Profile: Sir Cyril Smith

Cyril Smith

Sir Cyril Smith, the larger-than-life Rochdale MP who died in 2010, is alleged to have abused vulnerable young boys in the town. The claims are now being investigated by the police but Sir Cyril was never prosecuted while he was alive.

His family says he always denied accusations made about him at the time but did not take legal action because of the expense.

But Simon Danczuk, Rochdale's current Labour MP, claims Sir Cyril used his powerful position to evade prosecution for sexually abusing boys.

The allegations first surfaced in 1979 when Private Eye magazine carried reports that he abused teenagers at Cambridge House, a privately run "hostel for working boys" in Rochdale, which closed in 1965.

It has also been alleged that he raped boys at Knowl View residential school, which closed in 1992 - the year Sir Cyril left Parliament.

Liberal MP David Alton and his parents celebrate his by-election victory at Edge Hill, with David Steel and Cyril Smith Sir Cyril (right) joined the Liberal Party in 1945, then again in 1970 as Rochdale's parliamentary candidate

Cyril Smith had been one of the most distinctive figures in the House of Commons, serving first as a Liberal, then Liberal Democrat MP.

In his younger years he had been a Labour councillor, saying he wanted to join a party that had power.

But he would later call the Liberal-Labour alliance an abomination and twice failed to have the pact ended by party ballot.

The Liberals, he said, "must be free and independent".

Despite his reputation for forthright independence, he was made the party's chief whip in 1975, just three years after taking his seat at Westminster.

He played a key role in holding the party together during the 1970s when party leader Jeremy Thorpe faced allegations that he had conspired to murder a male model. Thorpe was acquitted but resigned from his post.

Cyril Smith
  • Born in Rochdale, 28 June 1928
  • Educated at Rochdale Grammar School for Boys
  • Worked at Rochdale Inland Revenue Tax Office, and subsequently as an office boy at the Fothergill & Harvey Mill
  • Joined Liberal Party in 1945
  • Labour party councillor from 1952 and Labour mayor of Rochdale from 1966
  • Liberal parliamentary candidate at 1970 election and 1972 by election where he won.
  • Died 3 September 2010

When Sir Cyril arrived at the Commons in 1972, he brought with him a trainload of Rochdale supporters and, for the next two decades, cut a rumbustious figure in British politics.

Frequently outspoken, his capacity for blunt speaking often put him in the headlines.

Unusually in his party he wanted to bring back hanging and supported the nuclear deterrent. He was a fan of the Queen Mother.

But then he was used to taking an individualistic approach to his politics.

He left the Labour Party after 15 years, despite realising a childhood dream with the party when he rose to become mayor of Rochdale in 1966.

It had been a long route to climb.

Born in 1928, his autobiography talked of his upbringing as the illegitimate child of a Rochdale housemaid.

After watching his mother work "like a Trojan" for years to support her family, he rewarded her in later life. When he became mayor she was his mayoress.

A long kidney illness interrupted his schooling for a year and led to his obesity. Although a course of dieting in 1976 reduced his weight from 28 stone (178kg) to 23 (146kg), it went up again later.

His 75in (1.9m) waistline and distinctive Lancashire dialect made him ripe for caricature.

Cyril Smith

And despite his limited political achievements, he remained a parliamentary favourite and a much-requested public orator.

When he died in 2010, hundreds of mourners turned out to a memorial service in Rochdale.

Friends, Liberal Democrat colleagues and family members paid tribute to a man they called a "champion" of his hometown, known to many as "Mr Rochdale".

He had been knighted for his public service in 1988 - the same year he announced he would not stand again for Parliament.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said he was saddened to hear of the death of a "true Liberal" who was a friend to "everybody in Rochdale".

"Cyril Smith was a larger-than-life character and one of the most recognisable and likeable politicians of his day," he added.

But all that changed on his death.

Party president Tim Farron now says the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Rochdale civic society have serious questions to answer about who knew what when about their former colleague's alleged offences.

Lawyers for his alleged victims say they are considering taking legal action against the Lib Dems.

More Politics stories

RSS

Politics Live

  1.  
    #bbcqt 23:06: QT - SNP popularity

    A large part of the Question Time debate tonight has focused on the strength of the SNP in Scotland, in light of a recent poll which shows that the party's popularity is growing. Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour Party, Kezia Dugdale, is met with groans from the audience when she suggests that the polls are good news for the Tories because a vote for the SNP will help the Conservatives and hinder Labour. The audience claps when MSP for Glasgow Humza Yousaf - who is a member of the SNP - says that "it's not a case of the people abandoning Labour it's Labour abandoning the people". He describes the Scottish Labour party as the "right side of the Tories and the wrong side of the Scottish people".

     
  2.  
    22:58: Shapps on debates BBC Newsnight BBC Two, 22:30

    Tory chairman Grant Shapps appears on Newsnight to say that he believes the broadcasters have had more than enough time to sort the issue of the TV debates. "The whole thing has not been covered with glory," he says. When specifically asked Mr Shapps says that Mr Cameron does want to debate with Mr Miliband one-to-one , and "he does so every week" in PMQs.

     
  3.  
    #bbcqt 22:54: Question Time - TV debates

    TV debates and whether they should or shouldn't happen is unsurprisingly the first question from an audience member during Question Time. Ruth Davidson - leader of the Scottish Conservatives - describes the situation as a "complete horlicks from start to finish", while Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Liberal Democrat, Danny Alexander, says David Cameron needs to "man up and get involved in the debates" and describes the prime minister as "not very impressive". And this is a view shared by Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour Party, Kezia Dugdale, who says that Cameron is "just playing chicken". But MSP for Glasgow Humza Yousaf said that the reason Mr Cameron didn't want to have a TV debate and defend his government's record was because of the amount of people his government had put into poverty.

     
  4.  
    22:44: BBC Newsnight BBC Two, 22:30

    Pub landlady Helen Ellwood from Macclesfield appears on Newsnight to say that she was in the audience during the 2010 TV debates and she described them as "enlightening". She urges David Cameron to think again.

     
  5.  
    22:37: Major on a Labour/SNP power share The Daily Telegraph

    Former Prime Minister Sir John Major has urged Ed Miliband to rule out governing with the SNP in order to protect the UK. The ex-Tory leader said the nationalists would enter any deal with the "overriding aim" of "prising apart" the union. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Sir John said he was speaking as "an Englishman with a profound admiration and respect for Scotland". He argued it was "shameful" that Labour have not already ruled out a power-sharing deal.

     
  6.  
    #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers 22:26: Friday's Daily Mail front page
    Daily Mail
     
  7.  
    #bbcpapers #tomorrowspaperstoday 22:23: Friday's FT front page
    FT
     
  8.  
    22:22: Friday's Guardian front page
    Guardian
     
  9.  
    #bbcpapers 22:17: Metro front page
    Metro
     
  10.  
    #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers 22:12: Friday's Daily Mirror front page
    Daily Mirror
     
  11.  
    #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers 22:10: Friday's i front page
    I front page
     
  12.  
    #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers 22:02: Telegraph front page
    Daily Telegraph
     
  13.  
    21:57: Budget video - It's a rap

    Looking ahead for a second George Osborne is set to announce his budget later this month (18 March). To rouse a bit of excitement about the issue Sky News have produced a video which, believe it or not, features politicians rapping.

     
  14.  
    @bbclaurak 21:34: Laura Kuenssberg - BBC chief correspondent and Newsnight presenter

    Tweets: Labour wants to 'teach the Muslim community a lesson for voting for Galloway' - ouch! the shambles of Lab's Bradford selection on #newsnight

     
  15.  
    @David_Cameron 21:27: David Cameron - PM

    Tweets: #HelpToBuy is helping families achieve their dream of owning their own home. My video from Cannock Chase

     
  16.  
    21:19: 'No one to blame'

    Over at conservativehome.com Paul Goodman has written a piece on the TV election debate saga, and argues that the broadcasters have "no-one to blame but themselves".

     
  17.  
    #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers 21:06: Friday's Morning Star front page
    Morning Star
     
  18.  
    @bbcquestiontime 20:42: Question Time

    Tweets: So we gave our panel in Glasgow a #selfiestick .... #bbcqt

    Question Time panel
     
  19.  
    20:31: Umunna interview

    Bit more on the Chuka Umunna interview with House magazine. In it Mr Umunna says he backs radical devolution, including the principle of the Manchester NHS deal, and he declares that "markets and business are a force for good", and that "business is the solution, it is not the problem". He also speaks for the first time about when he hastily left a Sky News interview after criticising presenter Dermot Murnaghan for asking him questions about Eric Pickles' letter to mosques in the UK - which he had not read yet.

     
  20.  
    @BBCJLandale James Landale - BBC deputy political editor

    Tweets: That TV election debate story in full:

    2,3,4

    7,7,2

    1

    =

    0?

     
  21.  
    20:08: Chuka Umunna on business
     Chuka Umunna

    Senior Labour frontbencher Chuka Umunna has said that business should be seen as a "force for good". The shadow business secretary said that a thriving commercial sector was the key to lifting people out of poverty. In an interview with Parliament's The House magazine, he warned that any discussion about greater fairness was "pretty academic" without firms generating profits, jobs and growth.

     
  22.  
    #bbcqt 19:55: Question Time tonight

    For those political junkies out there Question Time will be aired tonight (22:45GMT) on BBC 1. The programme is in Glasgow this evening - here who's on the panel:

    Question Time
     
  23.  
    19:33: Fancy taking part in a debate about health?

