Cameron Accused by Rivals of ‘Running Scared’ Over TV Debates

Prime Minister David Cameron, the leader of Britain’s Conservatives, was accused by rival political-party chiefs of trying to avoid televised debates before May’s U.K. general election after he said current plans aren’t acceptable.

“David Cameron should stand on his record and stop running scared of TV debates,” opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said today on Twitter. “The broadcasters have invited us, the public expect it, just say yes and stop making excuses,” Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said in a Twitter message today from his Liberal Democrat party.

U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage called Cameron “a chicken running scared” after the premier told ITV News he wouldn’t take part in debates unless they also include Green leader Natalie Bennett, whose party is vying for fourth place in terms of voter support with the Liberal Democrats.

Broadcasters have proposed a series of debates this year, with one between Cameron and Miliband, a second also involving Clegg and a third also including Clegg and Farage.

“The Greens are polling ahead of the Liberal Democrats -- to me, that makes them a serious party,” Cameron told ITV. “I don’t think the current proposals work. You can’t have one minor party without having another minor party and I think that’s only logical and fair.”

He was speaking after media regulator Ofcom published a draft ruling that defined UKIP as a major party for the election campaign, entitling it to more broadcasting airtime, while naming the Greens as a minor party.

Gaining Support

UKIP, which seeks curbs on immigration and withdrawal from the European Union, has drawn supporters from Cameron’s Conservative Party, and two Tory lawmakers defected to the party and won special elections under UKIP colors late last year. The Greens, who have one lawmaker in the House of Commons, have attracted support from the Liberal Democrats and Labour on the other side of the political spectrum.

The three televised debates before the 2010 election featured Cameron, Clegg and current Labour leader Miliband’s predecessor, Gordon Brown, who was then prime minister. They boosted Clegg’s profile during the campaign, giving the Liberal Democrats a temporary polling boost.

Farage faced Clegg in two broadcast debates before the European Parliament elections last year, and snap polls indicated the UKIP leader won both.

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