Cameron gets his way as TV debates finally fixed

Four televised events okayed - and PM gets away with his plan to evade face-to-face with Miliband


After months of haggling, a deal has been reached between the broadcasters and the political parties on the make-up of the pre-election televised leader debates.

Most commentators see David Cameron and his election strategist Lynton Crosby as the winners of this showdown: there will be no face-to-face with Ed Miliband and therefore no risk of the Labour leader getting the chance to blow the Tory narrative that he’s an uncomfortable geek who’s not fit to be PM.

The voters are the big losers: they don’t get a head-to-head debate between the two men fighting to lead the country from 8 May: instead they get a number of TV ‘specials’ of a kind they might have expected to see anyway on the eve of a general election.

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Here’s the schedule:

26 March, Channel 4 and Sky:

A 90-minute programme that will involve Cameron and Miliband being interviewed separately before answering questions from a live studio audience. Neither man will come face-to-face. The co-presenters are the odd couple of these pre-election specials – Jeremy Paxman, late of BBC Newsnight, and Kay Burley, the Sky News anchor.

2 April, ITV:

An actual debate, but with seven party leaders taking part: Cameron, Miliband, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage of Ukip, Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP, Natalie Bennett of the Greens and Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru. It will be moderated by ITV News at Ten anchor Julie Etchingham. Commentators say that with so many people involved, it will be hard to get a real debate going: it could end up as more of a Q&A.

16 April, BBC:

A debate between the five opposition party leaders – Miliband, Farage, Sturgeon, Bennett and Wood - but not including the two governing party leaders, Cameron and Clegg. Some are asking why Ed Miliband – currently the most likely to be leading the largest party on 8 May – should be reduced to arguing with the minnows. To be moderated by David Dimbleby.

30 April, BBC:

A Question Time special with regular presenter David Dimbleby in the chair – and it takes place exactly a week before election day. The three main party leaders, Cameron, Miliband and Clegg, will each appear – separately, of course – to answer questions from a live studio audience. Nigel Farage has cause for complaint: current polling shows Ukip way ahead of the Lib Dems in terms of national vote share – but he’s not invited.

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Jack Bremer is a London-based reporter, attached to The He has reported regularly from the United States and France.