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Leader debates 2015: don’t hold your breath for a repeat of 2010

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By Professor David Deacon and Dr Dominic Wring from the Department of Social Sciences.

There is now serious doubt as to whether the campaign for the 2015 general election will witness the kind of leader debate that dominated the 2010 contest. Prime minister David Cameron is reluctant to re-appear in a format which Conservative strategists believe undermines his status, while enhancing that of his rivals. They also fear he might be overshadowed by minor party opponents keen to promote themselves on this, the greatest potential stage of all.

Cameron has recently confirmed he will not participate in the debates if the major broadcasters continue to refuse to allow the Greens a place in at least one of the three planned televised encounters. While David Cameron has been accused of seeking excuses to avoid the debates, most other parties can hardly be pleased with the broadcasters’ proposals.

Labour is the exception because the current schedule guarantees Ed Miliband’s appearance in every contest along with the prime minister. In contrast, Nick Clegg has only been invited to two debates, Nigel Farage to one and the other possible contenders – such as the Greens' Natalie Bennett – to none. Although this arrangement reflects media regulator Ofcom’s recent designation of the Liberal Democrats and UKIP as having potential “major party” status, both these leaders’ exclusion from the final debate also diminishes them.

The broadcasters’ acknowledgement that they partly based their proposals on polling trends has intensified demands from other players – principally the Greens and Scottish Nationalist Party – to be included in proceedings.

Read the full article in The Conversation.