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Page last updated at 22:34 GMT, Thursday, 15 April 2010 23:34 UK

Election TV debate: The key moments

The key moments as Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg take part in Britain's first ever prime ministerial TV debate:


Many people on the left have called for a realignment of "progressive" politics in the UK, and Gordon Brown seemed to have heeded their call. Throughout the evening he seem to be at least as keen to stress his common ground with the Liberal Democrats as he was to attack the Conservatives. Repeatedly, Mr Brown stressed that Labour and the Lib Dems thought the same way on many issues, from political reform to social care.


The refrain "I agree with Nick" became Mr Brown's catchphrase for the evening. However, neither the recipient of his affections, nor his Conservative opponent seemed at all impressed.

Mr Clegg actually frowned at one point when Mr Brown stated for the second time that they were as one on reform of the parliamentary system. There was absolutely no sign that he was keen to forge a new Lib-Lab pact.

And Mr Cameron commented wryly during a section of the debate on the MPs' expenses scandal that there appeared to be a problem with Gordon saying Nick agrees with him, and Nick saying he doesn't.


While Gordon Brown held out the hand of friendship to Nick Clegg, he was keen to emphasise his differences with David Cameron.

In a series of clearly well-rehearsed put downs, he rounded on his Tory rival, in a form of what pundit Matthew Parris described as "shin-kicking in an un- prime-ministerial way".

He thanked Mr Cameron for putting up posters of him across the country smiling: "No newspaper has done as much for me in the last two years," he said.

On posters again: "You can't airbrush policy, like you do posters."

And Mr Brown challenged the Conservative leader repeatedly over whether he would match Labour plans for police spending, telling him: "It's answer time, not question time, David." There was little response from the audience.

For his part Mr Cameron looked faintly pained and irritated, but made no attempt to respond in similar fashion.


Mr Clegg knew the evening presented him with a golden opportunity to gain mass public exposure on an equal footing with his Tory and Labour counterparts, and most pundits agree that he took his chance well.

He made no attempt to side with either of his opponents, at one point during a debate on education policy commenting that: "The more they attack each other, the more they sound exactly the same."

Mr Clegg attacked the Conservatives for promising to balance the books, introduce tax cuts and pump funds into the NHS, and said Labour had failed on immigration and law and order.


The Tory leader seemed content to concentrate on policy, and, for the most part, avoided personal attack, despite repeated provocation from Mr Brown over spending.

He was at his most passionate when defending the NHS - "a wonderful, wonderful thing," he called it.

On education, he rounded on Mr Brown's claim that the Tories would starve schools of funding, accusing the Labour leader of completely inventing figures, which he had plucked out of thin air. He also said education policy was fundamentally wrong: "We are treating teachers like children, and children like teachers," he said.

He also attacked Mr Clegg for his "slightly holier than thou" attitude on immigration.


The debate about the economy was clearly seen as key by all three leaders.

Mr Cameron attacked Labour's plans to raise National Insurance contributions, warning that they would cost jobs. He also said Mr Brown was content to continue to waste money for another year before tackling the deficit.

Mr Brown countered by suggesting that taking money out of the economy now would run the risk of a "double dip" recession, and raised the spectre of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Pumping his fists, he warned the Tories were a "risk to the recovery in this country".

Mr Clegg accused his opponents of being obsessed by the idea that the deficit could be tackled by removing waste from the public sector. He said the problem could not be addressed by cutting the bill for "paper clips and pot plants in Whitehall."


All three leaders were quick to express their disgust over the MPs' expenses scandal.

Mr Clegg said the political classes still had not come clean, and until they did they could not expect to be embraced by the public at large.

Mr Brown said he was "shocked and sickened" by what went on. His parents had brought him up to behave much more responsibly, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron described the saga as a "horrendous episode".

The armed forces were also praised by each of the party leaders - although they were deeply divided on whether the military had been well-served by government.


Mr Clegg said there was an alternative to the two old parties. "Say yes to something new," he said.

Labour and the Tories have made the "same old mistakes over and over again," he said. "Despite all the problems and challenges we have, we can be hopeful about the future if we chose something different."

Mr Brown focused on the economy: "We have got to make a decision now about how we secure the recovery this year," he said, "whether we put money into the economy or take money out."

To take money out would risk repeating the mistakes of the 1930s and 1980s. The National Insurance rise was needed to secure the future for the NHS, policing and schools - in contrast the Conservatives could offer no guarantees on public services.

Mr Cameron accused his opponents of repeated attempts to "try to frighten you about a Conservative government."

He urged the voters to "choose hope over fear".

"We have incredibly optimistic plans for the future of our country. We need a government with the right values, and an understanding that we are all in this together."

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