David Cameron staged a robust but honest assessment of his own leadership as he admitted he had not achieved everything he set out to do.
Mr Cameron was facing Jeremy Paxman as he and Labour leader Ed Miliband took part in the first televised leaders events ahead of the General Election.
The Prime Minister appeared at first to falter in the face of difficult questioning from Mr Paxman, but quickly settled into a confident defence of his five years in office.
Asked about his failure to reduce the country’s debt or cut immigration, Mr Cameron said: “What I have done for the last five years is lead a Government that has got the economy growing, has got people back to work, has cut the taxes of the poorest people in our country.
“I am not saying we have achieved everything we set out to do, but the country is immeasurably stronger.”
Mr Paxman launched with a tough opening, asking about an increase in food banks which he said showed claims to have fixed Broken Britain had failed.
What I have done for the last five years is lead a Government that has got the economy growing, has got people back to work, has cut the taxes of the poorest people in our country.David Cameron
The questioning quickly moved on to Mr Cameron’s judgement in appointing figures such as former News of the World editor Andy Coulson or defending Jeremy Clarkson, decisions Mr Cameron sought to move past.
Mr Cameron accepted that his Government had failed to meet the “no ifs no buts” pledge he made in 2010 to get net immigration down to the tens of thousands over the course of the parliament.
But he said it remained “the right ambition” and insisted tougher welfare rules would squeeze arrivals from the EU.
The Prime Minister again defended his decision to announce that he would not seek a third term if re-elected in May and insisted he would serve “every day of a full second term”.
He said: “I think people need to know that sort of thing. Are you one of those leaders like Chairman Mao who thinks you can go on and on and on.
Mr Miliband faced his own difficult moments. A question and answer session with the Sky News audience saw one woman accuse the Labour leader of “demonising” those who have worked hard from poor backgrounds to achieve a good salary. Another audience member asked him why he always looks gloomy, to which Mr Miliband laughed and said he was determined to make things better.
A potentially awkward question for the party leader came when one person asked if he did not think his brother was better qualified.
“Unsurprisingly, no,” Mr Miliband said. “Its hard, it was bruising for me, it’s bruising for David but it has healed, it is healing.”
Mr Miliband went on to face his own tough grilling from Mr Paxman, facing tough questions on Labour’s record on immigration.
There will be a seven-way debate on April 2, also featuring Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, Ukip’s Nigel Farage, Natalie Bennett of the Green Party, Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP, and Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru.