Balls slams 'yellow' PM over debate
Ed Balls has suggested that David Cameron is "yellow" for failing to commit to taking part in televised election debates and claimed Chancellor George Osborne would be "up for" it.
The Shadow Chancellor, who is in Washington DC to attend a series of economic events, said it would be unthinkable for a United States president to refuse to take part.
The Prime Minister, who has also visited the US, for talks with President Obama, has said he is open to the prospect of an independent commission deciding who is involved in the head-to-heads but suggested that broadcasters are obsessed with the row.
He told reporters: "I haven't seen that suggestion before (an independent commission) but I'm open to all ideas.
"I've been very clear you can't have some minor parties without other minor parties.
"I think the point I made about these debates being outside the election I think is being borne out by the fact some new outlets find it hard to talk about anything else."
Mr Cameron is refusing to take part in the pre-election bouts planned by the broadcasters unless the Greens are involved, arguing that it is unfair for Ukip to take part if Natalie Bennett's party is excluded.
Mr Balls said: "I think it would be impossible for any incumbent US president to have any prospect of being elected unless they were in the debate.
"Any politician trying to become president or vice president who said in an American context they weren't up for a debate because they didn't like the terms would immediately in American terms be labelled as 'yellow'.
"And the Americans will never elect a yellow president.
"So I think, when people look across the water at our debate, I think they find it quite baffling that, when it comes to the Prime Ministerial debates, we seem to have an uncertainty about whether our PM wants to have a debate or not.
"No person in American politics who wants to be president could ever allow themselves to look as though they were ducking debates.
"People would think that meant they somehow weren't up to the job or weren't up for the debate - and I think the same thing applies in Britain as well.
"I have not spoken to (Mr Osborne) and I've had no indication but I know George Osborne quite well and he'll be up for a debate.
"Whatever I think of George Osborne - and we disagree on lots and lots of different things - I've never thought he was somebody who tried to duck debates. I've never thought of him as being somebody who was a coward.
"It's not going to go away because people want a debate. I don't really know what's going on.
"I can't believe our Prime Minister really in his core thinks he's got any choice but to have a debate - because he doesn't want to be labelled cowardly. Or, as I said, in America the phrase is yellow.
"I think in the end people think you've got to get out there and make your argument and have the debate. And, as I said, I don't have any doubt that's what George Osborne will do."
Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps told the Times he still believed the debates could go ahead but reiterated the Prime Minister's view that the Greens should be involved.
"We are very happy to do it if it includes the Greens ... what people would appreciate is a common sense debate between either the two guys who could be prime minister or everybody who is standing nationally ... it is unfair if it doesn't include all the national parties," he said.
"It's wrong to say that a party that successfully elected an MP at a general election (Caroline Lucas), and that polls consistently the same as a party that's in power (the Lib Dems) should be excluded.
"It totally sucks the life out of the campaign, the voters don;t get to see you out in the country, you don;t have as many town hall meetings. It's fine if we are going to do that again but let's do it in the right way. There's still time for this all to be organised and I think it will."