SEVEN British parties will be invited to join TV election debates, a source said on Thursday (January 22), highlighting the demise of the two-party system that makes the outcome of the vote highly uncertain.
Prime minister David Cameron has said he would only consider a debate if the Green Party was invited, leading to criticism from Labour leader Ed Miliband, but broadcasters initially rejected the plan.
However, the BBC and ITV are now set to announce they are writing to the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Greens, Scottish nationalists SNP and Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru to invite them to take part in two debates, the source said.
They had previously invited only the first four parties.
Sky and Channel 4 also plan to host a one-on-one debate between Cameron and Miliband ahead of the nationwide vote, which is taking place on May 7.
Cameron’s insistence on inviting the insurgent Green Party, which is now polling higher than the Liberal Democrats - traditionally Britain’s third party - is widely regarded as an attempt to draw votes away from Labour.
The Conservatives are facing a similar problem, with UKIP poaching voters from their right flank, so Cameron argues it would be unfair to invite UKIP leader Nigel Farage and not Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.
Britain’s first ever election debates in 2010 proved hugely popular, being watched by 22 million people.
Under the new plans, debates will be held on April 2, April 16 and April 30.
The Liberal Democrats welcomed the opportunity to confront the two main parties.
“We have always been clear that as a party of government, we must be able to defend our record in all the TV debates,” said a spokesman.
“We will continue to make that case in our discussions with the broadcasters.”