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Parties agree historic TV poll debates for General Elections

General Elections will be transformed by an historic agreement reached last night under which Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg will face questions from voters in three 90-minute live television debates.

The three main parties admitted there would be no going back at future elections as they signed a 76-point agreement with the broadcasters for US-style debates which look certain to dominate the imminent election campaign.

Although dates will not be finalised until the election date is announced, The Independent has learnt that they have been pencilled in for 8pm to 9.30pm on Thursdays 15, 22 and 29 April. Polling day now looks certain to be on 6 May. One reason for Mr Brown delaying the election, he has told aides, is to give him time to prepare for the debates.

Talks will now open on staging television debates between other frontbenchers — starting with one between the Chancellor Alistair Darling, his Tory shadow George Osborne and Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats' Treasury spokesman. All parties insist they want a wider range.

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