London: Televised election debates between party leaders in the UK could take place up to a year before the polling day.
Senior politicians have become increasingly concerned that the exchanges will dominate the campaign for power in 2015.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, said that the debates before the next election should not be concentrated in the short three or four weeks of full campaigning after Parliament has been dissolved, the Telegraph reports.
He backed concerns, already expressed by Prime Minister David Cameron that the debates can “suck the lifeblood” out of the general election campaign.
Earlier this month, Cameron indicated that the next set of leaders’ debates could be organized differently from the first televised exchanges in 2010, the report said.
Talks between the three main parties and broadcasters have begun but no agreement has been reached, it added.
According to the report, Sir Menzies told BBC Radio 4’s World this Weekend that he was “sympathetic” to the idea that the leaders’ debates could be held earlier.
Britain’s first-ever televised general election leaders’ debates, between Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg, were staged on BBC, ITV and Sky News in 2010, the report said.
According to the report, Cameron said earlier this month that he found the format for the 2010 series of debates too ‘controlled’.
Audiences were banned from applause under a set of highly restrictive rules.
Cameron told journalists before Parliament broke up for the Christmas recess that he supported the TV debates and “enjoyed them last time,” the report added.