Ed Miliband has confirmed he will attend the televised debates. In his speech to the Scottish Labour party, Miliband poured scorn on David Cameron’s attempts to get out of the debates:
“This is what David Cameron used to say about TV election debates:
That they were essential to our democracy.
That every country apart from Mongolia had them.
That he wasn’t going to have any feeble excuses to get out of debates.
And now he is doing everything he can to stop them.
And it is on the issue of leadership debates that David Cameron’s duplicity has caught up with him.
He says this election is all about leadership, all about the choice between him and me, and when it comes to a debate between him and me, he’s running scared.
He’s running away.
I say to David Cameron:
You can refuse to face the public, but you can’t deny your record.
You can try to chicken out of the debates, but don’t ever again claim that you provide strong leadership,
You can try to escape the people’s debates, but you can’t escape the people’s verdict.
Today the Labour Party has written to the broadcasters.
Saying with or without David Cameron, I will be at the debates.
And every day up to these debates he will be asked: what are you hiding from?
When all people will see is an empty chair, his claims of leadership will be exposed as empty.”
As I blogged yesterday, Labour’s tails are up and they feel that the debates row will strengthen Miliband whatever the outcome. But Nick Clegg is likely to be rebuffed in his attempts to replace David Cameron in the head-to-head. As a senior Labour source told me yesterday: “That debate is between the people who have a chance of becoming Prime Minister at the next election.”
Letter from Douglas Alexander, Chair of General Election Strategy, to Sue Inglish, chair of the Broadcasters’ Liaison Group:
We have followed with interest your exchange of letters over the last 48 hours with the Conservative Party, and in particular your reiteration that it is the intention of the broadcasters to stage Leaders Election Debates live on television on the 2nd, 16th and 30th April.
We believe these debates represent a huge opportunity to engage millions of voters in the election campaign and they are a rare opportunity for the public to see the leaders of the main political engaging directly on the big issues facing Britain.
I am therefore today writing on behalf of the Labour party to confirm that Ed Miliband will take up your offer to participate in all three of the proposed debates.
Like you, we hope that David Cameron and the Conservative party will take this opportunity to conclude that these debates are in the public interest and that not showing up will not just be damaging to the Conservative party but to our democracy as well.
Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP