UK Politics

Election 2015: TV debates deal close, Grant Shapps says

Natalie Bennett, Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There is the prospect of all seven party leaders appearing on the same stage during the election battle

The Conservatives are close to agreeing to new plans for pre-election TV debates, the party's chairman has said.

Grant Shapps said the proposals to include seven parties were "a lot more sensible" than the first plans, which only involved the Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems and UKIP.

"I think we are edging here towards something that makes more sense," he told the BBC's Sunday Politics.

Parties have clashed over who should be included in the three debates.

The BBC and ITV each plan to stage one involving the Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems, Green Party, UKIP, the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

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Media captionGrant Shapps on the BBC's Sunday Politics: Seven-party debates 'make more sense'

Sky and Channel 4's plan to host a head-to-head between Mr Cameron and Ed Miliband remains unchanged.

Prime Minister David Cameron had refused to join the debates unless the Greens were included, arguing it was unfair for one minor party to be included but not others.

When asked what the party's remaining objections were, Mr Shapps said: "It's really down to the broadcasters to finalise this... I think they look a lot more sensible than the original plans."

The broadcasters have said the debates would go ahead regardless of whether any party leader refused to take part.

Mr Shapps suggested the remaining negotiations involved the Democratic Unionist Party, which has eight MPs but has not been invited to participate.

The party's deputy leader Nigel Dodds told Sky News it was a "farcical situation", adding: "I'm not convinced that this will go ahead on this basis."

The Liberal Democrats believe they should be represented in all of the debates.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett welcomed the decision to invite her party, and said she, rather than the party's MP Caroline Lucas, would take part.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy said it was for the broadcasters to decide who to invite and that his party would take part whatever line-up they selected.

The proposed dates for the debates are 2, 16 and 30 April.

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