Throughout its long and volatile life, Labour had heard many predictions of imminent demise. Yet mass shock still greeted the party’s passing away in its sleep early yesterday morning, 9 May 2025, just shy of its 120th birthday. The proximate cause of death given was the trauma suffered after one election defeat too many.
This was a party that had long been accused of harbouring a death wish. Who could forget the epithet hurled at Michael Foot’s 1983 manifesto? “The longest suicide note in history.” In 2015 – just weeks before the humiliation of Ed Miliband – Labour’s roving philosopher, Jon Cruddas, had predicted that his side could simply “disintegrate in real time”. Back then, he’d been called foolish; only later was he hailed as prescient.
The hindsight of the 2020s is a marvellous thing; at the time, Labour’s steady decline was obscured by its own fidgetiness. It swerved left, then squirmed right. It wanted free markets but controlled immigration; it sought to be business-friendly, to a big business class only interested in ripping off the public. Many circles were apparently squared in that tumultuous quarter-century.Meanwhile, the myth that Gordon Brown had spent all the money became unshakeable, shaping the next generation of politics – just as the jibe about the winter of discontent had reverberated through the 80s and early 90s.
Perhaps mirroring the party’s diminishing patience, the people in charge sported ever-shorter names: Tristram, Stella, Dan.Throughout, the diminishing membership displayed their traditional contemptuous loyalty to whoever happened to be in charge. By Labour’s last election of May 2025, its much-trumpeteddifference with the Tory perma-government came down to this: our PPE graduates are smarter than your PPE graduates.
All this provided gallows humour and column fodder. Yet Labour could survive numerous defeats, as Ed Miliband’s own propaganda acknowledged: “Labour has only been in government for four short periods of the 20th century.” Even David Cameron’s boundary reform, which holed Labour below the 250-seat watermark, could be endured. What the movement couldn’t afford to let slip, however, was its role as the natural conduit for the discontents of wider society. That was what distinguished it from the natural party of government, the Conservatives. Fatally, that was the part it stopped playing.
From Arthur Henderson onwards, the party’s central demand had always been fair shares. That goal was defined by the father of the NHS, Nye Bevan, as “where the doctor, the grocer, the butcher and farm labourer all lived on the same street – the living tapestry of a mixed community”. Some hope of enacting that in today’s property market. In a society growing apart as fast as Britain’s, it was becoming impossible to agree what “fair” meant. Vast inequality had bred political polarisation. Labour, the party of collective politics, now represented a collection of niche electorates.
That one fact glared out of the results of the 2015 election. Multicultural London became more Labour, even while university towns and Guardianista strongholds began flirting with the Greens– a trend which was only to continue over the next two general elections. Meanwhile, across the de-industrialised north, Nigel Farage robbed votes from Miliband. “It suddenly became clear that Labour no longer had just one enemy – the Tories,” remembers Glen O’Hara, professor of history at Oxford Brookes university. “It had a whole kaleidoscope of enemies – from UKIP to the SNP.”
Economics commentators had long warned that the very idea of a national economy had become untenable. London was now a city-state for bankers and hipsters, supported by immigrant service workers the guff sold to the north and Wales about becoming a knowledge economy was just lies.
Now Ed Balls and other Labour big beasts were discovering what that meant for them: wipe-out. Economic and political polarisation were to be the central facts of the 2020s. Labour had faced this problem before in the 1930s – this time, however, it had neither electoral hiding place nor the regular inflow of political talent.
No political party can speak three different languages at the same time, especially not one that has got out of the habit of listening to its own base. Faced with an impossible task, the elite that now ruled the people’s party – the Kinnocks and Goulds and Straws – crumbled. While the Tories were also reduced to a regional party, its voter base was, at least, in largely one place. Now that Nicola Sturgeon had won Scotland, Cameron and George Osborne were much better than their Labour opposite numbers at playing the English vote. Not only that, the Tories used their decade alone in power to tame any dissenting parts of civil society. The BBC, the non-governmental organisations, the universities: all saw their funding regimes tightened up and responded by buttoning up on any unhelpful criticisms.
Labourism had emerged from an industrial culture: you could be born in a co-op hospital and be buried by the co-op funeral service. Most of those civil institutions had collapsed after Margaret Thatcher. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s response had been to create a new client base of public sector workers across de-industrialised Britain. By 2020 Cameron and Osborne had put paid to that. What they left instead was an insider-outsider economy: those on a good wage with a house might still be tempted to vote Labour, those struggling on three temporary jobs a day had no such line to the movement.
