Cymru Leanne Wood (L) with Deputy First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon. Credit: PA

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has welcomed plans for seven-party TV election debates saying the the people of Wales deserve a "true choice".

The people of Wales deserve to be presented with a true reflection of the choice facing them on May 7 and I will be accepting the invitation to participate without hesitation.

I welcome the opportunity to put forward Plaid Cymru's many ambitious proposals for making Wales a fairer, more prosperous place to live, and to make the case for returning the largest ever group of Plaid MPs to Westminster to ensure a strong voice for our nation.

– Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood


Tories will not be drawn on Cameron joining TV debates

Tories won't be drawn on whether Cameron will join TV debates. Credit: PA

The Tories would not be drawn on whether Mr Cameron would take part in televised debates before the General Election, with a spokesman saying: "These new proposals are being considered as part of the ongoing discussions about the debates."

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein said it would challenge any attempt to discriminate against the party by excluding it.

"Sinn Fein will take every opportunity to present and promote its policies and positions," a party spokesman said.

Labour: 'Miliband ready to take part in all three debates'

Labour: 'Miliband ready to take part in all three debates'. Credit: PA

The Labour Party has confirmed that leaded Ed Miliband is "ready to take part in all three debates" planned for television before the General Election.

We will debate anyone the broadcasters choose to invite and we are pleased to see the clear proposal to have three debates all in the general election campaign.

The broadcasters have obviously made a very significant move to adopt wholesale the Prime Minister's proposals and it is surely now not possible for him to maintain his opposition to participating in these debates.

We relish the opportunity for Ed Miliband to take on David Cameron directly in a head-to-head debate.

– Labour spokesman

Greens: 'Fewer people want business-as-usual politics'

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett. Credit: PA

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has said that "fewer people want business-as-usual politics" as she responded to the announcement that more parties will be invited to televised debates.

The decision to include the Greens in two debates is an acceptance by the broadcasters that we now are in an age of multi-party politics.

The political landscape is fracturing and fewer and fewer people want the business-as-usual politics offered by the traditional Westminster parties.

This is the Green Spring.

– Green Party leader Natalie Bennett

Sturgeon: 'SNP has more members than Ukip and Lib Dems'

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with David Cameron. Credit: PA

First Minister for Scotland and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said the case for including her party in televised debates was "unanswerable".

With a larger membership than the Lib Dems and Ukip combined, and more elected MPs than Ukip, the case for including the SNP in the televised debates was unanswerable.

– SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon
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