David Cameron has agreed to the offer made by Britain's broadcasters for a single seven-way election debate that will be held on 2 April.
The contest will be a first in British broadcasting history. The Tories originally wanted a single debate in the week staring 23 March. However, the PM came under a barrage of criticism from the media for doing everything possible to avoid debates.
Senior Conservative sources said in a statement:
The PM accepts broadcasters' offer of one, seven-way debate at the very beginning of April.
The Labour leader Ed Miliband is still challenging Cameron to a head to head debate and the party still backs the original plans by broadcasters for three debates to be held.
The Spectator's James Forsyth says in addition to the debate, there will also be several special election programmes including interviews with Jeremy Paxman in front of a live studio audience.
The Conservatives appear to have wilted under the pressure to debate closer to the election. Earlier this month, Craig Oliver, the PM's director of communications, sent a letter to the chair of the broadcasters’ leaders’ debates committee, Sue Inglish, delivering an ultimatum on the date, number and size of the debates.
The letter said:
This is our final offer, and to be clear, given the fact this has been a deeply unsatisfactory process and we are within a month of the short campaign, the Prime Minister will not be participating in more than one debate.
Cameron's opponents are already poking fun at the apparent volte face.
The principle guiding the TV debates process: the Prime Minister's indecision is final!— Patrick O'Flynn (@oflynnmep) March 17, 2015
Downing Street continues to reject a head-to-head debate between Ed Miliband and the Prime Minister. The seven way debate will consist of the Conservatives, Lib Dems, Greens, Ukip, Labour, Plaid Cymru and the SNP.