BBC News: Election 2010 BBC News

The Full Election Story: 30 April

By Victoria King, Andy McFarlane, Lucy Wilkins and Will Smale
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  • Analysis of the third and final televised prime ministerial debate continues
  • Labour unveil a new set of campaign posters as Tony Blair rejoins the campaign trail
  • Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg addresses students in Leicester
  • David Cameron, the Conservative leader, visits schools in Staffordshire and Derby

2356The Times may have come out in favour of the Tories, and the Guardian is supporting the Lib Dems, but the latest polls continue to suggest a hung parliament is the likely result on 6 May. Saturday will see another full day of campaigning by the main parties.

2328The Guardian may be backing the Liberal Democrats, but it says it wants its readers to support Labour in marginal seats where voting Lib Dem could risk letting in the Tories.

2257maylor from Salford, UK tweets: Great quote on Newsnight - "The Tories will be squeezing Balls" Read maylor's tweets
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2248Gordon Brown may face renewed embarrassment about his "bigot" slur at the weekend. According to reports, the woman he insulted, Gillian Duffy, has sold her story to a Sunday newspaper.

2240The Guardian's endorsement of the Lib Dems is "an indication of how badly Labour is doing" says John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde.

2220Nick Clegg says the Lib Dems are now aiming to add more than 100 MPs to the 63 they got in the 2005 general election. He also says the Tories' opposition to political reform is "the biggest strategic error" David Cameron has ever made.

2211LongJumpKonan writes: This debate was very interesting because they revealed some aspects of what they want to do if they become prime minister. Gordon Brown seemed very sensible to me because in such difficult times it is important that the leader of the country is skilled and experienced. Nick Clegg seemed also fairly acceptable to me and what he said made sense. Only David Cameron didn't convince me because he contradicted himself many times during the debate.
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2205Two of the latest polls show that only 5% separates the parties in first and third place, while in the other the gap is just 4%, says David Cowling, editor of BBC political research. "All three polls keep this election firmly in hung parliament territory, with Labour the largest party," he says. "It is still a genuinely close three-horse race."

2154Nick Clegg says the Lib Dems have taken Labour's place in UK politics. He tells the Guardian that the choice for the electorate is now between his party and the Tories.

2143BNP leader Nick Griffin says many unemployed British people are "lazy" and should be "forced to get a job". Speaking to the BBC's Campaign Show, he adds that the party's immigration policy is very simple. "What the British people want is the door shut and that is what we will give them," he says.

2126David Miliband brushes off the fact the Guardian has come out in support of the Lib Dems. "Newspapers don't have votes, people have votes," he says. "People are perfectly able to tell the difference between political propaganda and news."

2121Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy appears to be at odds over VAT with his party's Treasury spokesman, says the BBC's Sean Curran. Mr Kennedy told BBC Radio 4's Any Questions that the party would not raise VAT. Vince Cable said on Thursday that he couldn't rule out an increase.

2117Labour's support has fallen to 24% following Gordon Brown's "bigot" gaffe, according to a poll for the Daily Mail. It puts the Tories on 33% and the Lib Dems on 32%.

2108The Lib Dems have described the Guardian's endorsement for the party as "a very important moment". "As the momentum behind our campaign continues to build, people who seek a fairer Britain know this election is now a two-horse race between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats," they say.

2100Labour candidate Tom Harris tweets: The Guardian supporting the LibDems? Which wood? What bear? THE POPE'S A WHAT???!!! Read TomHarris4MP's tweets
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2054deemiller writes: I believed in Gordon Brown, he was informative on all issues, and I really believe this man is the one to steer us through the economic recovery. Nick Clegg said he would give everyone a £10,000 tax allowance per annum, but he wasn't very clear about what percent he would put on the rest of one's income, or how many tiers of tax there would be. As for David Cameron, I remember it was the Conservatives who put an end to apprenticeships and instead created the dreaded YTS which was a total disaster. On May 6th I will be voting LABOUR - common sense must prevail.
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2049The Guardian's deputy editor Michael White says the newspaper's support for the Lib Dems does come with caveats. He says they are wrongly a "middle of the road, middle-class party" when it comes to policies on tackling poverty.

2044axelsegebrecht from Woking, UK tweets: Should the media be taking sides? Read axelsegebrecht's tweets
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2026Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy has been pushing the party's commitment to proportional representation. "David Cameron says we have a broken society, I don't think we have a broken society, I think we have a broken political system that fails to represent the country properly in parliament," he says.

2019The Times newspaper has come out in support of the Conservatives for the first time in 18 years. In an editorial, it says Labour "is tired, defensive and ruinously reliant on higher government spending". "David Cameron has shown the fortitude, judgment and character to lead this country back to a healthier, stronger future," it adds.

2011The Tories' Michael Gove says the UK was so ill-prepared to cope with the recession because the Labour government didn't put any money away during the good times. "When the house is on fire don't ask the arsonist to put it out," he adds.

2000Andrew Gamble, the head of the department of politics at Cambridge University, says David Cameron "should be winning this election by a mile". He adds: "The fact that they're not is deeply troubling for the Conservatives. Clegg is spoiling the party for them."

1942Charles Lewington, former head of press at the Conservatives, says there a lot of undecided voters, so the remaining days are a chance for the parties to persuade them. The Labour Party should learn from the 1997 election to "keep it together" and not have a leadership contest in the run-up to the poll, he advises.

1940Anthony Howard, political journalist, remembers when the nation watched riveted by party political broadcasts. Not this time though, as the TV debates have submerged everything else, he says.

1931Having supported proportional representation for more than a century, the Guardian says it believes it could give the country a government which is a "true mirror of this pluralist nation, not an increasingly unrepresentative two-party distortion of it."

1907The Guardian newspaper gives its support to the Liberal Democrats, saying if it had a vote it would cast it "enthusiastically" for them.

1900"Look, people say things in the heat of the moment, when you get angry, and you've got to apologise for it," says Gordon Brown. He was responding to a question from Jeremy Paxman about his branding of lifelong Labour voter Gillian Duffy as "bigoted". The PM says he misunderstood her remarks on immigration: "I thought she was talking about expelling all university students from here who were foreigners. I misunderstood it." Watch the rest of the interview on BBC1 at 8.30pm.

1845jml1970 writes: Will be interesting to see how UKIP and BNP poll this time, since immigration has become more of an issue than the politicos expected. None of Tories/Labour/Lib Dems has any policies beyond fiddling around the edges, and UKIP/BNP are now the only parties which reflect the views of those with a fairly robust anti-immigration stance.
Have Your Say
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1835Fancy coordinating your outfit with your voting choice next Thursday? Well, check out Vogue for some tips. A pair of canary yellow platforms to cheer on Clegg? A masculine-style blazer in bright red for Brown? Or a blue striped dress to champion Cameron? But if your preference is for none-of-the-above, would that mean going to work in your birthday suit? Vogue is silent on that one.

1822Conservative plans for a cap on immigration are "unworkable", says Jean Lambert, Green Party MEP. "We have international obligations for those seeking sanctuary. So asylum cases - you never know what you've got. And if you're looking at the economic side of it, you need a system that is more flexible than simply putting a cap on it."

1812Alastair Campbell has hit out at claims he was overheard saying "we've had it now" after last night's debate. The former Labour communications chief said the rumour was spread by "desperate" Tories. He says he was talking about his favourite football team, Burnley. But while Burnley have been relegated, Fulham's Europa League win on Thursday evening might have been expected to cheer Mr Campbell, because it means his club is in with a chance of qualifying for next year's competition.

1801The Lib Dems' election broadcast tonight stars members of the public who signed up as supporters on Facebook. The party says Nick Clegg has garnered more than 50,000 fans on the social networking site - up from just over 13,000 before the first televised debate.

1752Earlier, I mentioned reports that more powers might be devolved to London Mayor Boris Johnson if the Tories win next week. Well, BBC Wales editor Betsan Powys says it looks like Wales and Scotland could get more might too. She says proposals - including devolving responsibility for policing and economic regeneration - could apparently make it into David Cameron's first Queen's Speech, if he is elected.

1742Gordon Brown "deserves to be driven from office" for failing to properly equip the armed forces during his time as chancellor and prime minister, former Tory defence secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind says. On the campaign trail in Stirling, Sir Malcolm accused Mr Brown of being "mean" towards the troops.

1734"Why did the PM not defend Labour's record?" asks Mehdi Hasan, in the New Statesman. He says he waited in vain during the TV debate for Gordon Brown to list some of Labour's "proudest achievements" - "the minimum wage, paid holidays, international aid, lifting British children out of poverty, improving schools and hospitals, peace in Northern Ireland" - but he didn't. "It's not enough only attack your opponent - you have to point out what you've done and how you've helped people," he thinks.

1725Police in Northern Ireland are to launch a major security operation in the run-up to polling day amid fears of a dissident republican attack. Deputy chief constable Judith Gillespie says the public should expect more roadside checks and additional patrols in the coming days. "We want to make sure that everybody goes about their democratic right to vote in a way that protects their safety and protects their security," she added.

1717Nick Clegg's use of an inaccurate statistic to attack David Cameron last night has led me to some immigration data which calls into question the rhetoric of all three big Westminster parties on the subject, says the BBC's home editor Mark Easton. Read Mark Easton's blog

1709"We can forget about a Labour government, so a tactical vote may be our best shot at avoiding unfettered Tory rule," writes Julian Baggini, in the Guardian. He continues: "Right now, the only realistic result that provides hope for the next few years is one in which the Liberal Democrats come out strongly, and the Conservatives are denied full control of the reins of power."

1701David Cameron says he does not accept the suggestion said to have been made by Bank of England governor Mervyn King that the scale of the economic pain ahead means whoever wins this election could be kicked out of office at the next one and would then stay out for many years. The BBC's Carole Walker says Mr Cameron told Radio 5 live that if you take people with you, take other political parties with you, it would not necessarily mean you would be unpopular in the long term.

1653Michael Tew, from Sheringham, Norfolk, writes: In all the debate so little has been said about Afghanistan. Why should we succeed where 113,000 Russians failed? It is not our war and our presence is likely to incite acts of terrorism here. How many millions and, more importantly, dozens of lives would be saved by our withdrawal?
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1642The Conservatives have unveiled a "contract" listing 16 policy pledges they promise to keep if they win power. The party says it will stick to its plans on the economy, health, education and benefits. Mr Cameron says the leaflet, which will be sent to two million homes in target constituencies, would get people behind his ideas for a "big society".

1631Kevin Wu, from London, writes: The UK election seems fairly undemocratic because Labour could have the third of the votes and the most seats in the House and because if I am in a very safe seat my vote counts for nothing if I choose an alternative party. However, I like having an MP for my constituency as it gives a clear link from the House to the public.
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1625"You can actually see the moment when his political career leaves his body," jokes US comedian Jon Stewart, on last night's The Daily Show. He's been giving his own inimitable take on the moment Gordon Brown was made to listen back to the comments he made about voter Gillian Duffy. Stewart also takes a dig at David Cameron's outrage over Labour claims that the Tories would scrap free bus passes for the elderly. "The heirs now to Churchill, Gladstone and Disraeli are fighting over the 70p fare."

1616"We want to have an earned route to regularisation," says Lib Dem Chris Huhne, explaining his party's plan for an amnesty for illegal immigrants. "If they haven't got a criminal record and they're prepared to do a probationary, two-year period, it seems to us that's a way of bringing them out of the shadows and making sure that they pay tax."

1611John Hari, in the Independent, says that "Cameron is concealing his inner Bush". He writes: "A leader describing himself as a 'compassionate Conservative' is on the brink of victory. He has shown his party has changed. He puts his black and Asian supporters out front. It is the year 2000, and his name is George W Bush. It's no surprise to discover that George Osborne said in 2002 that 'we have much to learn from Bush's compassionate conservatism'."

1604BNP leader Nick Griffin has admitted that a claim in his manifesto - that Britain is the most densely populated country in Europe - is wrong. "In fact, it's England and Wales. England and Wales are more overcrowded than anywhere in Europe except for Malta," he has told BBC Radio 4. "It's a fault in the manifesto. I blame the proof reader."

1558Iain Martin, from the Wall Street Journal, is musing over what will happen if Labour lose the election. He writes: "The Labour family is starting to realise that if it is out of power it would need a caretaker leader in place quickly. In this context, I hear the name of Alistair Darling being mentioned increasingly as the interim option."
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1552"If we don't' succeed, kick us out," says Mr Cameron. He's now being asked questions about his education policies. To one audience member, he says he can't guarantee not to cut the overall budget, but promises to keep money going to the frontline where it is most needed. Asked about testing for primary schools, he says there's too much right now, but doesn't want to abolish it altogether - "a simple pencil and paper test" for seven-year-olds to check progress on literacy is a good "old-fashioned" idea.

1546Downing Street Fighter - an online game with an election twist - is currently the most talked about thing on Twitter. The three main party leaders fight it out in the game and, since 'BigotGate,' a fourth character has been introduced - Gillian Duffy. Play Downing Street Fighter
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1542David Cameron is at an education meeting in Sheffield. Now we're in the final stages of the election campaign, he says, the big question is, how do we bring about change in this country? He's interrupted full-flow by a chattering child. "You've got the answer," jokes Mr Cameron. He goes on to talk about the biggest worry he thinks you have as a parent - getting a good school place for your child.

