UK parties agree to unprecedented live TV debates

AP News
Posted: Dec 21, 2009 5:13 PM

Britain's three major political parties have agreed to participate in an unprecedented series of U.S.-style television debates, a coalition of broadcasters said Monday.

The BBC, ITV and Sky News television said that the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties had agreed to three live televised debates before the country's general election, which must be called by the middle of next year. The three broadcasters will host one debate each.

They would be the first such debates in Britain, where verbal sparring between politicians is usually limited to Parliament's weekly question-and-answer session.

Media commentators have credited the U.S. presidential contest pitting Barack Obama against John McCain with whetting Britons' appetite for American-style debates.

Under the terms of the debate, Prime Minister Gordon Brown will take part in the debates alongside David Cameron _ leader of the Conservative party _ and Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Recent opinion polls indicate that Britain's governing Labour party is gaining ground on the main opposition Conservatives. A ComRes poll for The Independent newspaper released Monday evening puts the Labour party at 31 percent, nine points behind the Conservative party. The poll also showed that 52 percent of voters believe that the Conservatives would represent the interests of the wealthy, rather than ordinary people, while 44 percent of voters disagreed.

ComRes polled 1,006 adults on Dec. 19-20. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.