Is Cameron too frit for TV debates?

David Cameron's threatened no-show at the TV debates looks like an admission of defeat.

The leaders of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Ukip wroteto David Cameron saying they will go ahead with television debates without him if he refuses to take part and challenged broadcasters to provide an empty chair to represent him, says Rowena Mason in The Guardian.

Cameron insists that he does want to take part, but that he won't unless the Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, is included, because the party is polling above the Lib Dems.

That's because "Tory strategists know they are vulnerable to losing votes to Ukip and believe that including the Greens would provide a counterbalance by peeling off support from Labour", says Laura Pitel in The Times.

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Although Cameron out-polls Ed Miliband on leadership ratings, Tories fear that low expectations for Miliband could result in a surprise win if he delivers a solid performance. Set against that, Tory grandee Lord Tebbit warned that a no-show risks making Cameron seem "frit", as well being seen as an admission that he "bungled it" in the 2010 debates.

The TV debates were central to Cameron's modernising act in 2010 and his "reverse ferret" is an attempt to "put a pillow over the face of democracy", says Adam Boulton in The Sunday Times. "If you believe that the voters should be informed as much as possible about the policies and character of people who want to be given power, then TV debates are the best way to do that."

Cameron's insistence on including the Greens "is foot-dragging of comic proportion that not even his close family believes', according to Labour sources". He is also threatening to "duck out of the proposed head-to-head with Miliband and a 2010-style Con-Lab-Lib clash on the BBC".

Nor has he replied to an invitation to a digital debate run by The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and YouTube, when the Greens can be present, says James Kirkup in The Daily Telegraph.

Cameron is becoming "dangerously exposed to the perception that when he says he wants to take part, he does not mean it" and that he's afraid of voters but won't admit it. "Time to step up, prime minister, before those chicken feathers start to stick."

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 

On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.