    Do you want to talk to senior politicians live on TV and tell them what they need to do to win your vote? Victoria Derbyshire is holding a series of big debates during the general election. If you would like to take part in a debate, get in touch (see picture below).

    Victoria Derbyshire
     
  24.  
    @PHammondMP Philip Hammond - Foreign Secretary

    Tweets: Positive talks with President @Poroshenko re situation on ground, #Minsk agreement & reform. Reaffirmed strong UK support for #Ukraine.

     
  25.  
    18:49: Video footage of Farage on TV debates

    For those who missed what UKIP leader Nigel Farage said earlier about the TV election debates, here's a video clip. He urged the broadcasters to "call Mr Cameron's bluff".

     
  26.  
    @GraemeDemianyk Graeme Demianyk - London editor of Western Morning News

    Tweets: You can't fault Clegg's enthusiasm for a photocall. Here at Gweek Seal Sanctuary in Cornwall

    Nick Clegg
     
  27.  
    @BBCNormanS Norman Smith - Assistant political editor

    Tweets: BBC Trust say decision to bar DUP from #tvdebates not a breach of European Convention on Human Rights

     
  28.  
    18:13: More from Dodds

    Here's a bit more from Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP, on the recent news that the party's appeal to be included in the TV debates has been rejected by the BBC Trust.

    He said: "The broadcasters really have a big question to ask of themselves now, having made a complete mess of this, and in my view this means that from now on in we should have an independent commissioner or such like looking after these events, the broadcasters and politicians should be left out of it."

     
  29.  
    18:03: 'Wrong and unjust' BBC News Channel
    Nigel Dodds,

    Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP, has told BBC News the BBC Trust's decision to exclude the party from the TV debates "defies belief". He said it was "wrong, irrational and unjust".

     
  30.  
    17:52: Analysis Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor
    Norman Smith

    "I think potentially this could be another nail in the coffin of the television debates. The DUP have made very clear they believe they have a cast iron legal case to seek a judicial review challenging the BBC's decision, and potentially bring these TV debates to a grinding halt. The BBC Trust take the view that they are perfectly entitled to exclude the DUP from these debates because Northern Ireland is a distinct political landscape, different to Wales, England and Scotland. The BBC too are concerned that if the DUP were allowed into these debates, then they would have had to allow Sinn Fein, the Alliance Party, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and the debates would have just become unwieldy and totally unmanageable."

     
  31.  
    17:49: BBC Radio 4

    On PM, Roger Mosey, the former editorial director of the BBC, says the broadcasters should "stand firm" in the row over the election TV debates. He supports Nick Clegg's offer to debate against Ed Miliband in place of David Cameron. But ex-Conservative MP Tim Collins thinks that clash would attract few viewers and doubts it would "do either party much good".

     
  32.  
    17:35: DUP appeal rejection

    The BBC Trust has rejected the Democratic Unionist Party's appeal to take part in the TV election debates. The move is now likely to trigger a judicial review by the DUP over their exclusion from the debates. A DUP spokesman described the decision by the BBC Trust as "a farce".

     
  33.  
    17:27: YouGov reaction to TV debates
    Joe Twyman

    YouGov spokesman Joe Twyman said: "A lot of people want debates, over three quarters of the population say they would like to see them in this election. But if they didn't take place would it actually make a difference? I imagine probably not, particularly if the decision was made now in the next couple of weeks it would probably be forgotten by the time the campaign came round, because the party machines would just get on with it."

    He conceded that the TV debates would only influence public opinion severely if one of the parties made it into a campaign theme, and the issue gained more momentum. But even then he warned: "The blame game will fly in every possible direction and it's unlikely to stick on one particularly person even though it's very clear David Cameron does not want these debates in a million years."

     
  34.  
    17:14: Tea towel politics Brian Wheeler Political reporter
    Labour tea towels Labour aims to clean-up with its vintage tea towel offer

    Is Ben Elton sending you emails? You must be on a Labour Party database. All the parties are using tricks learned from direct marketing to sell merchandise - including novelty tea towels and fridge magnets - and raise funds. I cast an eye over the best and worst efforts in this piece.

     
  35.  
    17:03: Ban on MPs' dinner expenses

    MPs will be banned from claiming expenses for dinners, TV licences and pre-23:00 taxis after the general election - even if their 10% pay hike does not go ahead. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) proposed a raft of curbs to perks in 2013 as part of a wider package that included salaries rising from £67,000 to £74,000. But the watchdog has now confirmed that politicians' expenses will be cut from 8 May, even though the pay rise is still subject to review and David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have signalled they may block it.

