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PM stance on minor parties backed

All the "minor parties" should be involved in TV debates ahead of the general election or they should not go ahead, George Osborne said as he defended David Cameron's stance that the Green Party must be represented.

The Prime Minister has been accused of being "chicken" after he said he ruled out taking part if Green leader Natalie Bennett was left out of the debates.

Ed Miliband and Ukip leader Nigel Farage were quick to accuse Mr Cameron of "running scared" and claimed he was finding excuses to avoid taking part.

The pair also mocked the Prime Minister after it emerged he would not take part in an online question and answer session with young voters - something that Mr Miliband, Mr Farage, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Ms Bennett have all done.

Under plans for the TV debates agreed by the major broadcasters in October, the Prime Minister would take on not only the Labour leader and Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, but Mr Farage as well.

Mr Cameron immediately raised questions over whether Mr Farage should take part if the Green Party was excluded.

The Chancellor backed the Prime Minister, insisting the debates had to "reflect the reality of the modern political landscape".

He told BBC Breakfast: "David Cameron is the first person in our British political history who was seen as a likely winner of an election who then took part in election debates, previous people had refused to do that.

"He has taken part in election debates and we as the Conservative Party want to be part of election debates, but they have to be debates that are fair and reflect the reality of the modern political landscape."

In comments seizes on by the SNP, which has six MPs, Mr Osborne said: "If you are going to have the minor parties, you have got to have all the minor parties with a presence in Parliament who attract votes at elections.

"The Green Party did better than the Liberal Democrats at the last national election, for the European Parliament, and they have got one Member of Parliament.

"So we are just making a point that, if you are going to have all these parties, you have got to have them all.

" I think that would make a fairer debate and I think around 300,000 people have signed a debate saying that the Green Party should be involved, so it's not as if this is something that is just coming from the politicians. There is a group of the public who also want to see a big, fair debate."

The SNP's Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: "While the SNP is the third largest party in the UK in terms of membership, current plans would see the party excluded from general election debates with party leaders.

"George Osborne has been caught out telling the truth with his remarks. It would be in no way fair or democratic to exclude parties that have far greater membership, support and elected MPs than Ukip from these debates.

"The SNP is not just the third largest party in the UK, we have a larger membership than the Lib Dems and Ukip combined.

"It would be ludicrous for the SNP to be shut out of these proposed debates and that is something that should be accepted by all involved."

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