Prime minister Tony Blair has said he will not participate in a televised debate ahead of the next general election, despite a request from Tory leader Michael Howard.
Prime minister Tony Blair has said he will not participate in a televised debate ahead of the next general election, despite a request from Tory leader Michael Howard, writes Miranda Collinge.

"We answer this every election campaign and, for the reasons I have given before, the answer is no," Blair said at his monthly news conference yesterday (Thursday).

In October, Howard accused Blair of "running scared" if he refused to agree to an American-style debate between the main party leaders. Over 51 million people watched the final debate between John Kerry and George W Bush ahead of the US election in November.

In previous years the government cited the difficulty of dealing with competing terrestrial broadcasters as a reason for not holding the debates.

The Conservatives have continually requested a televised showdown in recent years, although one has never been held. Labour made similar requests to Margaret Thatcher and John Major when the party was in opposition.