Labour leaves behind an estimable legacy. As prime minister, George Osborne is still able to rely on those private finance initiative schools and hospitals, while Brown’s knot of tax credits proved impossible to cut while maintaining a low-wage workforce. The party is succeeded by two offspring. First is Fabian and Fabian, a small publishing house producing glossy proposals for ever more taxes. Then there is WWP, short for the White Working-Class party: a grouplet of cultural studies graduates who hold regular tours of defunct factories and monthly meat raffles.
The campaign is nearly over and it is time to choose. We believe Britain needs a new direction. At home, the economic recovery is only fragile, while social cohesion is threatened by the unequal impact of the financial crisis and the continuing attempt to shrink the postwar state. Abroad, Britain remains traumatised by its wars, and, like our neighbours, is spooked by Vladimir Putin, the rise of jihadist terrorism and by mounting migratory pressures. In parts of Britain, nationalist and religious identities are threatening older solidarities, while privacy and freedom sometimes feel under siege, even as we mark 800 years since Magna Carta. More people in Britain are leading longer, healthier and more satisfying lives than ever before – yet too many of those lives feel stressed in ways to which politics struggles to respond, much less to shape.
This is the context in which we must judge the record of the outgoing coalition and the choices on offer to voters on 7 May. Five years ago, Labour was exhausted and conflicted, amid disenchantment over war, recession and Gordon Brown’s leadership. The country was ready for a change, one we hoped would see a greatly strengthened Liberal Democrat presence in parliament combine with the core Labour tradition to reform politics after the expenses scandal. That did not happen. Instead the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have governed together for five difficult years.
David Cameron has been an increasingly weak prime minister. On issues such as Europe, the integrity of the United Kingdom, climate change, human rights and the spread of the low-wage economy, he has been content to lead the Tories back towards their nastiest and most Thatcherite comfort zones. All this is particularly disappointing after the promise of change that Mr Cameron once embodied.
The union at risk
The Conservative campaign has redoubled all this. Economically, the party offers more of the same, prioritising public-sector austerity which will worsen life for the most needy – imposing £12bn of largely unspecified welfare cuts – while doing little to ensure the rich and comfortable pay a fair share. Internationally, the party is set on a referendum over Europe which many of its activists hope will end in UK withdrawal. It’s also set on an isolationist abandonment of British commitment to international human rights conventions and norms, outcomes which this newspaper – unlike most others – will always do all in its power to oppose. At the same time, the Tories go out of their way to alienate Scotland and put the UK at risk. The two are related: if a 2017 referendum did result in a British exit from the EU, it could trigger a fresh and powerful demand for a Scottish exit from the UK. The Conservative campaign has been one of the tawdriest in decades.
The overriding priority on 7 May is therefore, first, to stop the Conservatives from returning to government and, second, to put a viable alternative in their place. For many decades, this newspaper’s guiding star has been the formulation offered by John Maynard Keynes in a speech in Manchester in 1926: “The political problem of mankind is to combine three things: economic efficiency, social justice and individual liberty.” The task on 7 May is to elect the parliament and government that will come closest to passing Keynes’s triple test.
Some despair of the whole system, believing a model created for two-party politics is now exhausted, failing to give adequate expression to the diverse society we have become. We are hardly newcomers to that view: we have demanded electoral reform for a century and believe that demand will find new vigour on 8 May. But for now, this is the voting system we’ve got. How should we use it?
To the charge that they enabled a government whose record we reject, the Liberal Democrats would plead that they made a difference, mitigating and blocking on issues such as Europe, the environment, child benefit and human rights, without which things would have been worse. That adds weight to the view that the next Commons would be enhanced by the presence of Lib Dem MPs to insist on the political reform and civil liberties agendas – as they did, almost alone, over Edward Snowden’s revelations. Similarly, it would be good to hear Green voices in Westminster to press further on climate change and sustainability. Where the real constituency choice is between these parties and the Conservatives, as it is between the Lib Dems and the Tories in the south-west, we support a vote for them. But they are not the answer.
