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Category Archives: Ed Miliband
The party leaders answered Jeremy Paxman’s questions – but they gave us precious little detail
This election started with a prime minister refusing to take part in head-to-head TV debates and went on to be one where he announced his impending retirement. David Cameron may be the first politician to airbrush himself out of the future. Like the Cheshire Cat, he’s gradually disappearing from view, on the basis that strategic silence and tactical withdrawal is what wins votes.
Silence is here being used as a weapon: the man who didn’t want to do head-to-head TV debates on the grounds that they “sucked the life out of the campaign” starts the campaign with an announcement that will do nothing but suck the life out of it.
Cameron defends attack on Labour leader, telling delegates at Tory spring conference: when it comes to who’s prime minister, the personal is national
David Cameron has mounted a personal attack on Ed Miliband as he accused the Labour leader of leading a group of “hypocritical holier-than-thou, hopeless, sneering socialists” who had betrayed their traditional values.
Speaking at the Conservative spring conference in Manchester on Saturday, the Tory leader admitted the general election was “on a knife edge” but said that with five years’ experience he believed he was the person to lead the country, rather than Miliband.
PM to set out plans for hospitals across England to offer diagnostics and consultant clinics at weekends, saying ‘illness doesn’t respect working hours’
A future Conservative government would extend NHS services to run seven days a week by the year 2020, David Cameron will announce on Saturday.
Speaking at the Conservative spring conference in Manchester, the prime minister will set out plans for hospitals across England to offer diagnostics and consultant clinics at the weekend, as well as during the week.
Labour leader’s wife dismisses media storm over ‘two kitchens’ and promises to get out and talk to first-time voters
Justine Miliband, the wife of the Labour leader, sought to brush off the “two kitchens” controversy as she pledged to campaign alongside her husband in what she described as the “slightly strange role” of a politician’s wife.
In an interview with the Guardian, the environmental law barrister, known professionally as Justine Thornton, said the media storm about which kitchen she and her husband, Ed, used was not what mattered in politics.
Many wanted a Miliband-Cameron clash, but the upcoming seven-leader contest will better reflect Britain as it is
It was just like old times. Jeremy Paxman was back where he belongs, on the television toying with politicians for sport, making the prime minister and leader of the opposition look like cubs who’d recklessly wandered into the den of an aged lion – one who had not lost his appetite for raw meat.
The not-quite-a-debate was a throwback to politics the way it used to be: two men, two parties
We have begun to speak of not one election but at least five, each with its own shape and dynamic
Battleground Britain: The Guardian is working with pollsters BritainThinks to track the mood of the nation through the general election campaign via focus groups in five key battlegrounds. Ten days into the project this is what our panel are feeling about the looming political contest
They thought David Cameron had held his ground against Jeremy Paxman, argued that Labour politicians are not much different to the Conservatives and were more upbeat about the Scottish National party than any of the other major political parties.
Here, according to the constituents of five focus groups set up for the Guardian by polling firm BritainThinks, is what the nation is making of the general election campaign. And you can read the overview from Deborah Mattinson, the founder of BritainThinks, on getting inside the minds of the UK’s undecided voters.
“Happy to see Paxman back.”
“I have a lot of respect for Cameron – he doesn’t get too flustered even when he’s grilled by Paxman! He seems honest and down to earth.”
“Cameron has his facts and figures to hand and is not allowing Paxman to throw him off course in giving his answers, despite tough questioning from him.”
“Ed Miliband doesn’t seem to speak as confidently as David Cameron. Also not as ready with the numbers as David Cameron.”
“Milibands words sound like a fairytale. Easier said than done.”
“David v Ed question put him on the spot! Do I vote for someone who would undermine his brother like he did?”
“Still had more faith in Cameron by the end of the debate. However, I thought Miliband came across as far better than usual. Now more confused than ever!”
“Miliband much better than Cameron on questions, more passionate, although slightly less composed. More honest.”
“Why has David Cameron come out about that before the election?”
“It makes me nervous to hear ‘supporters’ of the Tories publicly slating him. It makes me ask myself: Was it a deliberately contentious statement?? Is Cameron trying to get people to subconsciously imagine him in a third term?! Is it better to say ‘no’ and then retract it in 2020 and stay; is this a win-win for Cameron?? Or was it just an honest, simple answer??”
“Cocky sod, he’s not got a second yet.”
“They’re all out for themselves. The local lad [candidate] may be the best one but our choice is limited. It’s a choice amongst scoundrels.
“I’m heartened that people are getting angry. My youngest works at Tesco – 7.5 hours a week, and 3.3/4 hour shifts so they don’t have to give him a break. He has no employment rights, but no one is getting angry about zero hours. We put up with anything and making money is the point. No one is getting angry.”
“I think everyone here is pretty burnt out. Everyone was on such a high during the referendum, there was a lot of stuff going on. But now everyone thinks it’s just more of the same: London.”
“I think that this election is going to change things because people are saying it’ll be a hung parliament. I think people will think twice before they vote this time.”
“They just say the same things over and over again, and nothing happens from it.”
“I feel confusion, especially this time. I think because there’s not much difference between Labour and Conservative these days. I’m hearing the same thing pretty much from both of them, and I think it’s just confusing.”
“I’m pleased the phoney war is almost over and the campaign can begin in earnest. The polls are stubbornly similar: little budget ‘bounce’; little reaction to ‘Two Shredded Wheat’ Cameron but the smaller parties looking just a bit more marginal, a bit more irrelevant? This might be gathering to a true hearts and minds battle. I have seen the first roadside billboards. Tory, obviously: they have all the money.”
“I liked the specific, personal communication from the local Labour candidate as opposed to the more generic Conservative brochure which was much more generic and lacked the personal touch.”
“They’re almost shamelessly like this now – before at least they used to hide it.”
“I think that there are small businesspeople who believe in conservative values but aren’t being represented by the party any more.”
“I would hate for them to get in again. I’d hate the cuts that they’d bring.”
“For me, the problem with Labour wasn’t that they were for the union, it was the fact that they came up here and stood next to the Tories, looking like best pals.”
“I think that the Conservatives – in spite of disagreeing with almost all of their policies – may well be better at handling the economy and continue to get us out of the recession.”
“As a chap who’s trying to lead a party and lead a country, he’s done a good job of it.”
“These ones are not quite so privileged – their parents will have struggled to get them where they are, but they’ve ended up much the same – didn’t they go to the same schools?”
“That’s right, the front-row parties have gone to the same schools now – they’re all Eton.”
“When I grew up, Labour was the automatic choice for working people. I heard about someone that used to be Labour and joined the SNP who said ‘I’m not leaving the Labour party, the Labour party left me’. And I can see that.”
“If Labour won I’d be okay about it. They aren’t going to do most of the things that they promise, but neither would any other party.”
“He’s a plonker, a wally, a bit ignorant, not really with it.”
“There was a homeless person on the street, and it was zoomed in on how much he’d given, but it was just 2p – he was trying to seem like he was doing a good thing but he wasn’t.”
“With [Sturgeon] being young and female – it’s a change from the dreary old guys in the suits, isn’t it?”
“The way the media portray the SNP is totally unfair. Especially the English media. They make out like the SNP are the same as Ukip but they’re not. And the way they showed that photo of Nicola Sturgeon on the wrecking ball was totally out of order. They’d never do that with a man or an English politician.”
“I’d be happy if it was an SNP-Labour coalition. I quite like the idea of coalition, one can keep the other in tow … I think Scotland would benefit from that. As a country and as a people.”
There’s a dislocation between the people who support Ukip and Nigel who is of a different class – I think we think that it’s more of a working-class support, but with more of an upper-class leader.”
“I think Nigel Farage [would be the best leader]. He is a snake, but like you said, he basically says what he thinks, he doesn’t try to get people on his side. I think he’s talking honestly and not just trying to get people’s votes, he’s saying what his party would like to do.”
“I wouldn’t vote for him but I can imagine going down to the pub with him.”
Party’s election campaign launched with move – which would affect all outsourced NHS contracts worth over £500K – aimed at curbing excessive profiteering
After the prime minister tops the polls for last night’s TV grilling by Jeremy Paxman, the Guardian’s politics team scoops up and analyses the fallout
It seems Grant Shapps will be making an appearance on the Today programme at around 8.20am to discuss the fallout from last night’s TV interviews.
The Tory party chairman has been keeping quite a low profile following Guardian revelations about his second life as millionaire online marketing expert Michael Green.
