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Might we yet see the Cameron v Brown TV debate?

Update: Watch David Cameron's response to Lord Mandelson's comments here. Scroll down for the letter he has written to Gordon Brown


The prospect of the kind of general election TV debate for which Opposition leaders have been calling for years came a little closer today.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, Lord Mandelson (is he acting Prime Minister right now?) said in response to the suggestion of Gordon Brown doing such a debate:

"I don't think Gordon would have a problem with that," he said. "While Cameron is good with words, he doesn't have the ideas or policies to back them. I think people would see through the smile. The more the public sees of them, the more they'd realise that Gordon is the man with the substance."

Downing Street appeared to distance itself from Lord M's comments, with a spokesman quoted as saying that "the position hasn’t changed" on the issue.

But David Cameron today reiterated his desire to debate Gordon Brown on TV during the election:

"I pressed Gordon about it in the House of Commons and he was against it... if he's changed his mind I'd be delighted. I've always believed that television debates between the party leaders would actually add to a general election, would bring it alive."

Needless to say, I think I speak for most Conservatives when I say of the suggestion of such a debate: "Bring it on".

6.30pm update: David Cameron has written the following letter to Gordon Brown:

Dear Gordon,

I am writing to ask you to clarify the Government’s position on the issue of a television debate between the leaders of the main political parties.

Five months ago, when I challenged you at Prime Minister’s Questions to a televised studio debate, you refused. This morning, Lord Mandelson said you were open to the idea. But within an hour, a Downing Street spokesperson back-tracked, saying this was not the case.

The Government seems to have a number of positions on this. I’ve only ever had one: a prime time televised debate is just what our political system needs.

It would help to energise our democratic process, engage the electorate and restore trust in politics. Democracies across the world – from Australia to America to Brazil to Indonesia – have benefited from the invigorating effects of these debates. Even in Iran a series of television debates was held during the recent election campaign.

Your previous objection was that a televised debate was unnecessary as the issues were aired each week in parliament. But Prime Minister’s Questions simply cannot compete with the accessibility of a primetime studio debate. I want the chance to set out the choice at the next election to many more people than those who watch on a Wednesday lunchtime.

For these reasons I hope you will today make clear your position on this crucial issue.

Jonathan Isaby


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