With just 35 days until Britons head to the polls, the leaders of seven political parties battled it out on the small screen to win votes in a televised debate.
Point of view
If I'm Prime Minister...
You can follow the debate as it happened below (see Scribble Live) or scroll to the bottom for some background to the debate.
7 things we learned from the seven-way debate
1. And the winner is… Sturgeon, Miliband and Cameron?
A range of post-match analyses were given providing insight into how the debate was viewed. ITV’s ComRes poll showed Labour leader Ed Miliband coming out on top in terms of swaying voters.
While a YouGov Survey put the First Minister of Scotland and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon as perfoming best. Interesting considering her party only covers constituencies north of the border.
Those who bet on her have made a tidy sum.
We have paid out on Nicola Sturgeon as #LeadersDebate winner as per our rules settled on the result of the YouGov poll.— Sky Bet (@SkyBet) April 2, 2015
A later Survation poll put Cameron and Miliband neck and neck.
#LeadersDebate snap poll (Survation): Cameron - 25% Miliband - 25% Farage - 24% Sturgeon - 15% Clegg - 6% Bennett - 3% Wood - 2%— Britain Elects (@britainelects) April 2, 2015
2. Top issues discussed were healthcare, welfare spending, immigration, EU referendum and education. Perhaps to the detriment of other subjects.
Things not mentioned enough in #leadersdebate: "education", "living standards", "poverty" Things mentioned too much: "immigration", "EU"— Tom Murray (@tomarsemurray) April 2, 2015
With just 15 minutes left an audience member heckled the leaders to get her point across.
3. Touché. The leaders didn’t pull any punches, here are some the best face-offs.
Farage and Sturgeon on immigration: When talk turned to the National Health Service Farage turned to foreigners, saying the system couldn’t sustain the burden of ‘health tourism’. The SNP leader replied, “There isn’t anything Nigel Farage won’t blame on foreigners.”
Cameron and Clegg on education: The coalition partners crossed swords in a heated exchange over education which exposed their bitter division on the subject. The Liberal Democrat leader accused the Prime Minister of cutting spending on schools, to which Cameron replied that Clegg had a ‘pick and mix approach’ towards the decisions they had taken together.
Wood and Farage: Health and the non-Briton is raised once again by the UKIP leader when he prefixes his speech with ‘nobody will like this’ and ‘not politically correct’ before saying that 60% of those diagnosed with HIV in the UK are foreign nationals and that the NHS should be for British citizens. The Plaid Cymru leader responded with “You should be ashamed of yourself”.
4. The seven-way format proved too much for some
Though many lauded the inclusion of most of the major parties (although it excluded Northern Ireland). The Twittersphere remains divided (as always).
Should be said that ITV did terrific job with what could have been a terrible format. #leadersdebate— Matt Wells (@MatthewWells) April 2, 2015
Final final verdict: Can we agree that a #leadersdebate is a terrible format for discussing complex issues and should never happen again?— J Clive Matthews (@Nosemonkey) April 2, 2015
And the fake Queen’s response:
5. What we learned about the leaders’ policies
Sponsored by Bob the Builder, everyone wants to build more houses. This seemed astonishing after the claim that apparently the current house building rate is one every seven minutes (if you read to the end of this article that’s another house built).
Almost everyone holds Nigel Farage’s views on foreigners in disdain. From his ‘shameful’ comments on HIV, to treating all foreigners as a menace, the six leaders took turns to take a dig at the head of the UKIP eurosceptic party. But he did force them all to talk about the EU membership referendum. Conservatives say yes to asking the British population on an in/out question, Labour and Liberal Democrats are a firm no. The SNP and Plaid Cymru played up their regional credentials asking whether the ‘family of nations’ would have a veto if other parts of the UK want out of Europe.
Free education, not-so-free education and bring back grammar schools were the calls from the different leaders. SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens backed abolishing university tuition fees, while Labour favoured a reduction, and the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives pinned their hopes on apprenticeships. UKIP’s Farage said many who go to university are not academic, and should focus on job creation (for British citizens).