Ed Miliband – who, despite what many watchers thought was a creditable performance last night, did not topple Cameron in the post-interview polling – will be looking to bounce back this morning. Political editor Patrick Wintour sends this report:
Ed Miliband will launch his party’s election campaign this morning at the Olympic Park in East London with a promise he will fight an election campaign suffused with optimism and determined to show that Britain can do better. He will repeatedly claim Labour are the optimists and the Tories the pessimists.
The Labour leader will insist the spirit of optimism will be at the heart of a campaign intended to get the party back into Downing Street after five years in opposition.
Five million people paid less than the living wage. They say: this is as good as it gets. We say: Britain can do better than this.
A quick sweep-up of the day’s other business:
We can be categorical about this. Charles has absolutely no right to do any of this. It is an empty platitude, often heard, that Charles has as much right to his opinion as anyone else. So he does, but not everyone has an open line to ministers and his use of it explodes any notion that these letters are ‘private’ …
If he wants to be a private citizen, with the protection of privacy which is due, he knows what to do. Then, having abdicated, he is free to scribble spiders all day long and we’ll see how many of them get answered.
If it is accepted that the head of state is going to have opinions, and perhaps give them an airing for time to time, then – for a newspaper of principled republicanism, at least – the answer is clear. Not any longer to allow the job to be filled by accident of birth, but instead to select for the post by democratic means.
Perhaps that is a discussion for another day. But after Thursday’s ruling, the immediate point is simply that mail that comes on his majesty’s service must no longer be kept from his majesty’s subjects.
The reality is that most MPs – and especially those in ministerial and leadership positions – have punishing schedules …
The real question is this: Do we want the people making important decisions on our behalf to be well-rested and clear-minded, or should we keep them sick, stressed-out and exhausted?
One of biggest digital moments in British political history. The #Battlefornumber10 produced 246K. That’s 2778Tweets a minute.
I have been played as a fool and when I go home tonight I will look in the mirror and see an honourable fool looking back at me, and I would much rather be an honourable fool in this, and any other matter, than a clever man.
How you treat people in this place is important. This week I went to the leader of the house’s leaving drinks. I went into his private office and was passed by the deputy leader of house yesterday, all of whom would have been aware of what they were proposing to do.
A two-part briefing this morning, as we first digest last night’s interviews, before turning to a light breakfast of the day’s other politics news.
Good morning and welcome to day five of the Guardian’s election live blogs. I’m Claire Phipps and I’ll be steering the blog this morning before handing over to Andrew Sparrow. As always, I’m on Twitter @Claire_Phipps and also checking out your comments below the line.
It’s the phil Collins mistake! vote labour, as often as possible pic.twitter.com/cbj7gCrTyJ
Thanks for 2 mentions, Ed Miliband. Only met once for all of 2 minutes when you embarrassed me with over the top flattery.
Farage tells me: “I might vote Labour.”
If the people of Britain were allowed to go to the polls immediately after Cameron & Miliband: the Battle for Number 10, there’d a landslide. And our new prime minister would be Jeremy Paxman.
This was a man who’d clearly been straining at the leash since he left Newsnight; a man who’d spent too many months trapped indoors, fruitlessly barking questions at potplants.
Don’t Jeremy me,’ Jeremy salivated, while giving his trademark thousand-yard death stare. God, he had missed this. So had we.
‘Could you live on a zero-hours contract?’ Paxman demanded. ‘That’s not the question,’ Dave simpered. It was, though, and Paxman asked it again. And again.
‘Britain can do better than this’ to be party leader’s central message as he launches campaign at Olympic Park
Ed Miliband will launch his party’s election campaign on Friday morning at the Olympic Park in east London with a promise he will fight a campaign suffused with optimism and determined to show that Britain can do better than this.
He will claim Labour are the optimists and the Tories the pessimists and that the spirit of optimism will be at the heart of a campaign intended to get his party back into Downing Street after five years in opposition.
- Instant poll shows 54% of viewers thought David Cameron ‘won’ contest
- Ed Miliband forced to defend his character as Paxman brings up brother David
- PM under pressure over VAT pledges and zero-hours contracts
- Nigel Farage gatecrashes the Sky studios – and heads to the bar
We’ve got two videos from the exchanges up already, but we’ve got two more videos, with lengthy highlights from David Cameron and Ed Miliband, due to launch in the next 10 minutes or so.
