David Cameron has dismissed calls for Nigel Farage to be allowed to take part in the next general election leaders’ debates, with the put-down that only parties “that are going to form the government” should be included.
The Prime Minister, who is on hostile terms with the UK Independence Party (Ukip) leader, made clear he did not think the recent surge in support for the hardline eurosceptics qualified Mr Farage to be involved in the television debates.
Mr Cameron has repeatedly provoked Mr Farage’s ire with his dismissive comments about Ukip, whose improved poll ratings and by-election performances have frequently earned third place ahead of the Liberal Democrats.
But, asked about the prospect of Mr Farage taking part in the next leaders’ debates, Mr Cameron told Westminster’s the House magazine: “Obviously, we have to decide on this nearer the time, but the TV debates should be about, you know, the parties that are going to form the government, in my view.”
The Prime Minister, whose Conservative Party is electorally vulnerable to Ukip, which campaigns for British withdrawal from the EU, has previously described it as containing “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”.
Mr Cameron recently stirred Mr Farage’s anger by refusing to retract the comment and saying that there were “still some very odd people” in the party.
In the same House interview, the Prime Minister confirmed that he was planning to introduce a new cohort of Conservative peers to the House of Lords before the summer.
Campaigners and existing peers have called for a moratorium on the creation of new peers because the Lords is already overcrowded.
But Mr Cameron said he would be making “some further recommendations” because it was “important to keep refreshing the talent”.
“I’m very conscious that this should be done in a reasonable and proper way, that you should have good candidates that will bring something to the House of Lords,” he said.
“If you look at the nominations for Conservative peerages over the last two-and-a-half years, I think we’ve got some very talented people.”
Mr Cameron said that having more women in the junior ministerial ranks after last September’s reshuffle would make it easier to promote to the Cabinet
“You can’t just catapult people into the Cabinet,” he said.
“You need to give people the chance to shine in junior ministerial jobs so that’s what I’ve done.
“There’s a lot of new talent on the frontbench and I think it’s performing very well.”
Mr Cameron also insisted he will ignore calls from the Lib Dems to cut some universal benefits for the elderly and said he will stand by his election commitment to protect them for the lifetime of this parliament. He also confirmed that despite Lib Dem opposition, he will press ahead with tax breaks for married couples.
Mr Cameron said he had not given up on his modernisation agenda for the Conservatives and still hopes to be in a position where one-third of his ministers are women.
On boosting the number of ethnic minority MPs from his party, he said it was a “never-ending drive.”