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Paddy Ashdown writes to broadcasters proposing Clegg-Miliband debate

March 8, 2015 12:01 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Lord Ashdown, chair of the Liberal Democrat General Election campaign, has written to Sue Inglish, the chair of the broadcasters' leaders debates committee, calling on the broadcasters to invite Nick Clegg to the third debate between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, making it a two-way debate between Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband if the Prime Minister refuses to participate.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Sue,

As you know, the Liberal Democrats are strong advocates of the leaders' debates and wish to see them anchored permanently in the British political system. We believe they have become a hugely important part of our democratic process and that they must not be held to ransom by one party leader seeking to protect his own political interest.

I was pleased to see from your statement on Friday that you intend to stand your ground on this matter. I wish to make it absolutely clear that Nick Clegg is willing to participate in the proposed debates.

These debates are important for two reasons: they are about scrutinising the record of the Government; and they are about what happens next.

It is deeply disappointing that the Prime Minister is trying to avoid these debates. It is also clear from his 'final offer' to participate in a single debate before the short campaign period begins, that he does not want to debate once the Conservative Party's manifesto has been published. Not only is he refusing to defend the government's record, but he is also unwilling to expose his party's plan for the future to scrutiny by the British public.

We propose that the debates should go ahead on the dates you have suggested regardless of whether the Prime Minister chooses to turn up or not.

As you know, we strongly believe that it is in the public interest that both parties of Government are present in all debates to defend their records and set out their proposals. For the third debate, we propose that it takes place between Mr Clegg, Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband. If the Prime Minister does not wish to attend then we believe the debate should proceed between Mr Clegg and Mr Miliband without him.

We look forward to your response.

Yours,

Lord Ashdown

Chair of the Liberal Democrat General Election Campaign