On Twitter some people have been suggesting that ICM must have carried out their poll before the end of Ed Miliband’s exchanges with Jeremy Paxman. That might explain why ICM puts Cameron ahead, they suggest.
@AndrewSparrow when did polling stop? It’s completely contrary to social media response
Bit surprised by 54-46 snap poll. I just wonder if ICM, in their haste to publish poll, stopped polling before Ed Miliband’s strong finish?
YouGov has been polling tonight’s Cameron/Miliband showdown using a new app.
According to this, Cameron won by a very slim margin.
Instant result on tonight’s TV debate by YouGov’s First Verdict app for The Times: Cameron 51% Miliband 49% 802 respondents
One challenge when looking at polling around debates is determining pre-existing bias. In other words, most Conservative voters think Cameron won, most Labour voters think Miliband won – the question is what did everyone else think?
Here are the full ICM poll tables.
David Cameron is also given a rough ride. Paxman, in his signature style, presses the prime minister on the minimum wage, foreign policy and his 2010 pledges on VAT. Watch our compilation of Paxman’s best questions
Ed Miliband develops something of a catchphrase during his televised Q&A with Jeremy Paxman. The Labour leader has a lot of explaining to do as he answers questions on immigration, his brother, and whether he’s tough enough for the job of prime minister
Here is a selection of the most interesting tweets I’ve seen from political journalists and commentators who have expressed a view on the Cameron/Miliband showdown.
If ICM are giving it to Cameron (by a small margin), the commentariat are giving it to Miliband.
Miliband was struggling at times but viewers will perhaps think he stood up better to Paxo than the PM
Paxo was superb tonight. But winging it towards end with Miliband. Seemed better prepared against Cameron.
First TV duel of British election campaign over. Verdict: passionate Ed Miliband bested tetchy David Cameron. Full details on @EconBritain.
might expect Cameron to be further ahead than ICM result. Suspect Miliband will be content – he’s much to gain, Cameron has much to lose
Polling will be interesting. Em had the best of that, but DC had record to defend. Studio Audience turned against Paxman
My sense was that Miliband had got more out of that than Cameron, but ICM poll has it 54-46 to Cameron
Cameron wins 54-46, according to ICM. But worth noting that this is smaller than Cameron’s usual polling edge over Miliband on leadership
Miliband did marginally better than Cameron. And Miliband’s awful. So that shows you how poor Cameron was/is. #BattleForNumber10
Miliband won despite everything. Not sure it means anything but be good for Labour door knockers to see… Uplifting.
My verdict: PM strong on economy, but not nearly enough fire in belly overall; Ed M poor on spending/migration but more passionate/animated
Good telly. Doubt it will change much. Biggest impact probably on Lab morale – can get behind Ed with more confidence. #leadersthing
ps Ed needs to find catchy way to unpack that ‘living standards key to deficit’ argument. The way he did it wasn’t working.
Taking into account their starting positions, that is, in effect, a win for Miliband #CamvMili
Hate to say I agree with @campbellclaret but Miliband won hands down
Message from tonight: Miliband is the fresh figure in election. New to most voters and, unmediated, capable of challenging media orthodoxy.
Labour need to be so much more radical. But why doesn’t Miliband show that passion more often #BattleForNumber10
Miliband won that. Fantastic ending – he cares much more about plight of Britain than about attacks on him personally #BattleForNumberTen
Bit surprised by 54-46 snap poll. I just wonder if ICM, in their haste to publish poll, stopped polling before Ed Miliband’s strong finish?
Miliband usually trails Cameron by 20 points in approval ratings. An eight point defeat is a massive victory for Ed. #BattleForNumber10
If I was editing a tabloid, my main story from this would be that Miliband says no limit to immigration.
Thought Ed won that. Cameron slaughtered by Paxo then given easy ride by audience. Miliband disarmingly honest and stood up to Paxo.
Ed Miliband made a big mistake by not going first tonight. He missed out on the biggest TV audience, which he needed.
(Did Miliband call it right by letting Cameron face Paxo first? More ppl will read tomorrow’s papers than watched tonight)
The Sun has been using sentiment analytics to track reactions to the interviews and Q&As on Twitter.
Well, it seems there was no clear overall winner, with both of them getting a kicking on Twitter.