1538Vince Cable is unimpressed with a warning from the banks that tighter regulation could lead to a double-dip recession. "Given the scale of the bailout the financial sector has received from the taxpayer, this kind of scaremongering from the City is simply whingeing," says the Lib Dem Treasury spokesman.

1533Leaving a Nottinghamshire school on the Labour leader's tour, we witness another literal rather than metaphorical car crash at a nearby roundabout, says the BBC's Iain Watson, One of those days!
Iain Watson

1529The Christian People's Alliance will launch their manifesto tomorrow under the title Not by Bread Alone. The party are fielding 150 local and parliamentary candidates, and says the "same spirit of love and service" shown by churches across the UK underlies their policies. "As with the work of the churches, the seriousness of our endeavour in the CPA is easily overlooked by an increasingly secular society", leader David Campanale says.

1520Thousands of postal votes in the Vale of Glamorgan constituency in south Wales may have been invalidated due to a basic error on the form, reports the BBC's Toby Mason. The postal voting slips advised voters there was no need for their signature - but in fact, their votes will not count unless they are signed. The council has been forced to send out new postal ballots to all those who received the original forms, and the parties contesting the election have expressed concern and disappointment at the situation. The marginal constituency is a key Conservative target, with Labour fighting hard to retain its hold.

1516NewViking writes: How far back do Mr Griffin and his followers have to go before they find an immigrant in their own families? Not far I would think.
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1509"Tony Blair's back. But it's too late for Labour", writes Michael White, in the Guardian. Of course, it's not over until the last vote is counted, he says, "but Cleggmania is settling down and bookmakers are slashing the odds on a majority Tory government".

1504Just spotted: A van emblazoned with English Democrat Party slogans, blaring out strains of Jerusalem from its stereo system as it negotiates a lap of Parliament Square in central London. Some of the French and Spanish tourists looking a little nonplussed.

1457Mr Brown is asked by one pupil why he went into politics - he says he saw unemployment around him as he was growing up and wanted to do something to help. He then asks the children what subjects they like at school and what they want to do when they grow up. One says he wants to be an inventor and invent a time machine. Mr Brown says he could introduce the boy to Doctor Who - quite a claim, but then several Doctors have backed Labour's election bid.

1449Gordon Brown has arrived at a school in Blidworth, Nottinghamshire. The pupils are holding their own mock election and Mr Brown is introduced to the 10-year-old Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem "candidates".

1444A lot of people will be casting their votes by post this weekend so it's important for the leaders to really drive home some strong messages today and tomorrow to try to sway them, says the BBC's political correspondent Gary O'Donoghue.
Gary O'Donoghue

1435One innovation has been the way a growing number of people have followed the TV debates via two screens - a laptop perched on their knees as they sit in front of the television, connecting with social networks to comment live on what they're seeing. This has made possible an industry of what's being called "sentiment analysis", which attempts to understand what has been said online. Read Rory Cellan-Jones's blog
Rory Cellan-Jones

1430The BBC's Fiona Trott says Mr Clegg did get a few boos when he entered the Crucible arena - it is in a Labour-supporting part of Sheffield, after all. But the Lib Dem leader did get a laugh - he made reference to "that gaffe that everyone's been talking about". But it wasn't Gordon Brown's "bigot" remark as the audience might have expected - it was the mistake made by a Crucible announcer earlier this week when he called Dennis Taylor out to the table, rather than the actual player Steve Davis.

1424Nick Clegg is speaking to snooker fans at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. He tells them he was trying to think up links between the sport and politics - "Brown's been snookered," he suggests. But then he says he realised "the blue's worth more than the yellow" so he put a stop to any analogies there.

1407"This race is wide open," says Labour's election coordinator Douglas Alexander - and "it's open to the Labour Party to win", he adds. But standing alongside him, Conservative chairman Eric Pickles says he's feeling "slightly perky" after watching "a master class of smear and negative campaigning" from Gordon Brown during last night's debate.

1400BNP leader Nick Griffin tells BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine show that one of his candidates should be sacked for displaying SS insignia. Colin Marsh, who's standing in the Cheshire seat of Weaver Vale, has the insignia, and symbols of the neo-Nazi group Combat 18, on his Facebook page. "If that's genuine and he's put those on, he's going to be thrown out because those organisations are proscribed to members of the British National Party," Mr Griffin says.

1352Attacks on Nick Clegg from the Daily Mail, the Sun and the Daily Telegraph actually make people more likely to vote for him, according to a poll for the blog Lib Dem Voice. Writer Mark Pack says that given the public's lack of trust much in the written press, "the end result may be that the newspapers fail to damage Nick Clegg's reputation but end up damaging their own".

1343Trying to stifle thoughts of lycra and underpants over trousers here after reading today's London Evening Standard headline - "Boris Johnson to get 'superpowers' if Tories win election". The paper says Boris could "be responsible for a £16 billion budget for areas including the capital's transport network, policing and economic regeneration", making him the second most powerful mayor in the world after New York's Michael Bloomberg.

1336Bookmakers William Hill say they've taken "a flood of bets for a Tory outright victory" following the third TV debate. They now make David Cameron 8/13 favourite to become PM, with Gordon Brown on 13/8 and Nick Clegg on 7/1.

1331Synthjock tweets: On the evidence of last night, Tories are targeting the 'bigot vote'. Feeling strong compulsion to emigrate. Read Synthjock's tweets
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1325"Find me an opposition that has gone further", says David Cameron, when he is accused by the BBC's Jeremy Vine of not saying enough about his planned spending cuts. He says a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, criticising all three parties' silence on that front, didn't take into account the fact that the Tories would start cutting sooner than their rivals. "We're on a slightly different track to what the IFS were commenting on," Mr Cameron adds.

1318Nick Clegg has apologised for using the word "nutters" during the first prime ministerial debate. Jonathan Naess, director of mental health charity Stand to Reason, wrote to the Lib Dem leader after he used what he called "inappropriate" language. Mr Clegg has now written back saying sorry. He said he was "acutely aware that the stigma of mental health causes great distress to many people" and his use of "language that could be considered derogatory was entirely unintentional".

1306Asked about small businesses in Morley, James Monaghan for the Lib Dems says he doesn't know why his Conservative rival has been claiming that he has to "fix" the town centre because to him it appears "thriving". UKIP's David Daniel says his party would divert money spent on the EU to local firms.

1302 Protest Voter writes: All the election coverage is now of no interest to me - I have already submitted my postal vote. Rather than squander my democratic right on any of the candidates, I decided to undertake the only sensible option: I have voted for nobody, I spoiled my ballot paper.
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1259Taking the mic from Ed Balls, Conservative candidate for Morley and Outwood Antony Calvert says his party will stop Britain "going the way of Greece and Portugal", financially-speaking. The BNP's Chris Beverley says the "old parties" offer the country nothing new.

1255Schools Secretary Ed Balls is at a soapbox event in Morley, West Yorkshire. He spends a while warning about cuts under a Tory government before being "timed out". Onlookers shout him down as he tried to continue and hands the mic to his Conservative rival.

1251Mr Brown says athletes need an "inner reservoir of determination and resilience" to overcome challenges and succeed at their events - and says he'll need the same over the next few days.

1249The prime minister earns warm applause for listing the number of major sporting events coming to the UK over the next decade - and saying he will do everything to support England's bid to secure the 2018 football World Cup.

1246 Suumac tweets: Not sure having Blair on the Labour trail is a good thing...too many raw feelings still associated with his name. Read Suumac's tweets
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1245"As Nick Clegg's bus pulled into a clock making factory in Derby, a mobile poster truck parked up outside," says the BBC's Daniel Grant. "It read 'we don't know how many illegal immigrants there are but you're welcome to stay. And bring a mate - the Lib Dem manifesto 2010'."

1243Gordon Brown is on a running track with young athletes at a school in Loughborough in the Midlands. He's wearing a suit, though, so we don't imagine he'll be breaking into a sprint.

1241Mr Salmond says Scotland needs power to control taxation so that it can "close the London black hole" in finances. He says he's asked shadow chancellor George Osborne three times whether any cut in funding for Scotland under a Tory government would be achieved through agreement - as is currently the case - but got no reply. Mr Wyn Jones says Plaid would support calls for fiscal independence for Scotland and demand a new formula to provide funding for Wales.

1233 The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones says: A number of people using Twitter have responded to what they see as the anti-immigration tone of last night's debate by tweeting their support for immigrants. The hashtag #iloveimmigrants is currently the second most popular trending topic on Twitter in the UK, and appears in tweets such as: "You'd think from the #leadersdebate that it's the norm to be anti-immigrants in the UK". Read Rory Cellan-Jones's tweets
Rory Cellan-Jones

1230SNP and Plaid would act as "parties of principle" in Westminster on issues such as the replacement of the Trident nuclear deterrent, says Mr Salmond. Mr Wyn Jones adds that "the greater the vote" for the nationalists, "the better the deal for Scotland and Wales".

1226The SNP and Plaid Cymru are holding a joint-press conference in central London. Plaid's Ieuan Wyn Jones says the Lib Dems are "not reliable" in coalition. Meanwhile, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond points to the achievements of the Scottish and Welsh nationalists in working with other parties to achieve results.

1223Nick Clegg is just down the road from the Conservative leader at a factory in Derby. A lady asks why sports were not discussed in the prime ministerial debates. The Lib Dem leader says it was not selected as one of the questions by the TV companies but says sport is important in helping children develop self-respect, as he discovered on a visit to a boxing club in the city. Mr Clegg adds that the country should do more to protect its school playing fields.

1216 The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg tweets: Cameron suggests troops should come home from Afghanistan in next parliament - not sure he has been that clear before about timing. Read Laura Kuenssberg's tweets
Laura Kuenssberg

1215Tony Blair is one of the only people who can afford another Labour government, says David Cameron. He adds that he's glad the former PM is back in the country because he's very good for sales of the fizzy orange drink, Tango. A catty reference to Mr Blair's tan, methinks.

1213A teenager asks Mr Cameron a tricky one about whether he'll be cutting funding from GP services or walk-in health centres. The Conservative leader says he suspects the youngster has been reading one of "Mr Brown's campaign leaflets" and that he's been telling people all over the country that Labour's claims aren't true. Turns out Mr Cameron didn't escape the worst of the grillings when he finished his Paxman interview after all.

1203"So, 'Time for a change' and 'Don't risk it' are the two most powerful messages in politics. What makes the last week of this election so interesting is that both are embodied in the figure of Gordon Brown." Read Nick Robinson's blog
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1200"We have got to make sure we train people in this country to do jobs that are available in this country," Mr Cameron tells a youngster who asked about skilled jobs and immigration. He tells another pupil that he wants to bring home troops from Afghanistan "as soon as we can" but says we have to train the Afghan army and police so that the country is safe and able to prevent terrorist plots from being developed before we leave.
David Cameron

1156David Cameron is visiting a secondary school in Derby, where he shakes the hands of pupils swarming around the central stairs. He's just watched youngsters taking part in their own election debate. Now, he's taking questions from Year 11 pupils about how best to ensure school leavers have jobs.

1152We won't know the true effect of last night's TV debate until the weekend's opinion polls are published, according to the head of the BBC's political research unit David Cowling. "Since the first debate we have been stuck firmly in hung parliament territory," he says. "If the polls [so far] are correct, we still have a genuine three-horse race of the sort I've never seen in my lifetime," adding that the electoral system will make it difficult for the Lib Dems to translate votes into seats. He also cautions against expecting the debate to have too dramatic an effect, saying that despite blanket media coverage of Gordon Brown's gaffe in Rochdale, the first poll afterwards showed no impact on Labour's standing.

1139Footage of Mr Blair's campaign visit is released. In it, the former prime minister says that when you come to a "groundbreaking" clinic like the one he toured, you realise how Labour have "changed the health service dramatically" and that people's minds will focus on what they can still do for the country. He denies that Gordon Brown failed during the TV debates and says Labour has "every chance" of succeeding if the focus is on policy - who's best for the economy, investment in schools and policies on crime.

1135More balloons and placards - but this time they're blue. Conservatives in Harrow have taken a leaf from the book of those cheeky Labour supporters who hijacked Nick Clegg's appearance in Leicester. As Tony Blair's car leaves Harrow, he's waved off by a cluster of placard-waving Tories.

1129"The crowds are getting bigger at every step for Nick Clegg on this campaign trail," says the BBC's Mike Sergeant. "So big, that most of them couldn't hear a word he said."
Mike Sergeant

1124Tony Blair's efforts to support the Labour cause seem to involve having his blood pressure taken. The nurse asks him whether it will be higher than Gordon's - Mr Blair replies that "it's a difficult job being prime minister".

1122 Philip Stephens at the Financial Times doesn't think any winners emerged from last night's debate. He writes: "The third and final of these encounters should have been the best. It was about the issue that matters most to the voters: the economy. What they saw were three, rather shifty, politicians running away from the truth." Philip Stephens's blog at the Financial Times
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1119 "The Conservatives have again bought the term 'TV debate' on Google to promote their claim that David Cameron won last night's debate," says the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones. "A search for 'TV debate' now produces a sponsored link at the top of the page reading 'Cameron wins TV Debate' and 'YouGov snap poll: Cameron 41% Clegg 32%, Brown last on 25%'."
Rory Cellan-Jones

1116Darren Johnson, for the Green Party, is confident of winning a few seats. "The Greens may have been kept out of the leadership debate but there's no need for us to be kept out of Parliament," he says. However, he warns that taxes will need to rise for the highest earners. Mr Johnson adds that this will benefit society because: "The bigger the gap between rich and poor, the more problems you have in terms of health, crime and anti-social behaviour."

