Cameron commits to TV debates in 2015

After being accused by Labour of "running scared", Cameron says "we should go on having" TV debates.

After David Cameron declared that the TV debates "took all the life" out of the 2010 election campaign, there was much debate about whether he was, in the words of Labour, "running scared". Cameron told a press gallery lunch: "I think we could learn from last time. I have got an open mind and there is still two and a half years to go before we have to really think about it." The debates are viewed by Conservative strategists as one reason for the party's failure to win a majority in 2010.

But asked by Sky News's Adam Boulton at this afternoon's press conference with Nick Clegg whether he was in favour of the debates, Cameron was less equivocal. "I'm in favour of them, I think they are good and I think we should go on having them, and I will play my part in trying to make that happen," he said. After those words it will be harder for Cameron to avoid the debates in 2015, but the phrase "trying to make them happen" does leave him with some wriggle room.

One question that will arise is whether Nigel Farage should be included in the debates. If UKIP continue to poll at their current level and perform well in the European elections in 2014 (potentially even winning them) and future by-elections, Farage will push for a place. But since all three of the main parties have a mutual interest in avoiding the inclusion of "none of the above" candidate, it is hard to see his wish being granted.

David Cameron said of the TV debates: "I think they're good, I think we should go on having them". Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.