British Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed with broadcasters to take part in a seven-way televised debate with other political leaders ahead of the May 7th election, a senior Conservative source said on Tuesday.
After months of wrangling over how many debates there should be, who should take part and when they would be held, the source said Cameron had accepted an offer by broadcasters of a single debate with six other party leaders in early April.
Tuesday’s deal, if agreed by the other participants, represents a significant concession by broadcasters who had wanted to host two seven-way debates and a direct contest between Cameron and Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.
It was not immediately clear whether broadcasters had dropped plans to hold the second and third debates.
Broadcasters ITV, the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky were not immediately available to comment.
The debate would pit Cameron against Miliband, Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, the UK Independence Party’s Nigel Farage, and the leaders of the Green Party and nationalist parties from Scotland and Wales.
Cameron had previously rejected plans to hold a series of debates, including a head-to-head with Miliband. His approach had been widely interpreted as an effort to protect his own high personal ratings while depriving his rivals of publicity before a closely fought and unpredictable election.
Labour said they still planned to take part in three debates, as per the broadcasters’ previous proposal. Cameron’s agreement to one debate represented “progress”.
“It is one down, two to go,” a Labour spokesperson said.
The Liberal Democrats said they welcomed the news that there would be at least one debate, and were waiting for new proposals from the broadcasters.
Cameron previously said the debate should be held before parliament is dissolved on March 30th, slightly earlier than the time frame agreed on Tuesday.