Political leaders pitched in TV battle

Political candidates taking part in the seven-way TV debate at the ITV studios in Salford.  Pic: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/PA Wire
Political candidates taking part in the seven-way TV debate at the ITV studios in Salford. Pic: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/PA Wire
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THE LEADERS of the UK’s seven biggest political parties have geared up for the key debate of the General Election.

A spin room of government ministers and their shadows, journalists and broadcasters has spent the last hour setting out what will count as a victory for their side as millions of people prepare to watch the ITV debate.

Party leaders have made brief appearances on the campaign trail before hunkering down with their teams for intensive preparation for the live TV debate dominating the fourth day of the General Election.

Ukip’s Nigel Farage - tipped by bookmakers as hot favourite in the televised seven-way clash - said he would use the debate to put other leaders on the spot over what he sees as the impossibility of controlling immigration while remaining in the European Union.

And Labour leader Ed Miliband said he was looking forward to detailing “the simple case for change ... (that) it is only when working people succeed that Britain succeeds”.

Meanwhile, David Cameron appeared to be expecting a more physical encounter, asking a teenage ju jitsu fan during a school visit in Warrington if he should “get Nigel Farage and get him on the floor” before hastily assuring watching reporters that it was a joke.

The Prime Minister, who was accused by Labour of “running scared” after dodging a head-to-head showdown with Mr Miliband, said he was not nervous and was “relishing” the prospect of the two-hour debate in the ITV studios at Salford’s MediaCityUK.

Mr Cameron told reporters: “It is a chance to get across that we have a long-term economic plan that is working.”

After Mr Cameron objected to broadcasters’ plans for three TV debates during the five-and-a-half week campaign, the ITV show marks the only occasion before the May 7 election when the Tory and Labour leaders will face each other.

With all the polls pointing to an extremely tight contest, the leaders of the two biggest parties will be anxious to avoid any costly slips while looking for the opportunity to score points at expense of their rival.