Cameron willing to take part in TV election debates, say Conservatives

Monty Burns in chair

The Conservatives have signalled that David Cameron is willing to take part in televised leaders’ debates following the publication of revised plans from broadcasters.

Grant Shapps, the Tory party chairman, said that the politicians and broadcasters were “edging towards a solution” and, when asked whether he was saying yes or no to Cameron turning up, he replied: “It’s a yes.”

Party sources later said Shapps meant Cameron was in favour of participating in principle, not that he was giving a binding commitment, and that further talks needed to take place.

But his comments were far more positive than the statement the party issued on Friday, when it responded to the revised proposals by simply saying that discussions were still ongoing.

Cameron originally objected to Ukip being included but not the Greens, but the broadcasters addressed this by proposing two seven-party debates, involving the Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems, Ukip, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens, as well as a head-to-head between Cameron and the opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Privately senior Tories think it would be a mistake for Cameron to take part and many of his opponents believe he is dragging his feet in the hope that other objections will prevent the debates actually taking part.

On Sunday, Shapps denied this. “We want the debates, but the negotiations need to be debated with the TV broadcasters,” he said.

But Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist party (DUP), which has eight MPs, said it was unfair for his party to be excluded when it has more MPs than the Greens, Ukip, Plaid or the SNP.

“Once you go down the road of inviting some regional parties that have their own distinctive arguments, whether it be in Scotland or Wales, you’ve got to apply exactly the same arguments for Northern Ireland participation,” he said.

• This article was altered to correct the position of Nigel Dodds within the DUP

Powered by article was written by Andrew Sparrow, political correspondent, for The Guardian on Sunday 25th January 2015 17.23 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010