In Scotland, politics is going through a cultural revolution. The energy and engagement on show are formidable – and welcome. The level of registration is an example to the rest of Britain. If the polls are right, and the SNP is returned as Scotland’s majority party, we must respect that choice – and would expect all parties that believe in the union, and the equal legitimacy of all its citizens, to do the same. We do that even as we maintain our view that, whatever myriad problems the peoples of these islands face, the solution is not nationalism. Breaking apart is not the answer: not in Europe and not in the UK. We still believe that the union rests on something precious – the social and economic solidarity of four distinct nations – and that is to be nurtured and strengthened, not turned against itself.
A sense of what is just
Which brings us to Labour. There have been times when a Labour vote has been, at best, a pragmatic choice – something to be undertaken without enthusiasm. This is not such a time. Of course there are misgivings. The party has some bad instincts – on civil liberties, penal policy and on Trident, about which it is too inflexible. Questions linger over Ed Miliband’s leadership, and whether he has that elusive quality that inspires others to follow.
But Mr Miliband has grown in this campaign. He may not have stardust or TV-ready charisma, but those are qualities that can be overvalued. He has resilience and, above all, a strong sense of what is just. Mr Miliband understood early one of the central questions of the age: inequality. While most Tories shrug at that yawning gap between rich and poor, Labour will at least strive to slow and even reverse the three-decade march towards an obscenely unequal society. It is Labour that speaks with more urgency than its rivals on social justice, standing up to predatory capitalism, on investment for growth, on reforming and strengthening the public realm, Britain’s place in Europe and international development – and which has a record in government that it can be more proud of than it sometimes lets on.
In each area, Labour could go further and be bolder. But the contrast between them and the Conservatives is sharp. While Labour would repeal the bedroom tax, the Tories are set on those £12bn of cuts to social security, cuts that will have a concrete and painful impact on real lives. Even if they don’t affect you, they will affect your disabled neighbour, reliant on a vital service that suddenly gets slashed, or the woman down the street, already working an exhausting double shift and still not able to feed her children without the help of benefits that are about to be squeezed yet further. For those people, and for many others, a Labour government can make a very big difference.
This newspaper has never been a cheerleader for the Labour party. We are not now. But our view is clear. Labour provides the best hope for starting to tackle the turbulent issues facing us. On 7 May, as this country makes a profound decision about its future, we hope Britain turns to Labour.
Lets get the word out there and seriously think about what how we vote in May.
You might feel that your safe and secure and nothings going to touch you, but circumstances change. Lets get out of this race to the bottom.
Miliband had just enough chance to mention what he cares about most – inequality, decent pay and fair chances. Will that carry him through? Without pointing a finger at the government for the rich by the rich, the contrast between their chosen issues was there for all to see. Here was the personality choice too – a highly polished professional politician pitched against an amateur, boyish enthusiast, lacking the gloss and the experience. Which quality is valued more by the alienated undecideds remains uncertain.
David Cameron posted this on Twitter after the encounter.
Both sides were contacting journalists during and after the Cameron/Miliband showdown with their “spin”. Labour concentrated on sending me text messages.
But, when it came to sending emails, the Tories beat Labour hands down. Here’s my inbox from earlier.
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.
I’m told this is not the case. The post-event poll was launched at 10.27pm, after Paxman’s interview with Miliband was over.
YouGov has been polling tonight’s Cameron/Miliband showdown using a new app.
According to this, Cameron won by a very slim margin.
</body></html></body></html>”> 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?
Lib Dem supporters broke for Miliband 52% to 48%. Ukip voters for Cameron 70% to 30%.
The topline shows Cameron won the debate according to 54% of respondents.
However, when asked who they thought would make the better PM, 48% said Cameron, 40% Miliband. Now usually on this question, Cameron enjoys a much more significant 15-20 point gap.
Also, among the 8% in the ICM poll that said the debate might change their mind, 56% of these said they would now consider voting Labour, and 30% for the Tories.
Public opinion takes time to stabilise, Miliband began the evening miles behind Cameron when it comes to personal ratings. Tonight he may have narrowed that gap.
p class=”block-time updated-time”>Updated at 11.46pm GMT
ICM poll data in full
Here are the full ICM poll tables.
Updated at 11.35pm GMT
Questions that made PM splutter: Cameron v Paxman – video
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
Updated at 11.36pm GMT
Hell yes! Miliband v Paxman – video
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
Verdict from the Twitter commentariat
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.
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.
But Miliband had a stronger showing during the Q&A section, which may have been enough to give him the edge overall.
Behavioural psychologist Dr Peter Collett’s verdict
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.
Miliband showed signs of being more jokey, especially towards the end – the acid test is the cut away. It’s not simply a matter of trying to deconstruct how the party leaders behaved but rather looking for cues as to the impact of their behaviours on the audience. If you looked at how the audience were reacting, you could see that they were far more amused when Paxman scored a point against Miliband, than they were when he managed to put down Cameron.
But both leaders seemed rattled. They were using a lot of dominance displays in order to try and reassert themselves: using stiff wrists, a lot of heavy gesticulation and frowning. There was lip licking by Cameron, which is his signature sign of distress. Both were also using finger counting unconsciously in an attempt to discourage Paxman from interrupting them. “What I would like to say is” and up goes the thumb. What this says to Paxman is “Hey I have a list of things to say, don’t interrupt me. Both of them got roughed up quite a bit – I wasn’t overwhelemd by either.
Cameron didn’t start off terribly well in his conversation with Paxman, partly because he was talking too fast and there was no light and shade. Speech speed is a key indication of who is in control. But then he settled in, particularly when he pushed back against Paxman.
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.
Cameron also won on four counts: being respected around the word (58% to 19%): being decisive (54% to 29%); being good in a crisis (46% to 21%); and being backed by his party (58% to 21%).
The two men are almost equally matched on having “changed his party for the better”. Some 36% say that of Cameron, and 35% of Miliband.
Updated at 11.17pm GMT
</body></html></body></html>”> 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
Asked why Cameron did not get the audience laughing and at ease as Miliband did, Hague said:
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.
p class=”block-time updated-time”>Updated at 11.15pm GMT
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.
Amongst those, 56% said they would now vote Labour. And just 30% said they were now backing the Conservatives.
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.
“It was not what I expected at all,” Farage said. “In terms of personalities, he fought back more, was more human and got the audience clapping. Cameron was nowhere near that. Cameron looked discomfited.”
Updated at 11.02pm GMT
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.
Asked about the poll showing Cameron winning, Alexander said: “If you look at the numbers that emerge in the coming weeks, the numbers that matter are the numbers on May 7 … I haven’t even looked at the numbers but we are protagonists not commentators.”
</body></html></body></html>”> 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.
The sample of viewers, who were weighted to bring them in line with the broader population, were asked to put aside their party preference and concentrate only on what they heard during the programme, 46% felt that Cameron had the best arguments, as against 44% who said the same of Miliband. Cameron was also judged slightly more convincing – by 48% to 43% – and to have the more appealing personality, by 46% to 42%. He chalked up a clearer win on “actually answering the questions asked”, by 44% to 37%.
There was better news for Miliband when it comes to the crucial question of shifting votes: 56% of the sub-sample who said they might change their mind will now plump for Labour, as against just 30% for the Conservatives.
David Cameron retains his lead as best prime minister in this survey – but by a smaller margin than in many past polls – he is preferred on this count by 48% as against just 40% for Miliband.
ICM interviewed 3,650 adults aged 18+ online on 24-26th March. All agreed to watch the Cameron vs Miliband Live: the Battle for Number 10, and to complete a second interview immediately after it finished, which 1,123 did in the first few minutes. The data on both waves were weighted to the profile of all GB adults, including to recall of 2010 General Election voting. In essence, the post-wave data is ICM’s best guess on what a representative sample of the voting population would say had they all watched the programme.
p class=”block-time updated-time”>Updated at 11.00pm GMT
Rupert Murdoch was watching.
I don’t think President Obama has tweeted about Ed Miliband yet, though.
Poll findings – Snap analysis
There are three snap observations on our poll.
1) A win is a win. David Cameron is entitled to celebrate victory.
2) But, given Ed Miliband’s personal ratings before tonight, Miliband is the man who has outperformed his benchmark – quite significantly.
3) And this does cause problems for the Tories, because depicting Miliband as unfit to be prime minister constitutes about 50% of their election strategy. (The long-term economic plan is the other 50%). Labour are attacking Cameron, of course, but their campaign is not founded on the notion that he is manifestly incapable of running the country.
</body></html></body></html>"> <p>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.</p> <p>Otherwise, whatever your view of their answers, it seems clear that Miliband secured a huge advantage in winning the toss and putting Cameron in to bat first, allowing his half-time pep-talkers to slap him about the face a few times and send him out swinging. </p> <p>He is, let us recall, “a pretty resilient guy”. As is his “poor mother”, who may have had to endure the “bruising” split of her sons, but having been forced to flee a town from which tens of thousands were transported to Treblinka, may feel she’s had worse.</p> <p>All of which aside - can he eat three Shredded Wheat? We may never know, since Burley dodged the question. Call that a fair non-debate?</p> </div>
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.