     
  36.  
    16:49: 'Farage is a feminist issue' House of Lords Parliament
    Baroness Crawley

    Across in the House of Lords a debate is ongoing about women's economic empowerment. Baroness Crawley - the former chairwoman of the Women's National Commission, and now Labour peer - has focused on how it might be affected if the UK were to leave the EU, and she warns that "Farage is a feminist issue". She argues that leaving the EU would hurt women's economic empowerment. "The EU is not only the UK's largest economic market, it's also the union that helped establish standards for working men and women for their rights at work," she tells peers. "I would not want to see women in the UK miss out on future rights for work by leaving the European Union."

     
  37.  
    16:36: More from SNP on TV debates
    Stuart Hosie

    Deputy leader of the SNP Stewart Hosie said: "What David Cameron is doing is giving a very good impression of actually running scared from having his record held up to scrutiny." He adds: "What we cannot have is one politician - however important - dictating the terms of the debates for everyone else."

     
  38.  
    16:24: TV debate reaction
    Ian Birrell

    Ian Birrell, a former speech writer for David Cameron, said: "I'm not sure how much the public - while I think they like debates and enjoyed them last time - I'm not sure how big a deal it is compared to schools and hospitals and the state of the economy."

    He also said he believed the previous TV debates in the 2010 "distorted" the last election campaign, and he added it would be a "big call" for the BBC to challenge the prime minister by empty chairing him.

     
  39.  
    16:10: More should be done to recruit female spies - MPs say

    UK intelligence needs to do more to recruit middle-aged women and mothers to be spies, such as by using the website Mumsnet, MPs say. In a report, the Intelligence and Security Committee said such women were an "untapped recruitment pool" for MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. It said more than half of the civil service were women, but the figure was 37% in the intelligence agencies. Hazel Blears, the Labour MP who led the report, called for a culture change. Read the full story here.

     
  40.  
    16:00: Changing of the guard

    It's been a busy day so far with reaction to David Cameron's decision to only take part in one TV debate before the election. At this point, Nick Eardley is signing out for the afternoon, but Dominic Howell will be here until midnight with the latest political news and analysis.

     
  41.  
    15:44: David Cameron 'feart'
    Nicola Sturgeon

    "David Cameron is feart" of the TV debates, SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has told the BBC's Glenn Campbell. She says Mr Cameron is "running scared of the public" and that broadcasters should call his bluff and empty chair the prime minister if he doesn't turn up. Ms Sturgeon says she will debate any time, anywhere.

     
  42.  
    15:36: Foreign aid
    Steven Stanbury

    On Daily Politics earlier, UKIP's general secretary Steven Stanbury discussed how the party would spend money currently earmarked for foreign aid. You can watch his package, in which he argues there is a seismic disconnect between political priorities and public opinion, here. His party wants to cut foreign aid by 75% and spend the money in local services.

     
  43.  
    15:24: 'Democracy will suffer' BBC News Channel
    Katie Ghose

    Katie Ghose, chief executive of the electoral reform society, is the latest to speak about the TV debates. She says the "time for squabbling and tactical manoeuvres" is over, adding that it is voters who will feel let down and democracy that will suffer if the debates do not go ahead. "It's an important part of the mix for millions of people... to have that special opportunity to hear directly from all the party leaders who may have influence or leadership in the next government," she tells BBC News.

     
  44.  
    15:21: 'Lofty disdain' from Tories - Clegg
    Nick Clegg

    Nick Clegg has accused the Tories of behaving with "lofty disdain" over the TV debates. He said his coalition partners were acting as though "they were ordering a drink in a drawing room of Downton Abbey, declaring that they deign to a participate in one debate". He added that it was "no way to treat the British people". And he reiterated his challenge to broadcasters to give him David Cameron's place so Ed Miliband can scrutinise the government's record.

     
  45.  
    15:04: Clegg in Cornwall
    Steve Gilbert

    The Western Morning News is covering Nick Clegg's visit to Cornwall, where the Lib Dem leader has been promoting his plans to offer a Cornish Assembly which would get new powers over local services. Stephen Gilbert, Lib Dem MP for St Austell and Newquay, tells the paper: "A central plank of my political belief is that democracy should be opened up to our communities and powers devolved from Whitehall to Cornwall."

     
  46.  
    14:56: 'No Englishman can understand a Welshman' House of Commons Parliament

    Opening a Welsh affairs debate in the Chamber, Glyn Davies, the Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, quotes Megan Lloyd George, the daughter of former Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who said that "no Englishman can understand a Welshman".

    Megan Lloyd George became the first woman MP in Wales when she won the Anglesey seat for the Liberal Party in 1929. She later became a Labour MP.

    Megan Lloyd George
     
  47.  
    14:51: Broadcasters 'could empty chair PM'
    Steve Richard

    Steve Richards (mentioned in previous entry see 14:44 GMT) also said it was possible broadcasters will "empty chair" David Cameron - hosting the debates even if he doesn't turn up. "Some of them are saying that that will happen, but they will be farcical frankly", he says. "If you haven't got one of the two potential prime ministers in any of the debates... they become pretty dire to watch".

