The debate: No clear winner in seven-way debate

CAMERON TV“Ed Miliband’s hopes of using an historic seven-way TV debate to catapult him into Number 10 floundered last night, as he was overshadowed by David Cameron, Nicola Sturgeon and Nigel Farage. The Labour leader fell flat during the marathon two-hour clash, and was left lost for words after being challenged on live TV by Nick Clegg to apologise for Labour crashing the economy. A raft of opinion polls produced mixed results on who had ‘won’ the contest, with some backing Miss Sturgeon and others putting Mr Miliband ahead. But a ComRes survey carried out moments after the debate finished showed that 40 per cent of voters think Mr Cameron is ‘most capable of leading the country’, with Mr Miliband trailling on 28 per cent.” – Daily Mail

Verdict: Some give the night to the Tories…

  • “The PM’s impassioned assault during the only live TV debate of the general election was seen as a marked improvement on his painful grilling by Jeremy Paxman last week.” – The Sun (£)
  • Prime Minister’s low-risk approach seems to have paid off – George Parker, Financial Times

…others to the fringes…

  • “Ed Miliband failed to break through in the television election debate as the minority parties emerged as the winners of the contest.” – Daily Telegraph
  • Poll finds Sturgeon ahead as Cameron and Miliband clash – The Independent
  • Ed sunk by Sturgeon – Daily Mail
  • The Labour MPs who called it for the SNP – The Independent
  • Miliband finds he can’t count on fair-weather friends as left-wing leaders turn on him – The Times (£)
  • Farage most talked about as Bennett picks up the most new Twitter followers – The Independent
  • A good night for the outsiders – The Times (£)

…and a few to Miliband

  • “An always tense, sometimes disjointed and occasionally cacophonous seven-way live TV leaders debate saw Ed Miliband just shave ahead of his rivals, according to a snap Guardian/ICM poll conducted after the event.” – The Guardian


Analysis: The performances on the night

“The Prime Minister stuck rigidly to the Conservative Party election playbook. The message he wanted to get across last night was that his is the only party that can be trusted on the economy – and that Labour and Ed Miliband are a clear and present danger to Britain’s future prosperity. He did this effectively and was clear, confident and avoided getting riled by the attacks from the left, the right and a heckler in the audience.” – The Independent

Aftermath: Parties roll out top brass for the spin room

OSBORNE red and blue“As the leaders fought to inject their soundbites into the frantic seven-way debate last night, they could at least console themselves that their colleagues did not have it much easier in the media-infested spin room. George Osborne was an early victim. No sooner had he entered the cold hall deployed to safely house a horde of journalists than he was ambushed by an interviewer and thrust live on to television.” – The Times (£)

  • What we learned: Sturgeon has UK-wide appeal and multi-party politics is here to stay – Daily Telegraph
  • What our body language experts thought of the party leaders – Daily Mail
  • The Green-voting wellbeing worker who heckled Cameron – Daily Mail

Background: How the leaders prepared for the night

Ed Miliband bought not one but two pairs of new shoes before the debate last night. The Labour leader did little to dispel his critics’ claims of indecisiveness by sending an aide to collect a choice of black lace-ups from a Clarks store in central Manchester.” The Times (£)

  • Panel of voters struggles to identify female leaders of ‘anti-austerity alliance’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Compère Etchingham once heckled Cameron – Daily Telegraph

Phil Collins: We deserve better than seven dwarf politics

CLEGG & FARAGE together“Every important lesson from last night’s debate of the party seven was visible with the sound turned down. The format was ludicrous in strict proportion to the way British politics has become ludicrous. Seven leaders, most of them conscious that their number could soon be up, scrambling for air time, each one speaking for about 15 minutes of forgettable fame. It was hard for any one of them to develop a line. No sooner did pressure begin to mount on David Cameron than it was relieved as Nigel Farage interrupted with his views on hospital car park charging.” – The Times (£)

  • Voters influenced by party leaders more than local candidates – The Sun (£)


  • The debate was fun, but we heard nothing new – Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun (£)
  • The biggest danger from tonight’s free-for-all is that it turns more people off politics – Matt Dathan, The Independent
  • Five verdicts on the result from the right… – James Kirkup, Mary Riddell, Dan Hodges, Asa Bennett and Janet Daley, Daily Telegraph
  • …and four from the left – Jonathan Freedland, Polly Toynbee, Hugh Muir and Gaby Hinsliff, The Guardian