Saving the NHS. Clegg wants to pump more ‘cold, hard cash’ into health, while SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens spoke out against privatising services. Cameron said he had cut bureaucrats so more money could be spent on care.
6. Quote of the night. It’s a tough one here’s a selection from the seven.
Cameron: “Forget zero-hours, with Miliband there will be zero jobs.”
Miliband: “If I’m prime Minister…”
Clegg: “I’m married to a foreigner, you’re married to a foreigner.” (to Farage)
Sturgeon: “Access to education should always be about your ability to learn and never about your ability to pay.”
Farage: “We have a total open door to ten former communist countries and the EU . We need to take back control of our borders and have an Australian-style points system.”
Wood: “You should be ashamed of yourself.” (to Farage)
Bennett: “You were told austerity and inequality, big banks and tuition fees were inevitable. They were not. You all deserve better.”
99% audience member: “There’s more of us than them.”
7. Cameron had no allies
The six leaders took the opportunity to lay into the Prime Minister. An easy target after five years in power, he would clearly face a grilling on his premiership. This was evident in the closing comments with Cameron pleading for voters to ‘stick with the plan’. While ‘change’ was the keyword for the other leaders. Miliband summed up with “Let’s bring the change that Britain needs.” While SNP and Plaid Cymru played up the anti-Westminster vibe saying there is an alternative (at least for Scottish and Welsh voters).
To sum up, it looks like Britain remains on track for a hung parliament come May 8th.
The first of its kind, the seven-way debate has proved controversial. In the last election in 2010 there were just three leaders taking to the podiums – David Cameron (Conservatives), Gordon Brown (Labour) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats). But then 2010 produced a muddled outcome for the UK system resulting in a coalition for the first time since 1945.
This time round the line-up looks at little different, if not only for the inclusion of three female party leaders.
- David Cameron, Conservatives
- Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrats
- Ed Miliband, Labour Party
- Natalie Bennett, Green Party
- Nigel Farage, UK Independence Party
- Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish National Party (SNP)
- Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru (Wales)
A Disunited Kingdom
Following the 2010 elections the political landscape has been ripped open by various parties. The support of the traditional parties (Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats) has waned in the face of fierce opposition by a group of parties across the country.
The UK Independence Party led by Nigel Farage has won seats in by-elections with candidates who defected from the Conservative Party in late 2014, much to the dismay of the Prime Minister. They were buoyed by a strong showing in the European Elections earlier the same year, coming out on top. They are winning votes from both Conservatives and Labour and could be possible coalition partners.
North of the Border, the Scottish National Party have eaten away at Labour’s vote. Boosted by the recent independence referendum they look set to become the dominant party in Scotland and could form a coalition with the Labour party, although the latter have ruled that out.
The 2-hr long debate provided the only moment that David Cameron and Ed Miliband would spar on-screen. In a TV debate last week hosted by Sky News and Channel 4, the format was non-adversarial with both leaders interrogated separately by journalist Jeremy Paxman and the studio audience.
Not all UK citizens will be able to vote for the candidates present at Thursday’s debate with the SNP and Plaid Cymru only represented in Scotland and Wales respectively, while the remaining parties have candidates across the rest of the UK.
So far the majority of opinion polls point to a hung parliament meaning there will be much horse-trading after May 7 between the leaders who were point scoring against one another during the debate.
The Twitter hashtag was #leadersdebate. Or an alternative popped up with #GameofSeats – mixing Game of Thrones with the leaders debate, an enterprising printed card business, MOO has made a set of cards to indicate the different ‘houses’ of Westminsteros’.
The leaders all drew lots to decide the speaking order and the Green Party leader Natalie Bennett was first up while Conservative David Cameron had the final word. The 200-strong audience was selected to be politically balanced with around 20% undecided voters.