“Debategate”, which was very nearly a thing, is finally over. The party leaders have at last agreed on the dates, format and number of televised election debates they will take part in ahead of May.
Diaries at the ready! Here’s the schedule:
26 March: Live question and answer programme on Channel 4 and Sky News featuring David Cameron and Ed Miliband, presented by Jeremy Paxman and Kay Burley
2 April: Debate with seven party leaders on ITV, moderated by Julie Etchingham
16 April: Debate between five opposition party leaders on the BBC, moderated by David Dimbleby
30 April: BBC Question Time programme with David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, presented by David Dimbleby
According to the BBC, the broadcasters have confirmed that a deal has been reached with David Cameron. The Prime Minister will take part in a seven-way panel with all the party leaders, but will not face Ed Miliband in a head-to-head.
A spokesperson for the broadcasters commented:
We’re delighted that there will be a debate with all the party leaders during the election campaign. The debate on 2 April will build on the success of the 2010 TV debates which were so highly valued by viewers.
This agreement is the culmination of a tedious protracted process that basically boiled down to Cameron trying to avoid debating at all (he has nothing to gain, and risks a repeat of 2010’s Cleggmania situation, where one party receives a last-minute poll bounce because of their leader’s debate performances), and smaller parties complaining about their exclusion.