The broadcasters have reportedly come up with a new set of proposals for the TV debates in order to force David Cameron to sign up. The Radio Times reports that they now want to hold one debate where the Prime Minister will face Ed Miliband, and two debates that feature almost everyone – Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, Ukip, SNP and Plaid Cymru. This doesn’t just answer Cameron’s stipulation that the Greens must be involved, but answers the next question that would then be posed, which is what about the nationalist parties.
Unless he suddenly starts talking about the importance of George Galloway, the Prime Minister will find it very, very difficult to wriggle away from these debates. He could, of course, point to the absence of his friends the DUP when Plaid have been invited.
I understand that there is a meeting between the parties and the broadcasters ‘later this week’. A Conservative source tells Coffee House:
‘If they’ve got a different offer then they need to present that offer to us and we will happily consider what’s on the table.’
That the debates might go ahead is good news for Labour, who think they will give Ed Miliband the opportunity to show he’s not as incompetent as some sections of the press have painted him. But it is also bad news: the broadcasters have just tacked on a pretty hefty leftwing threat to Labour in these new proposals.
As for whether the formats of these debates will work, well, they should work pretty well for the minor parties, who will be on TV twice but without much time in which their policies can be scrutinised.
UPDATE, 4pm: After all the excitement, order is restored:
Nigel Dodds: 'It would be ludicrous to exclude the DUP' #tvdebates
— James Chapman (Mail) (@jameschappers) January 22, 2015