David Cameron
David Cameron now wants Northern Ireland parties in TV debates Reuters

David Cameron has appeared to edge closer to taking part in general election TV debates, but has still failed to fully commit to the showpiece events.

The Prime Minister said he thinks the TV debates should not go ahead without the Northern Irish parties. Cameron previously objected to the TV debates on the grounds that plans excluded the Green Party.

A revised line-up saw the environmental activists included, which has now led to the PM objecting again - this time on behalf of the likes of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

"I was told that it was appalling and outrageous that I had suggested that you couldn't have one minor party without having the other minor party," said the PM. "I am delighted the broadcasters have gone away and thought again. They have actually come up with rather more minor parties than I had in mind.

"But I am sure they have thought it all through and they know what they are doing, although I don't quite see why Northern Ireland seems to be missing out.

"As far as I am concerned that is as important a part of our United Kingdom as Wales or Scotland. But we are making good progress and I am sure they [the broadcasters] know what they are doing."

Critics of the PM have suggested he is seeking to torpedo the TV debates, which look set to dominate the election campaign. Any reluctance may be rooted in analysis that incumbents generally have little to gain from such televised set pieces - which give opposition parties airtime and present gaping holes for the ruling party.

But not taking part may simply not be an option for Cameron, with calls for TV companies to 'empty chair' the leaders of parties which fail to participate.

"I want to take part," insisted the PM. "I said they needed to do the minor party thing and they've certainly done that. They [including the minor parties] were never my terms. I simply said you have a problem if you have one minor party, Ukip, and you don't have another minor party, the Greens. I want these debates to go ahead and that is good progress."