1110Last week it was Sean Connery, this week the SNP are putting another of their celebrity supporters centre stage. Elaine C Smith - that's Rab C Nesbitt's long-suffering wife, Mary, if you weren't sure - is joining party leader Alex Salmond at a hustings in Dundee this evening. "I'll be bringing the first minister to Dundee so that you can quiz him directly on the issues that matter to you," says the star. "And where the TV stations won't let you laugh or clap, this will be the audience's show as much as anyone else's."

1059Conservative party chairman Eric Pickles is pleased with Cameron's performance last night. He tweets: Conservative canvassers can go on the knocker with renewed pride - David showed he has the energy/leadership/values to be a great PM. Read Eric Pickles's tweets
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1057Tony Blair - complete with trademark grin - has arrived at a health clinic in north-west London. As he steps from his car, the former prime minister ignores a questioner who asks whether he is "Gordon Brown's last chance".

1054While the three largest parties in Westminster fend off criticism over their lack of detail on spending cuts, the Scottish National Party propose a "three-prong" approach which preserves government stimulus until the threat of recession has gone - and then implements cuts. BBC Scotland's business and economy editor Douglas Fraser finds the nationalists in optimistic form.

1050Nick Clegg, still plagued by Vote Labour placards at Leicester's De Montford University, again defends his immigration policy. He tells the BBC that Lib Dem plans to give illegal immigrants who have been in the country 10 years an "earned citizenship" would not add to the population. "This is an invisible problem. It's people living in the shadows of society. They are here already," says, adding that he can't give an estimate of the numbers involved because no-one knows how many people there are in this situation.

1035Bertie Hanson writes: I am most definitely not changing my voting preference. It's Labour. I come from near Rochdale, and I sincerely hope that no-one is diverted by the 'bigot' reports. I don't mean to offend, but bigotry is alive and well in this country. Let's see the debate turn to the economy. Much respect on that to Gordon Brown.
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1025Phil from Abingdon writes: I am still a very undecided voter. All I know is that I intend to vote in this election. I am not alone among my peers - for the first time since I can remember (I am 31) everyone is talking about the election. Go into any pub or coffee bar and it is the primary topic of conversation.
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1022Prime Minister Gordon Brown has another chance to put forward Labour's case on the economy when his interview with the BBC's Jeremy Paxman completes the series of Panorama election specials when it is broadcast this evening on BBC One at 2030 BST. Messrs Cameron and Clegg have already undergone a grilling from the Newsnight interviewer.

1016"Ten-year-old Kaylei Hendon asked David Cameron how he felt after last night's debate. He said 'quite tired actually'. Mr Cameron said it was very hot under the lights, he was quite pleased it was all over but he'd enjoyed it, adding 'It was a really exciting challenge'," reports the BBC's Carole Walker.
Carole Walker

1012Mr Cameron jokes with some of the school's youngsters who explain they are writing a story about Superman. When a little girl tells him the super hero is a newspaper reporter in his other life, the Conservative leader speculates that one of the gathered press corps might put on a cape and fly off home at night.

1009Duncan from Bristol writes: As a 29 year old living in Bristol, which is a very liberal city, I feel the Liberal Democrats have been seriously underestimated. I think we're set to see a very large turn out on polling day, particularly from people under 30. I certainly will be voting LibDems both for my MP and local councillor.
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1007No such distractions for David Cameron so far. He's been chatting to youngsters at Western Springs Community Primary in Staffordshire. One little girl awaiting the Conservative leader's arrival said she was so excited about meeting him, she thought she was going to faint, according to the BBC's Vikki Clein.

1004Mr Clegg ignores the Labour supporters and repeats his promises to bring fairness to taxation and clean up politics. Lib Dems will create "a fair economy with growth that lasts for everyone," he says. With a glance at the Labour placards behind him, he says he welcomes anybody from whatever party they supported in the past to vote Lib Dem.

0959Labour are getting their own back. Nick Clegg clambered off his battle bus and onto a wall to speak to students in Leicester to be greeted by a large "I agree with Nick" placard. Sadly for the Lib Dem leader, as he begins his speech, four mischievous scamps hold up signs saying "Vote Labour" behind his back - right in view of the TV cameras. Student pranks, eh?

0956It transpires there was an unwelcome distraction for Labour's top brass at their poster launch. While the prime minister was speaking, there was a loud bang which turned out to be a car crash - with a vehicle smashing into a bus stop. Will tomorrow's sketch writers have some fun with that?

