‘Frit’ Cameron avoids TV debate

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DAVID CAMERON is facing mounting pressure to solve the Green party dilemma holding back TV debates.

The Prime Minister has been told by the leaders of Labour, Ukip and the Liberal democrats that he must accept broadcasters proposals for a four-party debate, or face being replaced by an empty chair.

Will David Cameron square up to Ed Miliband?

Will David Cameron square up to Ed Miliband?

Mr Cameron has insisted he will not take part if the left wing Green party cannot also attend, a move opposed by Labour and the Lib Dems amid concerns from party insiders that it will split their vote.

The PM’s refusal to agree terms prompted angry exchanges in Parliament as the Labour leader Ed Miliband accused him of being “frit” when it comes to public debates.

Mr Miliband said the Prime Minister was “running scared”, and “no-one believed” he was really refusing to participate because the Green Party was being excluded.

In bruising clashes in the Commons, the Labour leader pointed out that in 2010 Mr Cameron had condemned “feeble” reasons for backing out of debates.

“It is frankly a pathetic excuse. It is not for him, it is not for me, it is not for any party leader to decide who is in the debate. It is up to the broadcasters, that is the country we live in,” Mr Miliband said.

“Is he really telling the people of Britain that he is going to seek to deny them the TV debate if he doesn’t get to choose who is in them?”

Mr Cameron hit back that Mr Miliband was “chicken” for being unwilling to face off against Green Party leader Natalie Bennett as well as Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and Ukip’s Nigel Farage.

“I’m all for these debates but you cannot have two minor parties without the third minor party. Why is he frightened of debating the Green Party?”

He said Ukip and the Greens had both beaten the Lib Dems in recent European elections. “You either have both of them, or you have none of them,” he added.

“Why is he so chicken when it comes to the Greens?”

But Mr Miliband said he was willing to debate with whomever the broadcasters invited.

“There is only one person running scared of these debates, and that is this Prime Minister,” he said.

“However he dresses it up, everyone knows he is running scared.”

The PMQs exchanges came after Mr Miliband, Mr Clegg and Mr Farage sent identical letters to the premier insisting it would be “unacceptable” for him to block debates.

They demanded that Mr Cameron be “empty chaired” by broadcasters if he does not give ground.

Downing Street said discussions were “ongoing” and insisted the Prime Minister had repeatedly set out his views “very clearly”.

Yorkshire Tory Alec Shelbrooke said he believed the PM would have to take part in the debates, but insisted Mr Cameron was right to fight for the Green party to be involved.

The Elmet and Rothwell MP said: “I think these debates will happen, but the others parties have to accept that the Greens, who run a council and had an MP elected in a General Election, have a right to have their voice heard as well.”

Others were less keen on the idea. Shipley Tory Philip Davies said the UK should not copy the US with presidential style debates.

“People should go to local hustings, they vote for a local MP not a president,” he said.