It was a good night for Paxman, who put both leaders through the wringer, with poor Ed coming off worse.
It was really a game of two halves, and I didn’t think there was a lot to chose between them when it came to the audience interrogation. There were certainly signs that Cameron scored when it came to the Paxman interview.
The ICM poll also asked about character.
Ed Miliband did better than David Cameron on four counts: governing in the interests of the many not the few (55% v 27%); having the courage to say what’s right rather than what’s popular (51% v 35%); and understanding “people like me” (48% v 25%). And, when asked which leader was more spin than substance, Miliband also did better. Some 49% said Cameron was more spin than substance, but only 35% for Miliband.
More from Rowena Mason in the spin room, who has been talking to William Hague. He denied Cameron was out of sorts because the government’s Commons bid to unseat Speaker John Bercow was defeated.
The prime minister was not grumpy. He does not get grumpy and he showed no sign of being that tonight
They were laughing at him and pointing out Ed Balls was a weak point in the shadow cabinet. The prime minister handled the entire interview extremely well.
More from the ICM poll.
Only 8% of those polled overall indicated that they were likely to have changed their mind about how they would vote at the election on the basis of what they saw tonight.
Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, said Miliband had clearly given a better performance, giving him 7/10 against Cameron’s 4/10, Rowena Mason reports.
Douglas Alexander, Labour’s election chief, said it was a “powerful, powerful performance [from Ed Miliband] but it wasn’t so much about performance as it was about substance”.
He said Cameron’s answers were “poor”, particularly the one about students choosing zero-hour contracts.
An instant Guardian/ICM poll found that David Cameron had narrowly “won” the contest with 54% saying that the PM came out on top once the don’t knows were excluded, compared with just 46% who felt that Miliband had the edge.
Rupert Murdoch was watching.
Thanks for 2 mentions, Ed Miliband. Only met once for all of 2 minutes when you embarrassed me with over the top flattery.
There are three snap observations on our poll.
And the big winner tonight is… Sunil! Who asked such a good question (“Do you not think your brother would have done a better job?”) , even Jeremy Paxman found himself returning to it towards the end when he wasn’t the only one starting to flag.
Our poll result is out. And Cameron wins – just.
Cameron/Miliband showdown – Overall snap verdict: You can see why Ed Miliband wanted to go second. Anyone voting now in our poll will have the memory of Miliband’s exchange with Paxman foremost in their mind, and I expect many people will conclude he was impressive. Although I said earlier he seemed a bit over-rehearsed, he also produced some good spontaneous comebacks (like the one about Cameron on the tube). Overall, the encounter did not contain any big surprises – they rarely do – and, whatever our poll says, it is unlikely to decide the election. But these were compelling, lively encounters, and proof that hard interviews can actually work to the advantage of those being interviewed too.
Paxman interviews Miliband – Snap verdict: Miliband has put in hours of practice for these encounters, and it showed. To my ears, some of the assertive lines – hell, yes, he is tough enough; who cares what people think; he has always been underestimated – sounded a tad over-rehearsed. But I thought the same about Tony Blair’s “people’s princess”, which was one of the most successful soundbites ever, and my guess is that people will generally respond positively to this Miliband. Paxman almost disconcerted him with the energy question, and he picked up Miliband’s tendency to answer his own questions, but, overall, Miliband was in control and I would expect him to do well in our poll.
Miliband and Paxman: apparently they’re both alright.
Q: Simon Danczuk says you are a liability.
Q: I met someone on the tube recently who said you weren’t tough enough to stand up to Putin.
Jeremy Paxman has met another real person. On the tube. Drink!
Ed: “Was it David Cameron you spoke to on the tube?”
It wasn’t, you will be amazed to learn.
If Ed Miliband doesn’t care about what the newspapers say, he must *really* hate immigrants. #BattleForNumber10
The SNP and Alex Salmond
Q: As for Alex Salmond’s demands, will you scrap Trident?
The mansion tax
Q: Jim Murphy said the mansion tax was a way of taking money out of the south of England and giving it to Scotland.
Q: On energy policy, you used to think raising energy bills was a great way of helping the environment. Now you want to cut them.
Q: You’ve been wrong on unemployment, inflation and wages.
Paxman’s on now. I hope HE remembers to ask about the Shredded Wheat. The nation must know. #BattleForNumber10
Q: Labour got immigration completely wrong. Some 400,000 people came in. What else did Labour do wrong?
