Clegg: We should repeat televised leaders' debates


The deputy prime minister has endorsed calls for a TV debate between party leaders before the next election.

His comments followed a question from Conservative MP Peter Bone on 15 October 2013, who asked: "Could the deputy prime minister give the government's view on having televised leaders debate before the next general election and would he ensure that the fourth party is allowed to take part in that debate so he'd be able to speak?"

Mr Bone was apparently referring to Ukip, the party with which he has previously argued the Conservatives should enter an electoral pact.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg replied: "This isn't a subject - thankfully, perhaps - of government policy. It's a subject of discussion between broadcasters, who will have their own views and the political parties."

He continued: "I think the innovation of televised leaders debates was a good one. I think millions of people found it a good opportunity to see how the party leaders measured up against each other and I think we should repeat them."

Nick Clegg was widely regarded as having benefited from the leaders' debates in 2010, the first time a US presidential-style debate has taken place in the UK.

Earlier in the session, Mr Clegg took aim at another aspect of US politics when pressed by Labour MP Paul Blomfield to explain his stance on reform of non-party campaign funding.

Referring to the third sector's objections to the Transparency of Lobbying Bill, Mr Blomfield said that "frankly they feel betrayed".

"Can the deputy prime minister explain why has he led the Liberal Democrats in this assault on grassroot politics or better still even at this late stage recognise he has got this one badly wrong?" Mr Blomfield challenged him.

But Mr Clegg answered that the bill was designed to curb "the increasing trend of big money in British politics".

"Non-party political funds in the election last time doubled to £3m," he added. "We've seen what happens if that gets out of control - just look across the Atlantic at the US: super PACs, the increasing polarisation of politics."

Super PACs are a category of independent political action group established by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that is allowed to accept and spend unlimited amounts of corporate, individual or union cash on behalf of a candidate, often without disclosing its sources.

After questions to the deputy prime minister, MPs had the chance to cross-examine the attorney general.

The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, and solicitor general, Oliver Heald, answered questions on topics including prosecutions for rape and domestic violence, victims of child abuse and rape, vulnerable witnesses and how prosecutors should deal with human trafficking.

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