Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 18:00 UK

PM 'has made TV debate decision'

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
Previous attempts to get leaders to do a TV debate have failed

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has told the BBC he has decided whether or not he will take part in televised debates at the next General Election.

But he refused to announce his decision because it was not the "right time".

The BBC understands that a commitment to take part in such debates was in an early draft of his conference speech - but was removed from the final version.

Conservative leader David Cameron and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg have both said they want to see such debates.

'Not time'

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Brown said: "There is a time for discussing debates, but we are not in an election. I have decided in my own mind.

"I am not going to go into that today because basically there is a time for deciding these issues and the time for me at the moment, where I have got to spend my time, is going round the country as I have been doing over the last few months to explain to people the policies that we are engaged in."

On Tuesday, Mr Cameron told the BBC the prime minister should "get off the fence and agree to the debate".

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

"I can't work out if he is dithering or bottling," he said. "I expect it's a combination of both."

Earlier this year, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said he was "open" to the idea of a debate.

And asked on Wednesday about whether he would like to see a debate, Schools Secretary Ed Balls - one of Mr Brown's closest allies - said "personally, yes".

"Gordon will make his decision, he'll announce it but in my view the more debates the better," he told Sky News.

Mr Balls said he believed Gordon Brown would win a head-to-head debate with David Cameron "hands down" as Mr Cameron was "not good off script".

Televised showdowns between presidential candidates have become commonplace in the US, but critics argue they would overly personalise a UK election campaign.



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