ITV News poll: PM has damaged his reputation over TV debates

David Cameron has damaged his reputation by trying to avoid TV debates with other leaders, according to a new ComRes poll for ITV News.

The poll found 64% of people agreed with this statement. However, nearly half (46%) said the debates would make no difference to the way they vote in this year's General Election.

The results come as Lord Grade, a former chairman of ITV and the BBC, told Chris Ship that the broadcasters are threatening politicians "in an illegal fashion" over the debates.

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Broadcasters 'threatening politicians in illegal fashion'

Lord Grade has alleged that broadcasters are threatening politicians "in an illegal fashion" over the TV debates.

The former BBC and ITV chairman told ITV News that he had become "appalled" by the wrangling over the debates.

Asked if he stood by comments he made in January that no leader should have the right to prevent the debates, the Tory peer told Chris Ship: "No I don't, I think that was wrong - if there is no consensus there shouldn't be any debates."

Broadcasters say TV debates 'are what people want'

The first TV debate was screened in 2010. Credit: ITV News

A joint statement issued by ITV, the BBC, Sky and Channel 4 says they are trying to deliver TV debates between party leaders "because we know our audiences want them."

It added: "In 2010 they were watched by more than 20 million people and our research suggests there is an appetite for them in 2015.

"We have issued invitations to seven party leaders and we continue to hope they will all agree to take part."

The comment was issued after former BBC and ITV chairman Lord Grade accused broadcasters of 'bullying' David Cameron over his reluctance to take part in what they have proposed.


Miliband: PM's excuses not to debate are 'pathetic and feeble'

Ed Miliband branded David Cameron's excuses not to engage in TV debates before the General Election as "feeble and pathetic".

There has also been a suggestion of a five-way leader online debate to solve Cameron and Miliband's "stalemate" position.

ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks reports.

Farage accepts invitation to take part in live online debate

Ukip leader Nigel Farage. Credit: PA

Nigel Farage has accepted a proposal by the Telegraph, Guardian, and YouTube to take part in an live online debate to be streamed at the end of March.

In a statement, the Ukip leader said: "Scrutiny is an important part of democracy, and for this reason I am delighted to accept the invitation to this debate, so that I can make the case to the British electorate on why they should vote UKIP.

"I hope that the Prime Minister will muster up the courage to stand by his own words, and show up to try and defend his record in government.

"Mr Cameron has failed on nearly every pledge he made to the British public in 2010, and it is evident he’s afraid of butting heads with UKIP on immigration, the EU, our NHS, defence, education policy and more.”

Cameron tells Miliband 'we've been debating for four years'

David Cameron has shot down Ed Miliband in the row over TV debates saying that's what the pair have been doing for the last four years.

His comments come after Miliband again asked Cameron when he would go head-to-head with him.

Accusing Cameron of making "pathetic, feeble excuses", the Labour leader said: "Can we now take it that there are no circumstances that he will debate me head-to-head between now and the General Election?"

To which the Prime Minister replied: "We've had four years of debates and we've found out he's got no policies, he's got no plan and he's got no clue of running the country."


Downing St 'is getting desperate' over TV debates

Paddy Ashdown has said the suggestion David Cameron is being "bullied" by broadcasters over his stance on TV debates is "ridiculous".

The former Lib Dem leader said he did not think much weight should be given to the comments made by former BBC and ITV chairman Lord Grade that a debate without Cameron would breach impartiality claims.

He told ITV News: "Lord Grade has had a very distinguished broadcast career, but he is speaking as a Conservative peer in the Conservative interest.

"And I, frankly, don't see why we should give any more weight to his statements than exactly that."

He added he thought it was a slight indication of the "desperation" at Downing Street that they asked Grade to speak out on their behalf.

Digital debate offers to meet Cameron's deadline

David Cameron wants a seven party debate. Credit: PA

The organisers of a live online debate for party leaders in the run up to the General Election have offered to hold it before David Cameron's deadline.

Previously, the Prime Minister has said he will only take part in debates before March 30, when the election campaign trail starts.

Telegraph Media Group - which publishes the the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and Google, which owns YouTube - have invited the leaders to a digital debate on March 26 or 27.

However, they have only asked five party leaders to take part including Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Natalie Bennett and Nigel Farage.

Cameron has indicated he would only take part in TV debates if the SNP and Plaid Cymru were included.

TV debates without Cameron would 'breach impartiality'

Lord Grade was a chairman of the BBC and ITV. Credit: PA

A former chairman of BBC and ITV has said broadcasters would be "breaching impartiality rules" if they go ahead with TV debates without David Cameron.

Writing in The Times, Lord Grade, said: "Who do the broadcasters think they are?"

He added: "Their behaviour over the election debates leads me to believe they suddenly have grossly inflated and misguided ideas of their own importance."

The Tory peer also claimed that "for the first time in history" the broadcasters were "unequivocally playing politics" in trying to force elected party leaders to agree to their terms.

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