Miliband says he wants sensible controls on immigration. But, if you are asking about the EU …
Q: Do you think Britain is full?
In terms of immigration …
Well that was Cameron, or rather, the two Camerons – frazzled, essay crisis Cameron getting a hellish tutorial grilling, and chillaxed Dave who tilts his head to one side and emotes with voters and whose biggest regret is that he didn’t get to do more of the all the really great things he has done.
But what do the real voters think about Cameron’s performance tonight? We have 60 on standby to give their view throughout the election campaign as part of our joint polling project with the pollsters BritainThinks.
The people in the focus groups are all undecided voters from five key seats. They each have an app and some of them are online now telling us what they think of the Cameron’s interview with Paxman as it happened.
As Miliband answers questions from the audience, his brother is tweeting about displaced Burmese people …
Miliband’s Q&A with Burley – Snap verdict: Labour will be pleased with that. The Miliband we saw bore no real relation to the “weak”, “despicable” character that Cameron talks about at PMQs. He sounded passionate, and engaged well with the audience (from what I heard – it might have looked different to someone watching more). It was striking how much he differentiated himself from Labour’s record, and not having to defend his actions in government, as Cameron did, seemed to give him an advantage. It was also noticeable how keen he was to talk about his pledge to cut tuition fees, even boasting about how it benefited the middle classes, not low earners. Steve Richards revealed recently that one reason Miliband was keen to have a pledge on this was so he could use it as a shield in the debates. Tonight we saw that in action.
Q: Why are you so behind in the polls?
Miliband says he takes an old-fashioned view. The people are the boss. They will decide.
Q: You have made it difficult for your supporters. You have made gaffes. You do not seem to be fighting for the people you should be.
Miliband says his spending plans are very different from the Conservatives.
Q: How are you going to be different from Nick Clegg? Or are you just going to sugar-coat things?
Q: Is socialism still an important value?
Miliband says he calls it democratic socialism. But his answer is yes. Every generation must interpret this for themselves. Does the economy only work for the rich? Or does it work for everyone? He wants a fairer, more equal society.
Q: Wouldn’t your brother do a better job? He was better qualified and better positioned.
Miliband says it won’t surprise the questioner to hear that he thinks the answer is no. He felt he had to move Labour on, on things like Iraq.
Q: Why won’t you give people a vote on the EU?
Q: If you are prime minister, what will the budget deficit be at the end of the parliament?
Miliband says he wants to balance the budget. He will put up taxes for the highest earners. There will be some cuts. And under the Conservatives …
Q: I’m a higher-rate taxpayer. Labour’s messages make me feel demonised.
Miliband says he hopes to give a better message. Some people criticise him for wanting to cut tuition fees, saying it will help middle-class families. Too right I want to help middle-class families, he says.
Q: Are things really that bad?
Cameron’s Q&A with Burley – Snap verdict: Well, that really sucked the life out of the event (and showed why professional interviewers are worth the money), and Cameron seemed to relax. (I would have said he relaxed visibly, but I’m typing, so mostly heard it, rather than watched it.) But the NHS question was sharp, and reinforced the point made by Paxman about Cameron having an iffy record on promise-keeping. And the “what do you regret” question was good too. My impression was that Cameron misjudged it. He started with a joke answer, and then resorted to: “I should have done what I did, only faster”. At this point a touch of humility may have served him better. But it was the familiar, rather cocksure, amiable bloke prime minister we saw, and all the evidence is that people don’t mind that much.
Q: If you could redo one thing from your time as prime minister, what would it be?
Cameron says he promised less noise, and more politeness at PMQs. That did not work out. On the economy, he wished he had done things like the help-to-buy housing programme quicker. But nothing will work without a strong economy.
Q: You promised no top-down NHS reorganisation. In our borough we had to take the government to court to keep our hospital open. You broke your promises. So how can we trust you?
Cameron says his biggest promise was not to cut the NHS. And he didn’t. He got rid of bureaucrats, and he is now treating more patients in the NHS. If he gets elected again, with a strong economy, he will go on investing in the NHS.
Paxman’s body language speaks loud and clear to Cameron.
Q: Would you like to see more NHS services provided by private companies?
