TV debates 'sucked the life' out of 2010 election, says Cameron as he hints he's against the platformTories expected to propose a single leaders' debate with a different formatStrategists believe TV debates probably cost the party an overall majorityNick Clegg enjoyed surge of support after he was seen to 'win' first debateTories fear Labour will seek to position Ed Miliband against two established figures in an attempt to emulate Clegg's success
21:40 GMT, 10 December 2012
David Cameron claimed that TV debates 'sucked the life' out of the general election campaign
The TV debates which dominated the last general election are unlikely to be repeated after David Cameron claimed yesterday that they ‘sucked the life’ out of the campaign.
The Conservatives are expected to propose a single leaders’ debate, probably taking place before the formal election campaign starts, with a different format to the three that took place in 2010.
Tory strategists believe the TV debates, the first to take place in Britain, probably cost the party an overall majority at the last election.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, a relative unknown compared to Gordon Brown and Mr Cameron, enjoyed a surge of support after unscientific push-button polling of viewers meant he was seen to have ‘won’ the first debate.
Though so-called ‘Cleggmania’ faded as the campaign went on, it helped shore up the Lib Dem position and enabled them to hang on to dozens of vulnerable seats, senior Conservatives believe.
The debates are also seen to have crowded out coverage of other important elements of the campaign.
Though they do not believe Ed Miliband would put up a strong performance in a fresh round of debates, Tories fear Labour will seek to mimic Mr Clegg’s success by positioning him as a relative unknown against two established figures.
Mr Cameron signalled yesterday that he wants to see changes to the format of any debates if he is to take part again in 2015.
‘I think TV debates are good. I enjoyed them last time – particularly the last one,’ he told a Westminster lunch.
‘We have a fixed-term parliament now,
so we can think about it in a slightly different way. I haven’t made my
mind up exactly what we should do but I am in favour of these debates.
reflection on last time was that they did suck all the life out of the
campaign. The press and all of us were interested in the run-up to the
debate, the debate and the post-debate analysis, not the rest of the
campaign, which I really enjoy.
Tories fear that Labour will try to emulate Nick Clegg's (right) success when he 'won' the first TV debate by putting Ed Miliband (left) up against two established figures
‘I like campaigning, I like being out there, the public meetings, the awkward moments, the difficulties – it is an incredibly exciting time, trying to explain what you are about and what you are trying to do.
‘I found the TV debates took all the life out of it.’
Britain’s first-ever televised general election leaders’ debates were staged on BBC, ITV and Sky News in 2010 after prolonged negotiations between the parties and the TV companies, which resulted in strict rules on the style of questioning and the division of time for leaders’ answers.