UK Conservatives Accuse Blair Of Running Scared Of TV Debate

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

London ( - UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Conservative leader William Hague Wednesday afternoon had their first - and probably last - head-to-head clash of the election campaign, during the last weekly "Prime Minister's Question Time" of the current parliamentary session.

Hague used the opportunity to attack Labor's position on Europe, accusing Blair in heated exchanges of hiding his intention to jettison Britain's pound sterling for the common European currency.

"Come clean, be straight and admit you want to ditch the pound as soon as you possibly can," he challenged the prime minister.

Blair replied that Labor was, in principle, in favor of joining the euro, but would only do so once certain economic conditions had been met, and only after a national referendum.

The clash was the last voters are likely to see before the June 7 election. Blair, with a comfortable lead in the polls, has declined to take part in a series of U.S.-style televised debates.

Conservative Party chairman Michael Ancram wrote to Blair Wednesday urging him to reconsider.

"You claim to be fighting [the election] on your record in government, yet you seem strangely scared to defend that record in public debate," he wrote.

"The only inference to be drawn from your reticence is that outside the arrogant, sanitized, and insulated formats so beloved of your spin doctors, you know only too well that your record ... would soon be revealed in public debate for the cynical failures they are."

Hague last October first issued the challenge on the day President Bush and Al Gore held their first televised debate.

"We believe that if there can be a debate between Bush and Gore, at the next election there should be a live, televised debate or series of debates, with no advisers, no spin doctors, between Hague and Blair," he said at the time.

The first two opinion polls of the campaign show Labor leading the Conservatives by 49-34 points, and by 51-31 points respectively.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow