MOSCOW, January 14 (Sputnik) — British Prime Minister David Cameron has come under a concerted attack from his political rivals, who have accused him of attempting to avoid participating in a series of televised pre-election debates on a false pretense, the BBC reports.
Cameron had said earlier this month that he would boycott the debates, scheduled to run in April ahead of the May 7 election, unless Natalie Bennett, the leader of the country's left-leaning Green Party, is also allowed to participate. Cameron explained his position by saying that "you can't have some minor parties in and not other parties in."
The leaders of the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) signed a letter addressed to the prime minister calling on him to reassess his position, warning of the consequences should he refuse.
In the letter, the politicians state that "it would be unacceptable if the political self-interest of one party leader were to deny the public the opportunity to see their leaders debate in public." The letter adds that "these debates are not the property of the politicians and I do not believe the public will accept lightly the prospect of any politician seeking to block them."
The letter also warns that if Cameron refuses "to reconsider, the three party leaders who have committed to participate will ask the broadcasters to press ahead with the debates and provide for an empty podium should you have a last-minute change of heart."
The debates would give Labour leader Ed Miliband the chance to improve his poor ratings, garnered by the mostly conservative British press, while giving UKIP's Nigel Farage a chance to target Conservative voters dissatisfied by their chosen party's performance.
UKIP's Farage told the BBC that Cameron had been "seen to be the loser" in debates ahead of the 2010 election, which may have weighed on his decision not to participate in the debates scheduled for April. The Liberal Democrats' Lord Ashdown, leading the party's election campaign, told Sky News that "you can't just let the prime minister or anybody else basically hold the country and our democracy to ransom by saying no."
The Green Party presently has one MP in the country's parliament, along with a few local councillors, and was earlier deemed not to have qualified for major party status by Britain's broadcast regulator Ofcom, Reuters has explained. In Ofcom's opinion, the party failed to gain "sufficient support in previous elections and current opinion polls to be added to Ofcom's major party list for the purposes of the May 2015 elections." In addition to the Greens, the country's parliament has seven other one to two seat parties.