Business Secretary Lord Mandelson: "I am open to debate between the parties, the leaders"
Lord Mandelson has said he is "open" to the idea of a televised debate between Gordon Brown and David Cameron during the next election campaign.
The business secretary told the BBC that the public had to choose between the two leaders and the more debate about this choice the better.
The parties had "competing" values and policies which must be aired, he said.
But Downing Street said Gordon Brown's view on a TV debate, which he is thought to oppose, had not changed.
It has been reported that Mr Brown thinks a televised discussion is unnecessary as he confronts Conservative leader Mr Cameron regularly in Parliament.
Mr Cameron is backing the idea, saying it would be good for democracy.
Making a choice
Lord Mandelson is a close ally of Mr Brown's and his comments will be studied carefully with an election less than a year away.
He made it clear that it would be the prime minister's decision on whether to agree to take part.
David Cameron: ''I've always supported television debates at election times''
He told the BBC that the electorate faced a choice between "competing" values, policies and leaders.
Asked whether he would back a televised debate, he said he was "open" to debates between the parties and their leaders to help the public "understand" the choice they faced.
"The public needs to choose and find out what is behind these leaders, who has the most experience, the best ideas and who can really build Britain's future," he said.
HAVE YOUR SAY
There is no point, all it will do is give the politicians another way to feed their lies to the rest of us. It will just be a glitzy popularity contest, with no substance
He contrasted Mr Brown's experience as chancellor and prime minister with Mr Cameron's "words and nice smile".
Debates between presidential candidates have become commonplace in the US but critics argue they would overly personalise the campaign in the UK's parliamentary system.
Mr Cameron said he would be "delighted" to take part in a televised debate, pointing out that he had done so when standing for his party leadership in 2005.
"I think television debates would help engage the public, help actually answer some of the questions at the heart of the election, would help bring the election alive in some way," he said.
The Lib Dems have said they are in favour of as many televised debates as possible.