UK Politics

Nick Clegg: Conservatives 'arrogant' over TV debates

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Media captionDeputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says the Conservatives are being "arrogant" in relation to the debates

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has accused the Conservative Party of being "arrogant" over planned TV election debates between the leaders of UK political parties.

Prime minister David Cameron has said he will take part in only one.

Mr Clegg accused the Conservatives of attempting to "dictate the terms" of the debates.

Broadcasters have said plans for three TV general election debates in April will go ahead.

"It is a little bit arrogant of the Conservatives to somehow assume that they can, you know, dictate terms - these aren't the debates run by the Conservative Party. They belong to the British people," Mr Clegg said.

He added: "If David Cameron is too important or too busy to turn up, if he doesn't want to defend the record of this coalition government, then I will."

Labour leader Ed Miliband on Saturday formally accepted invitations to appear in all three of the live TV debates on April 2, 16 and 30.

He told the Scottish Labour conference: "I say to David Cameron: You can refuse to face the public, but you can't deny your record. You can try to chicken out of the debates, but don't ever again claim that you provide strong leadership."

'Chaotic'

Downing Street has said it will not back down on its "final offer" of one seven-way debate in March.

It has blamed broadcasters for creating a "chaotic" situation during negotiations around the debates.

Sky, the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV have invited the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP, the SNP, the Green Party of England and Wales and Plaid Cymru to take part in two debates lasting two hours each during the election campaign.

As it stands, the broadcasters have said the debates will go ahead as originally planned, while a planned head-to-head encounter between the Conservative and Labour leaders will also continue on 30 April.

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Dictate or diktat?

Mr Clegg's comments are similar to those previously made by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who said that David Cameron "simply cannot be allowed to dictate terms to everyone else taking part."

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has also put forward a similar point of view when she said: "It would have been wrong for one individual to dictate and change the terms of these debates."

However, Peter Robinson, leader of the DUP and First Minister of Northern Ireland, said it was the broadcasters who were trying to "set down a diktat" with their plans.

'Cowering'

Mr Miliband has previously accused Mr Cameron of "running scared" from TV debates, and "cowering from the public".

However, Mr Cameron has said he wants to "unblock the logjam" the "broadcasters helped to create" by appearing in one debate.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said UKIP will "accept the challenge" of the debates, but has criticised broadcasters for changing the original proposals and agreeing to let more parties take part.

The Greens have said the proposed format of the debates is "very fair" and that Mr Cameron's stance was damaging to the reputation of politics.

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