     
  48.  
    14:45: Portraits of female MPs 'should be hung in palace'

    Portraits of famous female parliamentarians should be hung in prominent places around the historic Palace of Westminster after the election, a former women's minister has told the House of Commons. Maria Miller urged a redressing of the balance in the palace, and Speaker John Bercow said he would be an enthusiastic supporter of such a change. Labour MP Emily Thornberry made the case for suffragette Emily Wilding Davison to be added to any list of MPs displayed.

     
  49.  
    14:44: TV debates
    Steve Richard

    Steve Richards from the Independent says he doubts any debates will take place. He says the debate proposed would be "farcical" - as would any smaller debate without the prime minister. He says he doesn't blame Mr Cameron for his decision, however. "He is going to take hit today, but I think he had more to lose from a one-to-one with Ed Miliband than Ed Miliband would ever have to lose."

     
  50.  
    politics@bbc.co.uk @bbcpolitics 14:39: Get involved Nick Eardley BBC News

    The TV debates have generated significant interest among BBC News readers today. There are more than 1,700 comments on our story about David Cameron's TV debates stance. The highest rated is one reader questioning whether The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will come up in the debates (if they happen). You can read more about what TTIP is here. The second asks when we will we stop debating debates and start talking about policy instead. And the third highest rated asks: "Who cares how slick and smarmy they appear, voting should be based on the manifesto not appearances, sharp suits and how photogenic they appear."

    A number of contributors suggest David Cameron should be "empty chaired" if he doesn't want to take part. Other says the debates wouldn't tell us much, so aren't much of a loss. You can add your comments or email us politics@bbc.co.uk or via social media @bbcpolitics. We'll continue to feature your views over the course of the afternoon.

     
  51.  
    14:28: 'UKIP won't win enough seats' The Daily Telegraph

    Earlier, Nigel Farage told Loose Women on ITV that he expects the number of MPs his party has after the election to be in "double figures". On the Telegraph website, James Kirkup argues that the number the party will end up with won't be enough. More here.

     
  52.  
    @daily_politics BBC Daily Politics

    tweets: 'Chaos and confusion' from broadcasters over #ge2015 TV debates, @grantshapps tells @afneil in #bbcdp clip

     
  53.  
    14:16: Cameron demands 'can't be met' New Statesman

    Over on The New Statesman, Stephen Bush is the latest to have his say on the TV debates. The proposal made by David Cameron, he says, appears reasonable at first glance. However, he argues "they're carefully designed to ensure that the Prime Minister's requests can't be met, and to prevent the debates from happening." More here.

     
  54.  
    @jameschappers James Chapman, Daily Mail political editor

    Tweets: #tvdebates debacle illustrates need for UK equivalent of US Commission on Presidential Debates if they happen in future campaigns

     
  55.  
    13:59: 'Impossible to exclude SNP'

    More on the SNP's strong showing in the opinion polls. Polling expert John Curtice says that given Labour and Conservatives are "virtually neck and neck" at the moment, it looks like it is going to be "impossible after 7 May to form a government without at least the acquiescence of the SNP". What does this mean? Not only has the SNP ruled out making David Cameron prime minister, but their policy demands on matters like Trident and austerity would also be tricky for Labour, he says. This raises questions about how easy it will be for anyone to form a stable government after the election, he adds.

     
  56.  
    13:49: SNP 'tide rising'
    John Curtice

    Professor John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, has been discussing polls that suggested the SNP could win the safest Labour seat in Scotland at the general election. The results largely confirm what many pundits had been saying about the Scottish vote, he says, adding: "The truth is the SNP tide is rising by about 25 points in just about every constituency in Scotland."

     
  57.  
    13:37: Shapps V Powell continued The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Asked how voters will be able to judge Mr Cameron if the debate takes place before the Conservative manifesto is published, Grant Shapps says "people will have a pretty good idea by the end of this month what the different parties want to do". Lucy Powell says Ed Miliband would turn up to the "head-to-head" debate alone, but says he does not want to.

     
  58.  
    13:32: Shapps V Powell The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Back on the TV debates, Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps blames the broadcasters, saying they have had five years to sort out arrangements. But Labour's Lucy Powell David Cameron is being "hypocritical", having advocated debates in the past.

     
  59.  
    13:32: Prof on 2010 TV debates The World at One BBC Radio 4

    On the World at One, professor of political communications Stephen Coleman, of Leeds University, says the last TV debates, in 2010, were "remarkably popular". Two thirds of people surveyed afterwards said they had learned something new, while 87% had discussed them with other people, he says. Prof Coleman says people will not be impressed by David Cameron's "final offer", saying they see it as "kind of part of the constitution now".