</body></html></body></html>"> <p>Jeremy Paxman has met another real person. On the tube. Drink!<br />Ed: “Was it David Cameron you spoke to on the tube?”<br />It wasn’t, you will be amazed to learn.</p> <figure class="element element-tweet" data-canonical-url="https://twitter.com/stephenkb/statuses/581220097819279360"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>If Ed Miliband doesn't care about what the newspapers say, he must *really* hate immigrants. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BattleForNumber10?src=hash">#BattleForNumber10</a></p>— Stephen Bush (@stephenkb) <a href="https://twitter.com/stephenkb/status/581220097819279360">March 26, 2015</a></blockquote> </figure> </div> <p class="block-time updated-time">Updated <time datetime="2015-03-26T22:25:30.012Z">at 10.25pm GMT</time></p>
The SNP and Alex Salmond
Q: As for Alex Salmond’s demands, will you scrap Trident?
No, says Miliband.
Q: What about starting HS2 in Scotland?
Miliband says he is not going to get into a negotiation with Salmond.
Paxman says he will have to.
Miliband says that is presumptious. It is not up to him to decide the election.
Q: Jim Murphy said the mansion tax was a way of taking money out of the south of England and giving it to Scotland.
Miliband says he does not accept that.
The mansion tax will affect homes worth more than £2m. Many of those are in London. There will be “consequentials”, and some money will go to Scotland. But some will go to Newcastle as well. That is part of being a United Kingdom.
</body></html></body></html>"> <figure class="element element-image" data-media-id="7f8050578f1441873c772322fcdd7987d0a4f68f"> <img src="https://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2015/3/26/1427408323078/6a22d778-aa91-4ffd-9470-d18fd213ecb1-460x276.jpeg" alt="Miliband" width="460" height="276" class="gu-image" /> </figure> <p>So Miliband didn’t fall over and accidentally kick himself in the face, which means he’s already ahead. But whatever the reason behind Burley waking up and being considerably more interventionist with the Labour leader than with Cameron, that was certainly a livelier audience session, despite two “I make no bones about it”s, two “we can do better”s and several “let me say this”-es from Ed.</p> <p>At least we’ve found the first star of the night in Sunil, who asked the best audience question in history: “Do you not think your brother would have done a better job?” Unusually, it actually got quite a revealing response.</p> <figure class="element element-tweet" data-canonical-url="https://twitter.com/laurenlaverne/statuses/581216308987039744"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Paxman's on now. I hope HE remembers to ask about the Shredded Wheat. The nation must know. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BattleForNumber10?src=hash">#BattleForNumber10</a></p>— Lauren Laverne (@laurenlaverne) <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenlaverne/status/581216308987039744">March 26, 2015</a></blockquote> </figure> </div> <p class="block-time updated-time">Updated <time datetime="2015-03-26T22:18:49.544Z">at 10.18pm GMT</time></p>
Q: Labour got immigration completely wrong. Some 400,000 people came in. What else did Labour do wrong?
Two things, says Miliband. He says he is proud of much of what the government did. But there was too much inequality.
Q: Did you borrow too much?
Miliband says borrowing got too high, but that was because of the financial crisis.
Q: Did you spend too much?
Miliband says, if you are saying too much spending caused the crisis.
Paxman says Miliband is answering his own questions again. He poses the question.
Miliband says Paxman is now asking his own questions.
Q: What did you spend too much on?
The Millennium Dome was unnecessary, says Miliband.
Fact check on Miliband’s claim on living standards by FullFact.org
(He is distancing himself from the Blair/Brown record again. See 10.07pm.)
</body></html></body></html>"> <p>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.</p> <p>He has, at least, succeeded in uniting the nation on a number of crucial points:</p> <p>- This Uncle Tom Cobbley sounds like an promising choice for Tory leader</p> <p>- Hasn’t Zayn Malik aged a lot since he left One Direction?</p> <p>- More Paxo please, one nation Tory or not.</p> </div>
The view on Cameron from our BritainThinks voters
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.
The overall feeling is that Cameron actually fared well, Deborah Mattinson, Founder of Britain Thinks says.
One describes him as “composed”.
