Ed Balls challenges George Osborne to televised debate

Ed Balls

Just when you thought debates about debates might have died down, the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, has said he would be very happy to have a televised debate with George Osborne “any time, any place, any where”.

Asked by an enterprising caller on an LBC phone-in show whether he would be open to engaging in a live debate with the chancellor, Balls said, “Absolutely. Bring it on I say”.

He said that he didn’t expect the chancellor to object to the idea either. “There are things that George Osborne and I disagree about, but I think he’s not a chicken … David Cameron seems to be a bit of a chicken about it, but I’m not sure George Osborne would be.”

Balls emphasised that it was important for broadcasters to set the terms and said he was happy for the debate to be as long as they wanted it to be.

Asked how well he gets on with the chancellor, Balls said that – although he thought some of the things Osborne had done had been “on the wrong side of the moral line” – he had known him for many years.

“We have been at international conferences together in America and in France and he’s somebody I can talk to,” said Balls. “He’s got young kids like me. We get on OK. We’re as friendly as you can be in politics.”

Televised debates were held between the financial spokesmen for the three main parties in March before the 2010 general election.

Ask the Chancellors, or “battle of the chancellors” as it was also known, was broadcast on Channel 4 and chaired by journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy. It attracted 1.8m viewers, considerably fewer than the 9.4m who tuned in for the first of the live leader debates.

The debate featured Osborne for the Conservatives, Alistair Darling for Labour, and Vince Cable for the Liberal Democrats. According to an online poll conducted after the debate, Cable came out top on 36%, with Darling and Osborne both on 32%.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 21st January 2015 19.23 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010