Cameron says he is happy to see charities or companies provide good healthcare. What matters is whether it is good. He loves the NHS. He recalls taking his desperately ill son Ivan to hospital. Private providers are a tiny proportion of the total.
BuzzFeed’s Emily Ashton has a point.
I fear for Miliband that people will be changing channels now… #BattleForNumber10
Q: How will you convince the public not to opt out of the EU?
Cameron says Britain is at its best when it is an outward-looking, trading nation. The EU does some good things, but it is trying to do too much.
Q: What would you do to help disabled people?
Cameron says he wants genuine equality. The Disability Discrimination Act, introduced by William Hague in the 1990s, has had a good effect. But there is more to be done. The employment gap is too big. Some employers are very good, and accept that if they don’t employ disabled people, they are missing good people. It comes back to a strong economy.
Burley interupts. She has a question on policing.
Q: Will you reverse the police cuts?
Q: It has been said we have not seen anything yet as regards cuts to public services. How bad will it get?
Cameron says he did not want to make cuts. But he had to get the deficit down. What he needs to do in the next two years is similar to what has been done so far.
To the audience! No Dimbleby tonight, but never not worth reviving this …
Q: Will you appoint a cabinet minister for older people?
Cameron thanks the questioner for her advocacy for older people. He says he will ensure pensioner benefits continue for everyone.
A fact check from the Observer’s economics editor Heather Stewart:
David Cameron claimed that ‘the stock of debt is falling as a percentage of GDP’. George Osborne proudly announced at last week’s budget that it will fall in the coming financial year, 2015-16, but the prime minister is wrong to claim that it’s falling already; and as the Office for Budget Responsibility pointed out, he only achieved this forecast reduction by counting on the proceeds of a sell-off of some of the banking assets the Treasury has owned since the financial crisis.
The prime minister rightly told Jeremy Paxman that the coalition has cut the budget deficit – the gap between government revenue and spending each year – by half as a share of GDP since 2010 (though they hoped to eliminate it altogether).
Paxman told Cameron that in the 2010 election “you said to my face, twice, that you would not raise VAT. But you did”.
Cameron responded: “There is a crucial difference on this occasion. We are the government… we know what is necessary in the next Parliament. Our plans do not include increases in VAT or national insurance or income tax. We are very clear about that…The right approach is to find savings not to put up taxes.”
Q: [From Matthew] What are Ed Miliband’s best qualities?
This is from Stewart Wood, one of Miliband’s closest advisers.
Telling that Cameron got most undone by Paxman on food banks, zero-hours contracts & not coming clean on where his welfare axe will fall.
“Could you live on a zero hours contract?”
“How much money have you borrowed?”
“There’s a credibility problem here, isn’t there?”
“What do you think has been your biggest foreign policy disaster?”
“What would it take for you to vote no in a referendum on our continued participation in the European Union?”
“A vote for Cameron is a vote for two, three, four years, after which it’s Boris Johnson or … Uncle Tom Cobbley?”
Oh Paxo, how we’ve missed you!
Paxman interviews Cameron – Snap verdict: What a class act. Paxman, of course. Not just because the questions were aggressive, but because they were pointed, clever, witty (and aggressive). It was Cameron’s most uncomfortable 20 minutes in an interview for ages. His concession that he could not live on a zero hours contract is already being used against him by Labour, but overall he held up reasonably well, and even managed a lighthearted comment at the end.
The third term
Q: What would it take for you to vote no in an EU referendum?
Q: What is your biggest foreign policy disaster?
Q: Can you tell us where this £12bn in welfare cuts will come from?
Q: At the last election you said to my face, twice, that you would not raise VAT. But you did.
The national debt
Q: You said before the election the country was overwhelmed by debt. Do you know how much you are borrowing?
Judging by their red carpet arrival pap shots, David Cameron and Ed Miliband have chosen to dress, respectively, in bright royal blue and slightly lighter (more Republican?) blue. Paxman, (HE’S ENTIRELY IMPARTIAL, REMEMBER), is in a scarlet tie, while Burley’s gone for a shade of neon pink that seems to have made even her eyes go a bit funny.
Thought #BattleForNumber10 was going to be a football documentary about the game’s greats.
Cameron says he wants a higher minimum wage. But it has gone up.
The aspersion you are trying to make is ridiculous.
Zero hours contracts
Q: How many jobs are zero hours contracts?
Q: Do you know how many food banks there were when you came to power.
Not exactly, says Cameron. But the people who run them do a good job.
Jeremy Paxman opens the programme.
Here we go.
Pre-showdown spin, people who’ve spent the last 5 years telling you that their opponent is rubbish are now likening them to Demosthenes
Douglas Alexander, Labour election strategy chair, is in the spin room spinning for Ed Miliband.
Okay, so it’s not a debate. Try to control your disappointment. Cameron and Miliband will not trade verbal jousts, and will not even appear in the same room at the same time, though the reluctant prime minister might be regretting his determined resistance on that point after his rampant performance at PMQs yesterday.
This sounds like wishful thinking.
“The Lib Dems are the big winners”, that’s what I want to see tomorrow says minister Norman Lamb as Cameron & Miliband face Q&A but no Clegg
The two parties tossed a coin to decide who went first. Labour won, and Ed Miliband decided to go second.
The two party leaders also decided in what order to do the interview/Q&A sections. David Cameron chose to have his Paxman encounter first, while Miliband decided to confront the audience before being formally interviewed.
Decision on who goes first tonight in #BattleForNumber10 was decided by the toss of a coin. A 20p piece provided by Labour. We still have it
Nigel Farage is speaking to Sky’s Adam Boulton.
Asked who he expects to win, he says at least David Cameron has a message. He does not know what Labour stands for.
I suspect that Cameron will get the upper hand.
Here are more pictures from Sky HQ.
Nigel Farage has turned up.
Nigel Farage has gatecrashed!! His spinner is in the spin room #BattleForNumber10
Nigel Farage has now turned up at Sky studios to comment on Cameron-Miliband Q&A
More from the spin room.
Lots of journos in the spin room worrying about having to file copy before debates are over. Still not much pre-match spinning going on yet.
Soon after tonight’s event is over, the Guardian will publish the results of an ICM poll of viewers who have watched the whole programme. Respondents will be asked who they think “won”, and the results will be weighted demographically, and by past voting, so that they give a reasonable idea as to what a representative sample of the electorate would say if they had watched the programme.
But who would you expect to win? Here are at least three benchmarks you could use.
And David Cameron has now just arrived.
Labour is effectively trying to “sledge” Cameron on Twitter.
If David Cameron could stand by his record he’d debate Ed tonight. He can’t defend his record so he won’t debate. #BattleforNumber10
Ed Miliband has arrived at the Sky studios in west London.
But what do the real voters think? We have 60 on standby to give their view as part of our polling project with BritainThinks, which is following voters in five key seats through the campaign.
Each of the 60 has been given a smartphone app that will enable them to tell us their instant verdicts on the leaders as they speak, giving you a snapshot of opinion among people whose votes in key marginals could decide who gets the keys to Downing Street.
My colleague Rowena Mason is at the “spin room” at the Sky studios where the Cameron/Miliband showdown will take place.
It is not exactly buzzing, she says.
The spin room isn’t very buzzing yet… Gove + Truss will be talking for the Tories, Alexander + Flint for Lab later pic.twitter.com/bUbhiyfkdk
How many people are likely to watch tonight’s programme? My colleague John Plunkett, the Guardian media correspondent, has sent me this.
Predicting TV ratings is a mug’s game – so here goes.
Channel 4 and Sky News will be hoping for a combined audience of at least 2 million viewers for tonight’s election opener with Cameron and Miliband.
Do debates actually affect the polls? My colleague Alberto Nardelli has written a shrewd analysis. Here’s his conclusion.
The polling data from 2010 shows us that the debates did generate real movement in the polling, even if much of that was erased by polling day.
That explains why Cameron is so keen not to have any debates close to polling day – having them some distance out arguably reduces any risk of him performing badly and suddenly falling in the polls.
Any big broadcasting event like this is a clash between two alpha egos, each determined to assert their superiority. The competition can be brutal.
But I shouldn’t be too harsh about Jeremy Paxman and Kay Burley, because they do seem to be making an effort to get on. To make the point, Sky News has released this.
debate , sorry showdown, is as jolly as this – Michael Crick doorstepping Jeremy Paxman (his former Newsnight colleague) and challenging him about being a Tory – then we will be fine.
Welcome to tonight’s live blog covering … well, we’re not quite sure what to call it.