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14 Jan, 2015 15:40

Election ultimatum: 3 party leaders threaten to go ahead with TV debates without PM David Cameron

Election ultimatum: 3 party leaders threaten to go ahead with TV debates without PM David Cameron

Labour, Liberal Democrat and UK Independence Party (UKIP) leaders have delivered Prime Minister David Cameron an ultimatum, claiming they will participate in televised pre-election debates without him if necessary.

In a series of letters, which were sent separately but feature identical wording, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage informed Cameron if he failed to consent to the debates they would participate regardless, leaving an empty chair for the PM should he have a last minute change of heart.

The DPM version of the letter to the PM on debates this morning. Identical from Miliband and Farage. pic.twitter.com/h610Gkz44r

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) January 14, 2015

Cameron claims he is boycotting the debates after Ofcom made the “unfair” decision not to allow the Green Party to participate because they are too minor.

The Telegraph, however, revealed that the Conservatives were attempting to block the debates from going ahead because they may cost Cameron precious votes.

Talks are ongoing between representatives of Labour, the Conservatives, LibDems and UKIP, but reports suggest that difficulties presented by the Tory camp risk the events being canceled altogether.

The letters present the other leaders as trying to publicly force Cameron into playing fair.

The leaders say it would be “unacceptable” for the PM to avoid the debates because of “self-interest.”

READ MORE:Sabotage! Tories accused of wrecking TV election debates

“It would be unacceptable if the political self-interest of one party leader were to deny the public the opportunity to see their leaders debate in public.”

“Therefore, if you are unwilling to reconsider, the three party leaders who have committed to participate will ask the broadcasters to press ahead with the debates and provide an empty podium should you have a last-minute change of heart.”

“These debates are not the property of the politicians and I do not believe the public will accept lightly the prospect of any politician seeking to block them,” the letter adds.

A Downing Street spokesperson claimed Cameron’s position remains unchanged.

The letters will, however, hugely increase public pressure on the PM to take part.

The pre-election series would feature a debate between the four leaders, including UKIP’s Nigel Farage, a debate featuring the Conservatives, Labour and LibDems, and a final head-to-head between Cameron and Miliband.

READ MORE:Cameron won’t join election TV debates if Greens not included after Ofcom ruling

The Green Party responded with a letter of its own, from leader Natalie Bennett to Miliband, Clegg and Farage.

Bennett urged the leaders to consider accepting the Green Party into the debates, a step which would serve “democracy and the electorate best.”

Green's @natalieben writes to EdM/Clegg/farage : says ITV (4way debate host) "prepared to change current position" pic.twitter.com/SaeNwMorpW

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) January 14, 2015

She claimed a “substantial majority” of the British public would like to see the Green Party included in the debates.

Bennett also said it would be more progressive if the three leaders were to suggest to broadcaster ITV they would be willing to include the Greens as a means of also including Cameron.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today program, Farage said Cameron seemed unwilling to debate topics like immigration with the UKIP leader.

“In 2010, David Cameron did very badly in these debates and was seen to be the loser. I notice this week he’s launched his six priorities for the Conservative election campaign and of course he’s completely ignored the issues of immigration and Europe. I feel very strongly he would rather not debate these issues with me on national television.”