Ministers to face their shadows in TV election debates

TV debates between ministers and their shadows will take place in the fortnight before the election, it has been announced, daily between 2:15 and 3:00.

TV debates between ministers and their shadows will take place in the fortnight before the election, it has been announced. Today’s Times reports the debates will take place from 2:15-3 every weekday afternoon for the final weeks of the campaign, hosted by Andrew Neil in the format of the Daily Politics – but unlike the prime ministerial debates, there will be no studio audience.

Last December, when news of the leaders’ debates was confirmed, Left Foot Forward argued for such debates, to cover the key policy issues of the economy, health, education, law & order and defence among others, the details of which may be lost in the Brown v Cameron v Clegg head-to-heads.

Even before today’s announcement, there have been several high profile debates already between ministers and opposition spokesmen since the turn of the year. Examples include business secretary Lord Mandelson and his shadow Ken Clarke appearing on Channel Four News to face questions from Jon Snow; Phil Woolas, Damian Green and Chris Huhne debating immigration on the Politics Show; and Lord Adonis, Theresa Villiers and Norman Baker discussing high-speed rail on last Thursday’s Newsnight.

Newsnight has also provided the platform for two 45-minute programmes focusing on defence and education – last month Bob Ainsworth, Liam Fox and Nick Harvey debated “A fighting future“, while last week Ed Balls, Michael Gove and David Laws took part in a heated debate about schools. More such debates are expected to follow in addition to the ones outlined today.

As published previously on this blog, here is a list of the leading cabinet ministers and their shadows:

BUSINESS Lord Mandelson Ken Clarke John Thurso
LDR. OF THE HOUSE Harriet Harman Sir George Young David Heath
TREASURY Alistair Darling George Osborne Vince Cable
CHIEF SECRETARY Liam Byrne Philip Hammond Jeremy Browne
FOREIGN OFFICE David Miliband William Hague Ed Davey
JUSTICE Jack Straw Dominic Grieve David Howarth
HOME OFFICE Alan Johnson Chris Grayling Chris Huhne
ENVIRONMENT Hilary Benn Nick Herbert Tim Farron
DEVELOPMENT Douglas Alexander Andrew Mitchell Michael Moore
COMMUNITIES John Denham Caroline Spelman Julia Goldsworthy
SCHOOLS Ed Balls Michael Gove David Laws
CLIMATE CHANGE Ed Miliband Greg Clark Simon Hughes
HEALTH Andy Burnham Andrew Lansley Norman Lamb
WORK & PENSIONS Yvette Cooper Theresa May Steve Webb
DEFENCE Bob Ainsworth Liam Fox Nick Harvey
TRANSPORT Lord Adonis Theresa Villiers Norman Baker
CULTURE Ben Bradshaw Jeremy Hunt Don Foster
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