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14 April 2010

TV debates: Tories’ public concerns; Labour’s private fears

Key question remains: will the leaders throw out the format and "mix it up"?

By James Macintyre

David Cameron has expressed concerns that the format of tomorrow night’s ITV leaders’ debate, with its set-piece eight questions over 90 minutes, could be “slow and sluggish”.

Cynics would wonder what his motive in making this unexpected intervention: could he be concerned that so few qustions enable plenty of time for scrutiny from closer the presenter, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg? After all, all three leaders should remember that the key to live TV, is that you can do what you want. Looking ahead at debate week on Sunday, I posted about how Brown could approach the debate, turning and facing Cameron directly and asking him the questions — such as, on what have you changed the party? — the lucky Tory leader has yet to face in this campaign.

Meanwhile, as the Tories go public about their worries, sources in the Labour camp reveal private fears about Cameron’s formidable skills. Here is a tiny sneak preview of a bit from the campaign piece in this weeks magazine, out on Thursday, by Mehdi and myself:

David Cameron, Labour insiders concede, is a natural in front of the cameras, having honed his skills in recent months appearing twice a week on WebCameron, the onlineConservative video…”We have real concerns about Cameron as a performer,” says one Labour strategist.

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During the debate itself, you can follow the NS and friends in a merged blog here, and, if you are on Twitter, my own, shorter observations at www.twitter.com/james_macintyre