UK Politics

Ed Miliband 'relishing' PM TV debates

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown
Image caption The 2010 general election TV debates were uncharted territory for the three contenders

Labour leader Ed Miliband says he is "relishing" the idea of televised prime ministerial debates.

He told the BBC he hoped they happened, but added that "I think David Cameron's not sure whether he wants to do them".

Asked if the UK Independence Party should take part, he said usually it was just the three major parties, but it was up to the debates' organisers.

The three TV debates in 2010 were the first in a UK election, and became the focal point of the campaign.

The first became memorable because of the temporary surge it brought in Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg's poll rating.

Mr Cameron has said he wants to hold TV debates again at the next election, due in May 2015, saying this week "they are good and I think we should go on having them".

In December he said he wanted to "learn from last time", saying they "took all the life out of the campaign".

Following prolonged negotiations between the three political parties and BBC, ITV and Sky News ahead of the 2010 debates, strict rules were agreed on the style of questioning and the division of time for leaders' answers.

'Three major parties'

"We started with TV debates that were easy to agree, because they were quite controlled," Mr Cameron said.

"I think that was right because we wanted everyone to sign up, but as a result they were quite dry - what really mattered was just delivering the soundbite down the camera, rather than a proper debate and more interaction.

"I have got an open mind and there is still two-and-a-half years to go before we have to really think about it."

Mr Miliband was asked on the Andrew Marr Show if the UK Independence Party, whose poll standings have risen since the last election, should be included in the debates.

He replied: "I think that's up to the people organising the television debates - I think the three major parties is the way it's normally been done.

"I have to say I think David Cameron is not sure whether he wants to these debates.

"I'm relishing these television debates, I'm looking forward to them. I hope they happen. I think they give an insight to the public directly into what's on offer at the next election."

A spokesman for the Lib Dems told the BBC in December that the TV debates had helped to connect people to the democratic process and "realistically" they were likely to feature ahead of the next general election.

But the concern that they had detracted from other campaigning efforts was "probably felt by all political leaders", the spokesman added.

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