Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.
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Why the Tories want the Greens in the TV debates

The inclusion of the party would help to split the left-wing vote and harm Labour and the Lib Dems. 

After being harried by Labour to commit to TV debates next year, David Cameron has made his most detailed comments on the subject to date. He told the BBC

I'm very keen to examine all the formats that we could have and I've suggested that perhaps we should have one debate with all the parties in, so that everyone can have their say, and perhaps we could have a debate where the two people who could actually be prime minister debate directly with each other.

I don't think you could have a party like Ukip, without an MP, without the Greens, who have got an MP. So there are quite a lot of issues that have to be ironed out.

This differs slightly from the Sunday Times's report last weekend, which suggested that Cameron was open to a "2-3-5" format with a head-to-head debate between himself and Miliband, another with the addition of Clegg, and another with the addition of Nigel Farage and the Greens' Natalie Bennett. Cameron's comments suggest he favours a tête-à-tête with Miliband and a seperate debate with all five party leaders. 

His insistence that the Greens would be included is striking. At least one motive is the Conservatives' belief that the fifth party's increased profile would harm Labour and the Lib Dems. Having long complained about the unity of the left compared to the disunity of the right, Tories have told me that allowing the Greens to enter the debate would be another way to depress Labour's vote share in a close election.

It's also worth remembering that were Cameron to debate Miliband, the encounter would need to take place outside of the official election period. As I've noted before, Ofcom rules on impartiality mean it would not be possible to exclude Clegg. Should Ukip be reclassified as a "major party" (as it has been for the European elections), Farage would also have to be included. 

But as Labour suggests, Cameron's words may well just be "ducking and diving" designed to prevent the debates from happening at all. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Commons Confidential: Dave's picnic with Dacre

Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

Sulking David Cameron can’t forgive the Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, for his role in his downfall. The unrelenting hostility of the self-appointed voice of Middle England to the Remain cause felt pivotal to the defeat. So, what a glorious coincidence it was that they found themselves picnicking a couple of motors apart before England beat Scotland at Twickenham. My snout recalled Cameron studiously peering in the opposite direction. On Dacre’s face was the smile of an assassin. Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

The good news is that since Jeremy Corbyn let Theresa May off the Budget hook at Prime Minister’s Questions, most of his MPs no longer hate him. The bad news is that many now openly express their pity. It is whispered that Corbyn’s office made it clear that he didn’t wish to sit next to Tony Blair at the unveiling of the Iraq and Afghanistan war memorial in London. His desire for distance was probably reciprocated, as Comrade Corbyn wanted Brigadier Blair to be charged with war crimes. Fighting old battles is easier than beating the Tories.

Brexit is a ticket to travel. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is lifting its three-trip cap on funded journeys to Europe for MPs. The idea of paying for as many cross-Channel visits as a politician can enjoy reminds me of Denis MacShane. Under the old limits, he ended up in the clink for fiddling accounts to fund his Continental missionary work. If the new rule was applied retrospectively, perhaps the former Labour minister should be entitled to get his seat back and compensation?

The word in Ukip is that Paul Nuttall, OBE VC KG – the ridiculed former Premier League professional footballer and England 1966 World Cup winner – has cold feet after his Stoke mauling about standing in a by-election in Leigh (assuming that Andy Burnham is elected mayor of Greater Manchester in May). The electorate already knows his Walter Mitty act too well.

A senior Labour MP, who demanded anonymity, revealed that she had received a letter after Leicester’s Keith Vaz paid men to entertain him. Vaz had posed as Jim the washing machine man. Why, asked the complainant, wasn’t this second job listed in the register of members’ interests? She’s avoiding writing a reply.

Years ago, this column unearthed and ridiculed the early journalism of George Osborne, who must be the least qualified newspaper editor in history. The cabinet lackey Ben “Selwyn” Gummer’s feeble intervention in the Osborne debate has put him on our radar. We are now watching him and will be reporting back. My snouts are already unearthing interesting information.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution