UK Politics

Election debates: Grow backbone, Nick Clegg tells broadcasters

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown participating in the final of three live televised debates in 2010
Image caption The first UK leaders' debates took place in the run up to the 2010 general election

Broadcasters should grow a "backbone" and push ahead with the TV election debates, Deputy PM Nick Clegg has said.

On his weekly LBC radio show, the Liberal Democrat leader criticised David Cameron's refusal to take part unless the Green Party is included.

Mr Clegg said the prime minster's "sudden teary-eyed compassion" for the Greens was "laughable".

He said the debates should go ahead without him if necessary, as leaders should not be able to wield a veto.

Mr Cameron has said all "national parties" must be represented at the election debates - which were first introduced for the 2010 general election.

'Bullied'

Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday was dominated by the subject, with Mr Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband accusing each other of "running scared".

It came after Mr Clegg, Mr Miliband and UKIP leader Nigel Farage wrote to the prime minister saying it would be "unacceptable" for him not to appear.

They urged the broadcasters to press ahead with the debate before the 7 May poll.

BBC, Sky News, ITV and Channel 4 said in response that they "remain committed" to staging the debates

Mr Clegg told LBC radio: "I hope the broadcasters develop a bit of backbone on this as they shouldn't be bullied by the Conservatives throwing their weight around."

He said he thought the debates "will go ahead, because I think David Cameron has put himself in an unsustainable and actually slightly laughable position".

"This teary-eyed compassion that the Conservatives have suddenly discovered for the Green Party is one of the more specious excuses I've seen," he added.

He said that while he was not "totally happy" with the proposed format for the debates, "everyone's got to swallow their pride" and take part.

David Cameron maintains that if "some minor parties like the Liberal Democrats and UKIP" are taking part, then so should the Greens.

But Labour leader Ed Miliband branded the PM's position a "pathetic excuse" on Wednesday.

Mr Cameron said the Labour leader was "chickening" out of facing the Greens.

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