Election 2015: The Battle for Number 10 (Channel 4/Sky News)

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Channel 4 and Sky to broadcast special programme 'Cameron & Miliband Live: The Battle for Number 10'

Jeremy Paxman in great form as both Cameron and Miliband squirm


After all the dithering and pre-debate about the election debates, yesterday it was finally time to see what the broadcasters had managed to get past the Prime Minster. Instead of a head-to-head debate between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, Channel 4 and Sky News presented two separate in-depth interviews along with two sessions of questions from a studio audience.

The programme opened with Jeremy Paxman's return to interviewing with the Prime Minister looking for his chance to shine after ruling out the direct debate. However, he was noticeably nervous throughout; the lack of confidence particularly apparent when asked if he could live on a zero-hours contract, before finally admitting “no I couldn't” (although neither could you Jeremy!). Interestingly, Cameron attempted to robustly defend the government's record in Libya, despite the clear failure of NATO's intervention. "I'm not indispensable" was not the statesman like sign-off Cameron would have been hoping for, but it reiterated that he'll only be two term Prime Minster.

Between the interviews was the "town hall" style audience questions, essentially the debate without a debate. They really didn't add much, instead it allowed both party leaders to tow the party line on the important issues. Miliband promising a better future, as well as making two jokes about bacon sandwiches, and Cameron saying that the economy is safe in Tory's hands.

Finally, it was the Leader of the Opposition's turn to face Paxman. Miliband also noticeably struggled in the first part of his interview. Although he was pragmatic about the previous Labour government's mistakes and his own, he was on the ropes when questioned about their failings on immigration and over spending. Paxman hounded Miliband about Labour's dismal polling before he managed to stand up for himself, saying that Paxman doesn't decide the election "you're important Jeremy, but not that important" which elicited a ripple of applause from the audience. Miliband improved markedly after this, as if he suddenly realised he was in the middle of interview. He promised "hell yes I'm tough enough" to be Prime Minster, before the interview and the programme came to an end.

Initial reaction: Cameron looks like he made the right decision in not debating Miliband. The Leader of Opposition was impressive once he found his feet, where as Cameron look very nervous throughout. The programme was a poor substitute for a head-to-head debate, but Paxman was on fine form and gave them both a hard time.

Guardian / ICM poll: Cameron wins 54% to Miliband's 46%
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