Labour leader Ed Miliband has refused to debate UKIP leader Nigel Farage before the European elections after squirming around the challenge on this morning’s BBC Sunday Politics show.
Farage, reflecting on Prime Minister David Cameron’s hint that he might engage the UKIP leader in one of the general election debates next year, challenged Labour’s Leader of the Opposition to a one-on-one, public debate.
Instead of agreeing, Miliband pivoted to next year, stating: “We’ve got to have the TV debates as we had at the last general election”. The previous debates failed to include Mr. Farage, and only invited the leaders of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Labour parties to take part.
Miliband continued: “The main thing for me is having these general election debates. Nick Clegg debated Nigel Farage, others can judge how well he got on”.
As Ed failed to answer host Andrew Marr’s question as to whether or not he would debate Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader intervened: “Come on. You don’t want a referendum. You don’t trust the British people to make their minds up on this, let’s have a head-to-head on that question.”
“I’m happy to have debates Nigel, about all of the main issues that we face but as I say my main desire is to have general election debates.”
Marr jumped in, “So you would debate with Nigel?”
Miliband replied: “No. What I’m saying is that what we want is general election debates and that’s where my focus is and frankly I think that we need to get David Cameron to the debates. I think there are two people who could be prime minister at the next election. I want David Cameron at those debates.” He eventually gave in: “If the broadcasters want to invite Nigel, that’s fine with me”.