LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron is refusing to take part in a head-to-head TV debate with the opposition leader before the U.K's general election, prompting calls of cowardice Thursday from rivals.
Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, accused the Conservative leader of "running scared" from the showdown.
"It is now clear that David Cameron is ducking the debate with me. He is cowering from the public," Miliband said. "The British people deserve this debate. I'll debate him any time, any place, anywhere."
Cameron's camp says instead of a one-to-one debate with Miliband, the leader would only agree to a single, 90-minute contest involving at least seven party leaders. The proposed debate would take place before March 30, when the official election campaign kicks off.
Cameron's aides called it a "final offer" to debate organizers and claimed it's the most fair proposal.
Broadcasters have proposed a total of three debates, including two group sessions between several parties and a final one featuring just Cameron and Miliband, leaders of the country's top two parties.
Cameron took part in televised debates during the 2010 election, but he has since criticized the format for taking "all the life out of" the election campaign.
British voters go to the polls May 7 in what many observers say will be the most unpredictable national election in decades.
The campaign chairman for the Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown, said party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is prepared to step in and take part in a one-on-one contest to defend the coalition government's record.
The Liberal Democrats are currently the junior partner in Cameron's ruling coalition.
"(If the) prime minister hasn't got the guts to stand up there and defend the record of this government, we'd be very happy to," Ashdown said.