Televised debates between party leaders - Commons Library Standard Note

Published 14 January 2015 | Standard notes SN05241

Authors: Isobel White

Topic: Elections, General elections

This note sets out the background to the current debate about televised debates between party leaders during a general election campaign. Three debates were held for the first time in the UK during the 2010 general election. The BBC, ITV News, Sky News and Channel 4 have put forward proposals to change the format of the televised leaders’ debates to be held before the 2015 general election; the proposals would include an invitation for Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, to take part in one of the debates.

On 8 January 2015 Ofcom published a consultation on the political parties it proposes as major political parties ahead of the May 2015 elections; the regulator proposes that UKIP, but not the Green Party, should now qualify for “major party status”. Ofcom’s consultation does not determine the structure, format and style of any possible TV leaders' election debates and notes that “the decision on which leaders are represented in any broadcast debates is an editorial matter for broadcasters in agreement with the political parties taking part”.

It has been reported that the Prime Minister has said he will not take part in a televised leaders’ debate if the Green Party is not included.

The Note does not provide information on Party Election Broadcasts (PEBs); this can be found in Standard Note SN/PC/3354, Party Election Broadcasts.

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