  • Leanne from the valleys, straight from a recording of Gavin and Stacey – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • A confusing night with the Magniloquent Seven – Donald Macintyre, The Independent
  • Two hours of strife, stress and sweat – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph

Clegg decries coalitions of more than two parties as recipe for ‘chaos’

“A ‘rainbow coalition’ made up of several different parties could cause chaos, Nick Clegg warned today. The Lib Dem leader, who hopes to hold the balance of power after May 7, said the idea of more than two parties forming a government is not ‘going to work’. He said it would be a ‘messy’ way to run the country, and risked instability with the future of the government put in peril with every late night vote.” – Daily Mail

  • Liberal Democrats won’t share big parties with others – The Sun (£)
  • Clegg claims such alliances lead to ‘instability and insomnia’ – The Guardian

Cameron claims 50,000 people have signed up for discounted first homes

HOMES Manifesto“More than 50,000 people have signed up to a scheme which gives first-time buyers a 20 per cent discount on new homes, David Cameron has said. The Prime Minister said that providing young people with cheaper properties is the “ultimate symbol” of a country “where if you work hard, you can get on”. The Coalition last year said that 100,000 of the new homes would be offered to youngsters but the Conservative manifesto will contain a promise to double that number by the end of the next Parliament.” – Daily Telegraph

Boris makes the case for the Coalition and for capitalism

“Boris Johnson was accused of ‘breath-taking cheek’ after he set out his vision of ‘moral purpose’ in business and politics. The London Mayor praised the Coalition for having kept down unemployment and not returning to the dole queues of 1980s Britain. He said the fact that more jobs were being created was ‘one of the absolute moral triumphs’ of the government. The comments by Mr Johnson, who is standing to be a Tory MP in a west London constituency, will be seen as an attempt to position himself as a future party leader.” – Daily Mail

  • Johnson finally gets a personal Twitter account in time for the election – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Politicians beware! Voters are now more clued-up about the public finances. 

McLoughlin warns families to avoid the railways this Easter

McLOUGHLIN Patrick mouth“Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has made an unprecedented intervention ahead of this weekend’s expected surge of travel, telling travellers to ‘think twice’ before taking the train. He has warned of “frustrations” as engineers battle to complete “big dig” projects at many of the nation’s major termini. “There will be alternatives and we’ve lifted almost all motorway roadworks to help,” Mr McLoughlin told the Evening Standard. “But if you are travelling between Friday and Monday night please check your journey first, it may be that you’ll think twice about how you travel.” – Daily Telegraph

Business backers: One Tory signatory withdraws as they prepare to unveil a second tranche…

“The Conservatives are planning to publish more backing from business leaders closer to the election as the boss of a leading drugs company asked for his name to be withdrawn from a letter of support. It comes as the Labour party faced accusations of hypocrisy because a signatory of its counter letter has advertised unpaid internships and also oversaw a project employing staff on zero-hours contracts.” – The Times (£)

  • Two business leaders backing the Conservatives don’t pay the minimum wage – The Independent

…as one of Miliband’s few business backers loses temper on air when question on his own business practices

LABOUR holes“A business leader who signed a letter supporting Labour’s campaign against unfair employment contracts has been forced to defend his own company’s practices. Fashion designer Wayne Hemingway lost his temper during a BBC interview, when asked how he could back Labour and still use unpaid internships, which Ed Miliband has described as “exploitation”. “We have changed, so what? We realised it was wrong and we changed two years ago,” Mr Hemingway said. “Now we are paying for travel, food, we are paying for various things, and, in the future, we may even pay all our interns,” he added.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “We may even pay all our interns”, says Labour supporting businessman – The Independent

Meet the ‘ordinary workers’ backing Miliband’s contracts crusade

“Labour’s efforts to fight off accusations of hypocrisy on zero-hours contracts were in chaos last night. Party chiefs had scrambled to shore up support for Ed Miliband after it emerged that dozens of Labour councils and MPs employ staff on the controversial contracts, which he has pledged to ban. In a further blow, Parliament’s expenses watchdog rejected claims by Labour MPs that they employ staff on zero hours only because they are forced to by the Westminster system.” – Daily Mail

