Ed Miliband has again called on David Cameron to agree to a new round of televised general election leadership debates as he signalled his willingness to see changes to the format.
The Labour leader said the previous format of three debates between the three main party leaders should be a “starting point” but that he was open to moves such as a less formal setting and greater voter participation in any repeat of the 2010 confrontations.
He used a Radio Times article to call for immediate negotiations, accusing his main rival of being the “single biggest obstacle” to them going ahead and suggesting the Tories were keen to deny his cash-strapped party vital publicity.
Britain’s first such debates, between Mr Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg, were staged on the BBC, ITV and Sky News in 2010 after prolonged negotiations.
Mr Cameron has since complained that they “took all the life out” of the campaign.
There has been speculation that he could seek to exclude Mr Clegg – now Deputy Prime Minister in the Tory-led coalition – and go head-to-head only with the Labour leader, a move which would be challenged by the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Miliband wrote that he saw the debates as a “crucial part” of his pitch to the electorate but that they were being put at risk by the “same old games” that saw talks over copying the US-style programmes come to nothing for decades until 2010.
Mr Clegg told the Financial Times he would “struggle to think of even half a respectable excuse the Conservatives could come up with to deny the British people the right to see the party leaders measuring up against each other in a leaders’ debate”.
A recent poll suggested a majority of voters believe Ukip leader Nigel Farage should be allowed to join general election TV debates, given the rising popularity of the eurosceptic party.
Mr Farage emerged the clear winner amongst viewers of two clashes with Mr Clegg ahead of the May 22 European elections.
But Mr Cameron insists the debates “predominantly should be about people who have a prospect of becoming prime minister”.