Nobody doubts that’s what he’s doing, indeed Labour’s latest campaign video has neatly exposed his inconsistency on the subject.
A clever move, but not nearly as clever as Nick Clegg’s reply to Miliband.
But the truth is, it’s not hypocrisy, it’s politics.
No leader would agree to a debate if they didn’t think it would be advantageous to their party. Without the support of disillusioned LibDem voters from 2010, Labour would likely be looking at the wrong end of a landslide defeat, so for Miliband to give Clegg any chance to tempt those voters back, would be crazy.
Debates never happened before 2010, and they only happened then because the circumstances were such that both Labour and the Conservatives thought they could benefit from them.
That’s very unusual. Tony Blair would have been mad to agree debates in 1997, 2001 or 2005, as would Thatcher in 1979, 83 or 87.
The party unsuccessfully pushing for debates is always the one which expects to lose.
But this election looks like being just as close as the last one, so why would David Cameron not be up for the debates?
They didn’t happen because John Major refused. He thought he would win without them, and he turned out to be right, because he had two crucial advantages: the incumbency effect, and his advantage in personal popularity over Neil Kinnock.
The Prime Minister holds both these advantages and is thinking along similar lines.
Only if the Labour lead were consistently in the 3-6% region, would both David Cameron & Ed Miliband agree to debates. If Labour were further ahead than that, they’d be confident of victory (as Blair was in 1997) and wouldn’t do them. And with their lead only around 1%, the Tories are confident of turning that around.