Another says: “I’m rather impressed so far.”
“I think he did well.”
“Holding his own.”
“I have a lot of respect - he doesn’t get flustered.”
“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.”
“Superb Cameron so far, very switched on and trustworthy.”
The initial responses on Miliband are not so positive.
“Ed Miliband doesn’t seem to speak as confidently as David Cameron. Also not as ready with the numbers as David Cameron.”
“First time I’ve listened to Ed Miliband… Arrrr 80 minutes of it.”
“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?”
Deborah’s summary of the panel’s views so far: “Top line view is that DC’s performance is more assured and confident than EM - also better command of facts and figures. All our panel are undecided but this view cuts across geography and current party preferences. In particular we saw praise for Cam from some Scottish participants and some Labour leaners. People in the panel are responding to the policies in a partisan way but even strong anti-Tories in this small sample tended to rate Cameron’s performance over Miliband’s.”
As Miliband answers questions from the audience, his brother is tweeting about displaced Burmese people ...
... much to the consternation of his followers.
Miliband’s Q&A with Burley - Snap verdict
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.
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: How do you feel about creating such divisions?
It is hard, says Miliband. It was bruising but it is healing.
Miliband says that is not his priority. Leaving the EU would be a disaster. Strategically, if you are dealing with terrorism or climate change, you have to be in the EU. If there is a transfer of power, he would have a referendum. But this is unlikely. Why would he have a referendum when he doesn’t want to leave?
Q: That’s not a definite no, it’s a politician’s answer.
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 ...
Don’t talk about them, says Burley.
Miliband says it is relevant. We need to encourage growth, so we get more tax revenues.
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.
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.
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.
Q: I still think there is more to be done. Social care is becoming harder.
Cameron says councils need to bring health and social care together more.
Cameron says he has huge respect for the police. Police budgets have been cut, but crime has come down too. Desk jobs were cut; forces were combined and there are still more efficiencies to be achieved.
Q: The Lincolnshire chief constable said services were close to collapse.
Cameron says he does not accept that.
Burley asks the questioner if he is happy with the response. He replies: “No comment.”
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.
What he is suggesting is manageable and do-able, he says.
Q: Can you give some examples?
Cameron says he mentioned some earlier, such as cutting in-work benefits. He says he has saved £20bn this parliament by being smarter. There is more to be done. Businesses do this. They try and do this every year.
</body></html></body></html>"> <p>To the audience! No Dimbleby tonight, but never not worth reviving this …<br /></p> <figure class="element element-video" data-canonical-url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3tUqRBiMVo"> </figure> </div>
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.
He was asked about such a ministerial role the other day. He will think about it. But he wants all of his ministers to be thinking about how to look after older people.
If the government is not doing right by older people, do not blame the others, he says; blame me.
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).
However, he also claimed that “the stock of debt is falling as a percentage of GDP”. George Osborne proudly announced at last week’s Budget that debt as a share of the economy is now forecast by the office for budget responsibility to fall in the coming financial year - 2015-16 - fulfilling one of the Conservatives fiscal rules. But the prime minister is wrong to claim that it’s happened 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. In cash terms, public sector net debt was £771bn in 2009-2010; it is expected to end the current financial year at £1489bn
And this from the Guardian’s home affairs correspondent Alan Travis on Cameron’s VAT claims:
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.”
His wording is already a retreat from his promise at prime minister’s question time on Wednesday firmly ruling out any VAT rises. His language now echoes almost exactly what he said in 2010.
On April 23 2010 Cameron said: “We have absolutely no plans to raise VAT. Our first budget is all about recognising we need to get spending under control rather than putting up tax.”
In June 2009 he he had been even more unequivocal saying: “You could try, as you say, to put it on VAT, sales tax, but again if you look at the effect of sales tax, it’s very regressive, it hits the poorest the hardest. It does, I absolutely promise you. Any sales tax, anything that goes on purchases that you make in shops tends to . . . if you look at it, where VAT goes now it doesn’t go on food, obviously, but it goes very, very widely and VAT is a more regressive tax than income tax or council tax.”
But neither statement prevented George Osborne raising the standard rate of VAT from 17.5% to 20% in his ‘emergency budget’ on 22 June 2010.
This is from Stewart Wood, one of Miliband’s closest advisers.
