By this time next week, the election will all be over and it will be a question of seats, leaderships and coalitions. With six days of campaigning left, today will be dominated by the fallout from last night’s Question Time special. David Cameron put in a good turn, Ed Miliband did not and Nick Clegg appeared to sail on through without much impact. To help guide you through the melée of stories and spin, here is a summary of today’s main election stories.
1. Miliband’s not sorry
The special edition of Question Time last night with the three main party leaders was the best television of the campaign. Cameron, Miliband and Clegg were hauled over the coals by an excellent audience in Leeds, who were impressively well informed and took no prisoners. A snap poll conducted by The Guardian/ICM suggests the Prime Minister won by six points: 44 per cent thought Cameron put in the best performance, compared to 38 per cent for Ed Miliband and 19 per cent for Nick Clegg.
Although Clegg’s answers were predictable and solid, he took a typically rough ride over tuition fees. But he appeared somewhat irrelevant to the goings-on of the campaign. Cameron put in a solid, passionate turn, leaving you in no doubt that he is pumped for the final stretch. His only stumble was on welfare cuts and child benefit, but I suspect the moment most people will remember from last night was Miliband’s stumbles — on spending and as he left the stage. In response to a question on the economy, the Labour leader did not accept that his party overspent in government, which led to him being called a liar:
‘This country suffered because Gordon Brown sold off the gold — how can you stand there and say you didn’t overspend? That’s absolutely ludicrous. You are frankly just lying.’
Another member of the audience pointed out:
‘If you can’t accept you overspent why on earth should we trust you that you won’t overspend again?’
It’s particularly damaging for Labour because they decided to put the spending pledge on the first page on its manifesto and make it an issue. The party line for the past few weeks has been to point out that a Labour government would cut the deficit every year in the next parliament. But Miliband didn’t recall that line, instead he refused to say sorry. To summarise his performance, Miliband stumbled off the stage:
2. No to the SNP
The second newsworthy moment from last night’s ‘debate’ was Miliband’s stance on linking up with the SNP. When he was quizzed by the audience about why he wasn’t more open about coalition deals, Miliband said he’d rather not cross the threshold of No.10 at all if it meant doing a deal with the SNP:
‘We’re not going to do a deal with the Scottish National party; we’re not going to have a coalition, we’re not going to have a deal. Let me just say this to you – if it meant we weren’t going to be in government, not doing a coalition, not having a deal, then so be it.’
Miliband has been pretty tough with his language throughout the campaign on joining arms with the SNP — no deals and no coalitions. Some kind of vote-by-vote deal could still take place on an informal basis, but despite his protestations, the Tories will continue to suggest he will be under the thumb of the Nicola Sturgeon.
3. Farage’s war on the Beeb
Away from the Question Time special, Nigel Farage is taking no prisoners in his war on the BBC. Yesterday, his team reported the columnist Camilla Long to Kent Police for a joke she made on Have I Got News For You about the Ukip leader’s campaigning in South Thanet. Farage has now pulled out of an interview with BBC Radio 1 after saying the Beeb is biased against him. A Ukip source told the Daily Mail:
‘We will no longer be collaborating with the BBC between now and the election unless their coverage of Ukip changes drastically. We have said we are at war with the BBC and we mean it.’
Just think how far Farage has come. In the run up to the election five years ago, he would jump at any opportunity to appear on television, particularly the BBC.