     
  60.  
    13:25: Farage: UKIP will win double figures

    How many seats will UKIP win at the election, he is asked at the end of his interview on ITV's Loose Women. Nigel Farage says it will be in double figures

     
  61.  
    13:24: Farage: Selfish politicians

    Asked is it all worth it - getting up at 5am and not getting home before midnight - Nigel Farage says you've got to be fairly selfish to get into politics.

     
  62.  
    13:22: 'Fit as a flea'

    "It is really vile" Mr Farage says of the way some politicians are treated by the media. He says he decided to take some time out at the start of the year, but repeats that he is "fit as a flea". He only spends a few hours in the pub each day, he jokes. But his drinking and smoking are "what I actually do", he adds.

     
  63.  
    13:22: TV debates: The numbers

    Away from the political fallout from David Cameron's TV debates ultimatum, the BBC's head of statistics Anthony Reuben has been looking at other multi-leader contests around the world - and how much time might be left for each person to speak.

    Natalie Bennett, Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood
     
  64.  
    13:21: Farage on deals

    UKIP is not going to win the election, but will win a "number of MPs". He suggests the party might be in the same position the Lib Dems were in 2010 and says he'll get a much better deal for his party. Asked if he wants to be deputy prime minister, Mr Farage says on Loose Women it's not what he wants to do.

     
  65.  
    13:20: 'Radically change' politics

    Nigel Farage says his life has been "pretty up and down" since he went to school. He says he wants to "radically change" politics - the gap between the wealthy and the rest is getting bigger every year and he wants to address that.

     
  66.  
    13:19: Pic: Farage on Loose Women
    Nigel Farage

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage has just been asked, tongue-in-cheek, on ITV's Loose Women about his "self esteem issues". That got the biggest laugh from the studio audience so far.

     
  67.  
    13:16: Farage on immigration

    Nigel Farage says he wants to ask David Cameron about immigration and how the Conservative leader thinks it can be controlled without leaving the EU at the TV debates. He tells the ITV programme he wants an end to "unskilled" workers coming to the UK.

     
  68.  
    13:14: Farage on debates

    On Loose Women, Nigel Farage says he believes David Cameron is trying to sabotage the TV debate process.

     
  69.  
    13:04: Farage on Loose Women

    Nigel Farage is on Loose Women on ITV soon. At the moment, they're showing him outside having a cigarette and a coffee. The UKIP leader has already tweeted to say he is more nervous than normal.

     
  70.  
    12:59: Grant Shapps on debates Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    The interview with Tory chairman Grant Shapps on the TV debates is up on our website now. You can watch it here.

     
  71.  
    12:53: Cameron's 'shrewd politics' The Daily Telegraph

    Over on The Daily Telegraph, Rupert Myers has also been analysing the TV debates fall-out. He says David Cameron's decision to only agree to one debate is "shrewd politics". He writes: "Right now, perhaps the greatest electoral asset the Conservatives have is the gulf of public respect and confidence which exists between Cameron and Miliband. A series of TV debates would imperil that advantage."

     
  72.  
    12:49: Broadcasters have 'messed up' The Spectator

    David Cameron's communications director Craig Oliver criticised the broadcasters "deeply unsatisfactory process" for organising the pre-election TV debates in his letter last night. Today, Isabel Hardman has written a piece for The Spectator saying he has a point. She writes: "Though the prime minister is ducking out of them for the selfish reasons outlined here, the blame must ultimately lie with the broadcasters for making it possible for him to do so. They have managed to mess up at every stage of the process."

     
  73.  
    @Nigel_Farage Nigel Farage, UKIP leader

    tweets: I'm about to go on @loosewomen. Slightly more nervous about this panel than I usually am!

     
  74.  
    @BBCWorldatOne World at One

    tweets: Is the PM "running scared" or "unblocking the logjam"? We'll talk TV debates with @grantshapps & @LucyMPowell #wato

     
  75.  
    12:37: Campaigning and babies
    David Cameron

    David Cameron was speaking just now about TV debates during a visit to promote housebuilding policies. It was also a first for Politics Live - the first chance to use a fresh pic of a politician cooing over a baby. We're pretty sure there'll be plenty more to come over the weeks ahead.

     
  76.  
    12:35: Paul Flynn on 'worst ever' PMQs Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    Daily politics

    Labour MP Paul Flynn said yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions was "the worst ever" and suggested scrapping the weekly session. He tells Daily Politics there is nothing new about prime ministers not answering questions, but says there is often no connection between the question and the answer now. It drags politics into "further disrepute", Mr Flynn says. He doesn't believed the session can now be reformed and wants a whole new system. Andrew Percy says it's a "pretty unedifying" spectacle but that it serves a purpose, particularly for constituency issues.

     
  77.  
    12:32: Lord Adonis on Scotland

    The Daily Politics is now discussing Labour in Scotland and recent polls suggesting the party could lose most of its seats. Lord Adonis says there is a long way to go in the campaign, telling the programme it is clear that opinion in Scotland is "volatile". Jim Murphy is doing a great job of re-energising the party, he adds. He won't be drawn on whether Labour should rule out of a deal with the SNP before the election.

     
  78.  
    12:31: Polly Toynbee on debates The Guardian

    If Miliband is so weak, why is Cameron so afraid of debating with him? That's the question Polly Toynbee is asking over on the Guardian site today. You can read her thoughts here.

     
  79.  
    @loosewomen Loose Women

    tweets: On today's show: @UKIP leader @Nigel_Farage takes on our women, plus comedian @RealMattLucas will be joining us too! #Elections2015

     
  80.  
    12:20: 'Host debates anyway' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Finally on TV debates on Daily Politics, Labour peer Lord Adonis says the broadcasters should go ahead regardless of David Cameron's views. He suggests the prime minister will be forced to take part if that happens.

     
  81.  
    12:19: 'Workable plan' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    The prime minister's debate plan is "completely workable", says Grant Shapps. Labour peer Lord Adonis says most members of the public think the 2010 debates changed things in terms of TV debates becoming a fixture of UK elections. "To turn the clock back" was a "disservice" to the public, he adds.

     
  82.  
    12:19: Shapps on debates Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    We've run out of time, Grant Shapps says, to hold the debates as planned by the broadcasters. Let's get the parties in and have a debate just before the election campaign proper, he adds. And he denies the claim his party wanted to avoid the debates at all costs.

     
  83.  
    12:17: Cameron on debates
    David Cameron

    If the debates are held during the campaign people won't talk about anything else - such as the issues that matter, Mr Cameron says. He adds that he has said for the past three years that the debates should take place before the campaign proper begins.

     
  84.  
    12:14: Breaking News

    David Cameron says he wants there to be a TV debate. He says that rather than trying to avoid a debate, he is trying to "unblock the logjam" that the "broadcasters helped to create", so "let's get on, let's have the debate that matters the most". By putting this proposal forward, he says, "we'll actually see one take place".

     
  85.  
    12:11: Shapps on debates Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    Grant Shapps

    Grant Shapps says the approach to debates has been messy. The debates at the last election sucked the life out of the campaign, he adds. There is still no clear sense of what broadcasters want, the Tory chairman adds.

     
  86.  
    12:09: 'Chaos and confusion' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, says there has been "chaos and confusion" over TV debates. He says "lots of people" haven't accepted the proposals.

     
  87.  
    12:05: Ed Miliband on Scotland

    During his earlier interview Mr Miliband was also asked about Scotland and polling which shows his party could lose a number of previously safe seats. The Labour leader said "the fight is on" in Scotland. He added: "I hope people who want to see the back of the Conservatives in Scotland will vote Labour."

     
  88.  
    12:04: Scottish FMQs

    In Scotland, First Minister's questions is under way. Follow it here.

     
  89.  
    11:53: Miliband: Cameron 'running away'
    Ed Miliband

    A bit more from Ed Miliband. He says it is "clear David Cameron is ducking the [head-to-head] debate". He adds: "He should stop ducking and weaving and name the date".

    Mr Miliband says he will take part in the seven leader debate, but continues: "We also need the debate between me and David Cameron". He says he is open to debate the prime minister at any time, in any place. And he adds that the public will no tolerate Mr Cameron "running away".

    On the possibility of a one-on-one debate with Nick Clegg, as suggested by Lord Ashdown, Mr Miliband says it is up to broadcasters.

     
  90.  
    11:47: Breaking News

    Ed Miliband has accused David Cameron of "cowering from the public" over the TV debates. The Labour leader says the British public "deserves" the debate. Mr Miliband says he is ready to debate "any time, any place, anywhere - he should stop ducking and weaving".

     
  91.  
    @BBCNormanS Norman Smith, BBC assistant political editor

    tweets: Ed Miliband accuses PM of "cowering from the public" over #tvdebates

     
  92.  
    Get involved 11:39: Politics Live readers on the TV debates

    Some more comments from Politics Live readers on the TV debates

    No meaningful mass media debate between the main party leaders? Just another example of politicians' disrespect for the population at large. They all think that the ONLY moment of accountability is at the ballot box and violently object to any other forum (unless it`s in their own particular interest).

    John Hyland

    Am I the only one who would be thankful if no debates took place at all? Televised Punch and Judy Politics can be seen every day on the news and in particular at Wednesday's Prime Ministers Questions. This is not informative nor even remotely entertaining.

    David Parker

    The problem is, the Conservative party have backed themselves into a corner. They have been banging on for the last few years how weak a candidate Ed Miliband has been and it's come back to haunt them.

    Expectations of Ed are so low, even an even debate would be a landslide victory for the Labour Party. From the Conservative point of view, it doesn't really make sense to give Labour the platform, where the best they could do is break even.

    Nicholas Williams

    It seems unlikely that any of the party leaders will win a majority in May. They are going to have to work together for the common good of an electorate tired of their silly and destructive adversarial politics.

    Let's make a reality TV show instead. It might be interesting if all the party leaders were shut in a plush stately home with plenty of TV cameras and given a task or do - agree a plan to build an environmentally sustainable economy in the UK would be a good one. There are many more tasks like that to be tackled.

    It would be tempting to make them stay in there until they agreed. In the real world we all need politicians to work together for the common good - something else they would have to agree on.

    It might even make good television. It is what Parliament needs to become after 7 May.

    Simon Court

     
  93.  
    @daily_politics BBC Daily Politics

    tweets: 'Britain now gives away an eye-watering £12bn a year' in foreign aid, says @StanburySteven in his film for Thu #bbcdp

     
  94.  
    11:37: TV debates: Lessons from history Brian Wheeler Political reporter
    John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960

    Nothing gets TV executives salivating - and political leaders quaking - like a live televised debate. Beneath the glare of the studio lights, a politician is at his most exposed. One stumble, a flash of anger, an inappropriate joke, a memory lapse or just a failure to bring your "A Game", and the whole shooting match can be over. The fate of nations sometimes hang in the balance. But the lessons are still there to be learned....

     
  95.  
    11:33: Where do we stand on the TV debates?

    Here's what the main players are saying:

    • David Cameron will only take part in one debate, his communications chief Craig Oliver has said. That debate must feature at least seven leaders and must be held this month. Mr Craig also criticised the "deeply unsatisfactory process" of organising the debates
    • Labour aren't happy. Alastair Campbell has accused Mr Cameron of making "pathetic excuses" to avoid the debates, which he says the prime minister is scared of losing
    • Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has offered to take Mr Cameron's place in the one-on-one debates. He says he would be happy to defend the government's record
    • But Lucy Powell, vice chair of Labour's election campaign, says the head-to-head should be between those who could be prime minister after 7 May
    • SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon says the prime minister is "clearly running scared of having to answer for his government's record of failure and incompetence"
    • A UKIP spokesman says Mr Cameron is "acting chicken"
    • Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood says Mr Cameron's behaviour is "unacceptable and arrogant"
    • The Democratic Unionist Party says broadcaster have made a "complete and utter mess" of plans to hold the debates
    • Publically, the broadcasters have said very little. But privately, they seem determined not to buckle, says our assistant political editor Norman Smith
     
  96.  
    11:27: No 10's briefing for political reporters Ben Wright Political correspondent, BBC News

    On TV debates the PM's spokesman referred all questions back to Director of Communications Craig Oliver's letter of last night. Asked if David Cameron was running scared the spokesman said "that is not a premise I would accept".

     
  97.  
    11:23: Shapps on Daily Politics Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn are joined by former Labour minister Andrew Adonis as guest of the day. Conservative chairman Grant Shapps will be talking TV debates. MPs Paul Flynn and Andrew Percy will debate whether PMQs should be abolished, while a film from Giles Dilnot looks at civilian use of drones after a parliamentary report on the issue. And they will be looking at party names after the Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party was told by the Electoral Commission that its moniker was "describing women as a sexual object in a demeaning way and would cause offence if it were to appear on ballot paper". You can watch the programme live from 1200-1300, or later, on the Live Coverage tab on this page (if you're reading this on the BBC app, to watch the it live you have to click here and open the page in a browser)

     
  98.  
    11:05: Hague on debates
    William Hague

    William Hague has told MPs that the Prime Minister's offer for a television debate should be taken up. Speaking in the Commons this morning he said: "When I recall asking Tony Blair when I was leader of the opposition in 2001 for a television debate there was not even an offer of a debate from Tony, not even the pretence of a debate, there was a very clear 'no debate whatsoever'. And this prime minister is offering a debate and that is an offer that should be taken up that was never offered by Tony Blair in similar circumstances."

     
  99.  
    @patrickwintour Patrick Wintour, Guardian political editor

    tweets: Ms Moneypenny lives. Only 19% of senior civil servants in intelligence agencies are women - report from Intelligence and Security Committee.

     
  100.  
    @OfficeGSBrown Gordon and Sarah Brown office

    tweets: Gordon Brown: #TBT to me at primary school. On #IWD2015 Stand #UpForSchool to empower the next generation of women

    Gordon Brown
     

Features

  • WW2 - utility dressRation fashion

    How World War Two changed the way people dressed


  • Peter Robinson and Nigel DoddsDecision time

    DUP weigh up their options after TV election debate decision


  • The system uses BluetoothSecond sight

    App to help visually impaired young people on the London Tube


  • TributeChild gang fear

    Nine-year-old used to carry drugs, BBC investigation finds


Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.