  • Labour forced to remove suspected benefits cheat from letter of support – Daily Telegraph
  • Unite faces embarrassment over claims it sacked activist who complained about zero-hours contract – Daily Mail
  • Union ‘hypocrisy’ over contracts – The Sun (£)


Martin Vander Weyer: Without business support Labour is unfit to govern

MILIBAND Red Ed“It was no surprise when Labour released a letter from 100 supporters on Wednesday, in response to the critical one from 103 business leaders this newspaper had already published. But the two lists don’t match: Labour’s contains a scattering of entrepreneurs and very few “business leaders” — alongside actors, media types and 50 people working on zero-hours contracts. It’s a contrast that makes a telling point about Ed Miliband’s bid for power: no party can be a serious contender for government unless it has the respect of the business community. Not the undying love or the unmixed admiration, but at least a working level of mutual understanding.” – Daily Telegraph

Vaz urges Muslim parents to ‘lock up’ their kids’ passports this weekend

“Muslim parents across Britain have been urged to “lock up” their kids’ passports this weekend — to prevent an Easter exodus to Syria. A day after nine Brits were arrested by Turkish authorities trying to cross into the country, former minister Keith Vaz said dramatic steps were urgently needed to prevent teenagers flocking to join IS. He told the Sun: “The first thing parents should do this weekend, keep hold of the passports of the children. “This is absolutely vital. Put them somewhere different, and put them under lock and key.”” – The Sun (£)

  • Labour councillor’s family detained in Turkey en route to Syria – The Times (£)

Balls sounds note of caution on HS2

BALLS Miliband pub“The HS2 rail project should not take priority over transport improvements in the north of England, the shadow chancellor has insisted. Ed Balls said he did not want to delay the second phase of the high-speed line from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, but had to be certain that the region was getting maximum benefit from public investment. George Osborne had challenged him to commit to the project in full after Mr Balls suggested it could be delayed or scaled back if he became chancellor.” – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Matthew Plummer in Comment: Yearn for the days of British Rail? Think again. Nationalised railways are a nightmare.

UKIP 1) Confusion mounts over migration policy

“Confusion over Ukip’s immigration policy grew yesterday after Nigel Farage called for the number of arrivals into Britain to be limited at 50,000 a year. But at the same time he claimed that overall caps on net migration – as pledged by the Tories – would be ‘ludicrous’ because it was impossible to stop people leaving the country. Ukip’s manifesto chief later added to the confusion by saying the 50,000 limit ‘might change every year’.” – Daily Mail

  • Farage warns migration cap is impossible, despite advocating it – The Independent
  • Leader changes flip-flop policy twice in ten minutes – The Sun (£)

UKIP 2) Farage admits that support has receded since 2014

UKIP glass“The UK Independence Party’s popularity has “dipped” since its extraordinary electoral success last year, Nigel Farage has admitted. The Ukip leader admitted in an interview that he would prefer people were worse off if it meant that immigration numbers were better controlled. Mr Farage said that the party’s popularity had slipped since its “remarkable” 2014 when it won the European Parliament elections and was left with its first two MPs. He told the BBC: “[The year] 2014 was remarkable. We won the European elections, we had two surprise defections, principled resignations and we won by-elections people didn’t think we could win. We have dipped a little bit since then.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Party leader accuses BBC of bias as he fights to ‘haul UKIP out of freefall’ – The Independent
  • Murray to sue Farage over election row – The Sun (£)
  • Tensions run high in UKIP target seat – The Times (£)


News in Brief:

  • Greenpeace tries to bury survey that reveals public support for fracking – Daily Mail
  • Greece draws up drachma plans and prepares to default – Daily Telegraph
  • EU rules require a £1bn increase in overseas aid in two years – The Times (£)
  • UK grants asylum to Russian dissident – Financial Times
  • ‘Framework’ nuclear deal struck with Iran – The Sun (£)
  • Former Tory MP founds the Northern Party – The Guardian
  • Oil strike in Falklands likely to escalate tensions with Argentina – Daily Mail

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