UK & World News

  • 5 May 2014, 1:46

David Cameron 'Ready For Farage TV Debate'

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps has told Sky News "all options are on the table" when it comes to deciding who should take part in TV debates before the next election, amid reports Nigel Farage could be included.

The Sunday Times has reported that Prime Minister David Cameron is ready to sign up for three debates between party leaders - including one that could include the UKIP leader.

Speaking on Sky News' Murnaghan programme, Mr Shapps did not rule out the notion of Mr Farage taking part, and said negotiations would begin towards the end of this year.

A "2-3-5" plan reportedly drawn up by aides would include a debate between Mr Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband, another with Mr Miliband and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and a third featuring the three main party leaders along with Mr Farage and Natalie Bennett from the Green Party.

The newspaper said the format would allow for one debate during the campaign, while the others would be held beforehand.

But Mr Farage has said he did not think he would get the chance to take part.

"What David Cameron does, very often he makes these promises, vague promises, and then doesn't actually deliver afterwards," he told BBC1's Andrew Marr show.

"I don't think he has got any intention of allowing me into any of these debates."

Speaking on the same programme, Mr Miliband said it was "up to the broadcasters who they invite, whether they invite Nigel".

"My main desire is that the debates go ahead," he said.

"The Prime Minister doesn't own these debates, the British people own these debates and he can't wriggle out of them."

Last month Mr Miliband said the previous format of three debates between the three main party leaders over three weeks should be a "starting point" but that he was open to changes such as a less formal setting and greater voter participation.

Britain's first leaders' debates, between Mr Cameron, Gordon Brown and Mr Clegg were shown on Sky News, the BBC and ITV in 2010.

This followed negotiations between the parties and the TV companies which resulted in strict rules on the style of questioning and the division of time for leaders' answers.

Mr Cameron has since complained that the debates "took all the life out" of the campaign.

Mr Farage has repeatedly challenged the PM to agree to a TV debate with him.

Opinion polls suggested the UKIP leader beat Mr Clegg in two debates shown live on Sky News and the BBC ahead of this month's European elections.

Meanwhile, an opinion poll suggests UKIP is heading for victory in the European vote - but most voters believe the party attracts racists and bigots.

The YouGov poll for the Sun on Sunday put Mr Farage's party on 29%, ahead of Labour on 26%, the Conservatives on 23% and Liberal Democrats on 10%.

But 27% of those surveyed thought UKIP is a party with "racist views" and "many racist members", while 35% thought that, while the party is not racist, it "does seem to attract some candidates or supporters with racist, extreme or odd views".

Some 26% said UKIP is not racist and their "more controversial candidates are just saying the things ordinary people actually think".

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