</body></html></body></html>"> <p>“Could you live on a zero hours contract?”<br />“How much money have you borrowed?”<br />“There’s a credibility problem here, isn’t there?”<br />“What do you think has been your biggest foreign policy disaster?”<br />“What would it take for you to vote no in a referendum on our continued participation in the European Union?”<br />“A vote for Cameron is a vote for two, three, four years, after which it’s Boris Johnson or ... Uncle Tom Cobbley?”<br /><br />Oh Paxo, how we’ve missed you!</p> <figure class="element element-image" data-media-id="ed3b5e7e2143d1540b7b18786d0752b4128970aa"> <img src="https://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2015/3/26/1427405163408/33189864-a474-477b-81d9-36896e4a1e2b-460x276.jpeg" alt="Paxman" width="460" height="276" class="gu-image" /> <figcaption> <span class="element-image__caption">Paxman</span> </figcaption> </figure> </div> <p class="block-time updated-time">Updated <time datetime="2015-03-26T21:26:13.425Z">at 9.26pm GMT</time></p>
Paxman interviews Cameron - Snap verdict
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: You said you won’t stand for a third term. So after three or four years, we could get someone else, or “uncle Tom Cobbley”.
Cameron says he will serve a full third term. But he does not think he is indispensable.
</body></html></body></html>"> <p>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.</p> <p>First blood, meanwhile, to Paxman, who is the first to mention a chap a friend of his met somewhere in the north who handily illustrates his political point. Drink!</p> <p>Food banks, zero hours’ contracts, Stephen Green at HSBC, Paxo, the deficit and immigration in the first 10 minutes. Cameron currently wondering why on earth he didn’t go for the mano-a-mano against Miliband.</p> <figure class="element element-tweet" data-canonical-url="https://twitter.com/GaryLineker/statuses/581199885849907200"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Thought <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BattleForNumber10?src=hash">#BattleForNumber10</a> was going to be a football documentary about the game's greats.</p>— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) <a href="https://twitter.com/GaryLineker/status/581199885849907200">March 26, 2015</a></blockquote> </figure> </div> <p class="block-time updated-time">Updated <time datetime="2015-03-26T21:16:53.155Z">at 9.16pm GMT</time></p>
Cameron says he wants a higher minimum wage. But it has gone up.
And he has cut taxes. Low-paid people have been taken out of income tax, he says.
Q: You couldn’t live on a ZHC. I’m going to get personal. You chose someone who was a rich banker who advised on tax avoidance to your government. You chose to appoint a rich newspaper person who hacked phones to No 10. And you chose to defend a rich TV presenter who hit someone. What do these people have in common?
Cameron says they are different cases. He defends former HSBC boss Stephen Green. On Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, he says he did not know what happened. Clarkson is a friend, but it was up to the BBC to decide what to do after he assaulted a producer.
The aspersion you are trying to make is ridiculous.
Douglas Alexander, Labour election strategy chair, is in the spin room spinning for Ed Miliband.
Esther Addley’s alternative (non-)debate commentary
</body></html></body></html>"> <p>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.</p> <p>But at last, after months of barracking and blather, we finally get our first chance to decide who wins “The Battle for Number 10” when the two heavyweights finally square up against each other. I’ll be reporting on the night from an armchair pundit’s point of view, offering a slightly different slant from Andrew – more The Thick of It than Newsnight.</p> <figure class="element element-tweet" data-canonical-url="https://twitter.com/davidschneider/statuses/581187198952861696"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Cameron (right of pic) insists on hazmat suit to ensure no debatey contact with Miliband tonight <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/battlefornumber10?src=hash">#battlefornumber10</a> <a href="http://t.co/3LKWEKjz3s">pic.twitter.com/3LKWEKjz3s</a></p>— David Schneider (@davidschneider) <a href="https://twitter.com/davidschneider/status/581187198952861696">March 26, 2015</a></blockquote> </figure> <p>So which is it to be? Sky or Channel 4? Fittingly for such an entirely bizarre event, both broadcasters are screening “Cameron and Miliband Live” (that’s “and”, you will note, not “versus”), and if that wasn’t strange enough, it’s co-presented by two formidable battlers in their own right, Jeremy Paxman - making his first major post-Newsnight appearance - and Kay Burley, <a href="http:// http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8423480/Kay-Burley-Skys-first-lady-sets-Westminster-tongues-wagging.html">whom the Telegraph once called “the high-heeled hellcat from Hounslow”</a>, which we think means she’s an aggressive interviewer who is a woman.