Britain’s political leaders will take part in televised election programmes, including a seven-way debate, after agreement was finally reached following months of wrangling.
David Cameron and Ed Miliband will both take part in the first event in London this Thursday, to be aired on Sky News and Channel 4 and hosted jointly by Kay Burley and Jeremy Paxman.
The Prime Minister and Labour leader will face an interview and questions from a studio audience – but they will not go head to head as originally proposed by the broadcasters.
The event that will most closely resemble the 2010 election debates will then be held on 2 April, and aired on ITV.
But instead of including just three leaders it will have seven including the Lib Dems Nick Clegg, UKIP’s Nigel Farage, the Greens’ Natalie Bennett, SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru.
There will then be two further programmes hosted by the BBC – an opposition debate with all the leaders apart from Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg and then a question time session one week before the election in which the leaders of the three biggest Westminster parties – the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems, will be grilled separately by a studio audience.
The final agreement contains concessions for a number of the leaders. Mr Cameron was the most hostile to the original proposals from broadcasters, saying he just wanted to take part in a single multi-party debate ahead of the short campaign.
Mr Miliband was determined for a head-to-head debate.
The final sticking point was over a proposal from the broadcasters for an event involving all the parties except for Labour and the Conservatives. Mr Miliband was determined to take part – resulting in the opposition event instead.
A spokesperson for the broadcasters said: “We’re delighted that there will be a debate with all the party leaders during the election campaign. The debate on 2nd April will build on the success of the 2010 TV debates which were so highly valued by viewers.
“We’re very pleased to be able to offer viewers an extensive range of programmes, across the four channels, featuring the party leaders interacting directly with voters during the campaign.”