Today’s Sunday Telegraph reports that Iain Duncan Smith is very keen indeed to be part of any TV debates organised for the EU referendum campaign.
With the Prime Minister apparently “stalling in talks over the format of any televised debates between leaders of the Leave and Remain campaigns”, much as he did prior to the general election, the former Tory leader and Welfare Secretary has emphasised that he is willing to “debate anyone, anywhere”.
David Cameron’s reluctance to take part in such a debate is understandable, and not merely because he’s ‘chicken’, as some newspapers suggest.
He is keen to avoid ‘blue on blue’ confrontations which could do long-term damage to the Party’s image once the poll is over. This was also Boris’ original position, before the Prime Minister seemingly abandoned the Queensberry rules.
On a more personal level, the Prime Minister will want to avoid a very public reunion with a former Cabinet minister who resigned on such acrimonious terms not very long ago.
But whilst he might not get the showdown with Cameron he’s clearly itching for, that doesn’t mean that Vote Leave can’t find a way to put Duncan Smith in the arena.
Nor should they be afraid to. For all that he can be a shade prolix on occasion, the former Welfare Secretary is on top of the issues and is quite capable of turning in a powerful broadcast performance, as his post-resignation appearance on Marr attests.
The Brexit campaign will obviously want to avoid the Remain caricature that they are all Tories, but as part of a broader team of spokesmen Duncan Smith should have his place.