</p> <p>At least we can be confident this will be an entirely impartial non-debate – <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/10929289/Newsnight-is-made-by-13-year-olds-says-Jeremy-Paxman">the fact that Paxman has admitted to being a “one nation Tory”</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/shamindernahal/status/581145121581867008">reportedly recently “seriously considered” standing for the party in Kensington and Chelsea are of absolutely no consequence</a>.</p> <figure class="element element-image element--thumbnail" data-media-id="493f27bf2c88b7c8feafa1bff1c134a4f53738a6"> <img src="https://media.guim.co.uk/493f27bf2c88b7c8feafa1bff1c134a4f53738a6/83_740_731_1096/667.jpg" alt="Kay Burley." width="667" height="1000" class="gu-image" /> <figcaption> <span class="element-image__caption">Kay Burley.</span> </figcaption> </figure> <p>Burley has not declared a party allegiance, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pt_cUiCjggE">though she did tell the director of the campaign group 38 Degrees</a> that a protest at Westminster would “make no difference whatsoever … Why don’t you just go home?”, and there <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xco7o7-uTiI">was also that time</a> she called a campaigner from Yes Scotland a “knob”.</p> <p>Unlikely studio-mates, perhaps, but according to the Daily Mail they are getting along swimmingly, with Burley marching up to a glum-looking Paxman at rehearsals and proclaiming <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/mar/26/jeremy-paxman-kay-burley-election-debate-david-cameron-ed-miliband">“On your feet, big guy, and give me a snog”.</a><br /></p> <p>Fingers crossed for more of that this evening.<br /></p> </div> <p class="block-time updated-time">Updated <time datetime="2015-03-26T20:56:40.557Z">at 8.56pm GMT</time></p>
This sounds like wishful thinking.
I’m afraid a Lib Dem win isn’t an option with our ICM poll.
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.
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.
And, for some reason, the Iron Throne from the Game of Thrones is there.
Nigel Farage turns up
Nigel Farage has turned up.
Perhaps he’ll end up winning?
More from the spin room.
Some of us are used to writing as we go along ...
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.
That means if either Cameron or Miliband secure a clear win, they will be able to say they are outperforming their party.
But voters already have views about Cameron and Miliband. And they think Cameron would make the best prime minister. Here are the latest figures on this from YouGov’s tracker (pdf).
Who would make the best prime minister?
That means, if people judge the debate partly in accordance with their views on who might make the best prime minister, you would expect Cameron to win easily. If he doesn’t, Miliband could arguably claim that he is outperforming expectations.
There is another way of judging leaders: asking whether they are doing well or badly. And, on this measure, as the YouGov figures show (pdf), Miliband is far behind Cameron. (This probably reflects critical coverage of Miliband in the media, and polling evidence suggesting that, unlike Cameron, he is having a negative effect on support for his party.) If you take this as a benchmark, then, just so long as Miliband does not get trounced by Cameron, he can go home arguing he has made some progress.
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.
Remember to refresh the blog regularly, as these opinions will be added to older posts as they come in to make sure they don’t break up the chronological flow of topics discussed by Cameron and Miliband.
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.
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.
The good news for C4 and Sky is that there’s not much competition, up against BBC1’s The Truth About Calories and The Triplets Are Coming! on ITV (and Jimmy McGovern’s acclaimed drama Banished on BBC2).
Channel 4 had 1.7 million viewers in the slot last week for its Trevor Phillips documentary, Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True, while Sky News tends gets 500,000 viewers or more during big breaking news stories.
So a combined audience of 2 million-plus – the sort of audience BBC1 gets for Question Time – is the target. More than 3 million and Paxo will have truly stuffed the opposition. They’ll be delighted.
</body></html></body></html>"> <p>Do debates actually affect the polls? <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2015/mar/26/election-2015-could-the-debates-move-the-polls">My colleague Alberto Nardelli has written a shrewd analysis</a>. Here’s his conclusion.</p> <blockquote class="quoted"> <p>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.</p> <p>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. </p> <p>In an election that is closely fought and involves a large number of parties, even small movements like those in 2010 could be sufficient to influence the overall outcome of the vote on 7 May.</p> </blockquote> </div> <p class="block-time updated-time">Updated <time datetime="2015-03-26T19:44:12.278Z">at 7.44pm GMT</time></p>
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.
Earlier, Burley was showing Sky viewers the set. She will stand behind a podium ...
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