Ed Miliband was judged the “winner” of the second TV debate of the General Election campaign in an instant poll conducted after he clashed with leaders of smaller parties who urged him to form a “progressive” coalition to run the country.
The debate saw Ms Sturgeon (SNP) alternately attacking and wooing the Labour leader, as she urged him to take part in a progressive alliance which would make his policies bolder. Mr Miliband hit back: “There is a “huge difference” between Tory cuts and Labour’s deficit reduction plans, he said, adding: “I’ve fought the Tories all my life, unlike the SNP. You’ve fought Labour all your life, Nicola. I just don’t buy it.”
And he issued a direct challenge to Mr Cameron – who was absent from the BBC showdown – to debate him head-to-head on TV before the May 7 election.“David, if you think this election is about leadership, then debate me one-on-one. I believe my ideas, my vision for the country are better for the working families of Britain. If you disagree, then prove it. Debate me and let the people decide.”
In an encouraging outcome for the Labour leader, some 45% of those who took part in the Survation poll after watching the debate said they would choose Mr Miliband in a straight choice for Prime Minister, against 40% for Mr Cameron. The Conservative leader came under attack for failing to attend the debate, with Mr Miliband saying he had “chosen not to defend his record”. Ms Sturgeon was applauded as she branded the Prime Minister’s absence a “disgrace”.
Speaking to the BBC after the programme, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said Mr Clegg wanted to take part in the debate but was “excluded from this debate by the broadcasters at David Cameron’s insistence”.