Political leaders settle on debate schedule ahead of general election

An ITV debate on 2 April will bring together the leaders of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour, UKIP, Green Party, SNP and Plaid Cymru – while Cameron and Miliband will come together on Channel 4 and Sky News, but only to be separately quizzed by Jeremy Paxman and Kay Burley.

A special BBC One Question Time, held a week before the electorate go the the polls, when Cameron, Miliband and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg will appear separately – answering questions from the audience.

The televised debates were first held in the run up to the 2010 general election, but were under doubt due to Cameron’s reluctance to take part if the Green Party were not represented.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “Due to the cowardice of David Cameron the two leaders will not be on stage at the same time to debate each other. The prime minister’s repeated attempts to dictate the abandonment of these TV programmes to independent broadcasters is deeply worrying.”

The five opposition leaders will square off on 16 April, meaning the BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 will all be included. Debates held in 2010 saw 22m people around the country tune in.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage voiced his displeasure at the final agreement, saying they are “so far from the original proposals”.

Scottish National Party (SNP) leader and first minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The SNP have always said that we will take part in general election debates anytime and anywhere, and look forward to doing so. We have an attractive message to stand up for Scotland’s interests at Westminster, and I believe that this positive case will prevail in election debates.

“Our preference would have been for broadcasters to stick to their original proposals, and not be pushed around by the Westminster parties, particularly the Tories. However, it is good that the debate about the debates is finally over and we can get on to discussing the real issues of substance.”

Read more about pre-election debates:

The Green Party’s Bennett said: “I welcome the fact that we now finally appeared to have reached the end of the debate about the debates.

“David Cameron’s intransigence has delayed this process, and taken away space in which we might have been debating the future of Britain – our low-pay, insecure jobs, the privatisation of our NHS, the urgency of cutting carbon emissions.

“Nonetheless, we can now move on, in the new age of multiparty politics in Britain.”

The debate schedule in full:

26 March: Q&A on Channel 4 and Sky News with David Cameron and Ed Miliband
2 April: Debate with seven party leaders on ITV
16 April: Debate between five opposition party leaders on the BBC
30 April: BBC Question Time programme with David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg

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