0952Last night's final prime ministerial debate drew a peak audience of eight million viewers, according to overnight viewing figures.

0950Asked if this was the final meeting of his cabinet, Gordon Brown says: "The reason members of the cabinet are here today is that we're all determined to fight for the future. We know what the future means under a Conservative government and we have a duty to tell people... what the threat and the risk will be." People will decide the future is safer under Labour, he adds.

0945 MichaelBoyd from Grantham writes: I was going to vote for Lib Dems but last night's debate has convinced me to back the Tories. Clegg has run out of steam and the thought of having Gordon Brown as prime minister unelected once may be regarded as a misfortune; to have him unelected twice just looks like carelessness.
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0944David Cameron has also arrived at his campaigning venue for the morning. He's at a school in Cannock Chase, Staffordshire.

0940Lord Mandelson praises the "fighting" performance of Gordon Brown in the debate. He calls on canvassers to make clear the choice between Labour protecting child trust funds and Conservative "tax giveaways" for millionaires. The PM says the time for debating has finished. He says the future of schools, healthcare, tax credits and police numbers are "on the ballot paper".

0937"Don't forget to vote Labour, mum" - The theme of Labour's new selection of posters is unveiled. Senior cabinet members arrive in front of the hoardings to cheers from the gathered party faithful and Harriet Harman explains that the posters - slogans printed in a childlike scrawl - represent Labour's pledges to protect families in the future.

0922Gordon Brown has arrived at Labour's morning campaign event, where they are launching a new poster. We've not had a glimpse of the poster yet but there are an awful lot of red balloons.

0918Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones says he heard nothing last night to convince him to support any of the three big parties in the event of a hung parliament. "They didn't actually tell me what they would be doing for the Welsh economy," he says. "We want to make sure there's a fair funding formula for Wales. We also want to protect the vulnerable. I didn't hear them really saying last night that they were going to do anything particularly for pensioners."

0906"Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper have arrived at Gordon Brown's hotel," reports the BBC's Liz Shaw. "When asked how last night had been, they responded simultaneously. 'Very good', they said. Douglas Alexander arrived a little earlier."

0904Green Party deputy leader Adrian Ramsay says there was one vital question the prime ministerial candidates failed to answer: "Why are we still importing such huge amounts of goods from half-way around the world when we could be growing them locally and manufacturing them locally? That's how to create the new jobs for the future. We need investment in apprenticeships, in training for young people, we can create those jobs... if we have Greens in Westminster pushing the other parties in the right direction."

0855Columnist Jonathan Freedland, writing in the Guardian, is in no doubt what the eventual outcome of the final TV debate will be. While Gordon Brown performed solidly, he says, "barring an earthquake, David Cameron is on his way to No 10".

0850David Cameron says he is "very focused" on the next week. The Conservative leader tells BBC Radio WM in Birmingham that the Tories have to fight for every vote and every seat, and that he would be doing everything he could in the next six days to say to people: "If you want real change, if you want to wake up on Friday 7 May with a different government, with a new prime minister, taking the country in a new direction, then please vote Conservative." He said the election was "still far from won".

0831While the party campaigners continue their now-familiar squabble over who "won" the debate, Times columnist Matthew Parris is in no doubt as to who the real winner was - the inventor of television, John Logie Baird. He says: "Who would have thought that at the beginning of the 21st century we would be playing out this political battle in what - for all its novelty - is really so ancient a format?"

0822Ben Page, from pollsters Ipsos Mori, says: "46% of people say they still could change their mind before polling day, so it's by no means a done deal. It's all to play for. The parties are still, just about, neck-and-neck. The Conservatives, of course, have a small lead but not enough to avoid a hung parliament."

0818"This remains a very unpredictable contest and we don't know what we're going to be facing next Friday after the votes come in," says BBC political correspondent Ben Wright.
Ben Wright

0806Looking at some of the reaction to the debate in the papers, the Financial Times has a photo of all three leaders standing on one leg while on stage and says the debate left David Cameron as "the clear election frontrunner". Mr Brown's "aggressive tone" may have "backfired" with voters, says the Guardian, which adds that Nick Clegg "seemed to struggle to impose himself". The Daily Express says Mr Cameron is "on the threshold of Downing Street" after a "total triumph" last night.

0801Vince Cable says David Cameron has been "foolish" to rule out Britain ever joining the euro, although the Lib Dem Treasury spokesman admits it would be "completely inappropriate" at the moment. "The conditions do not exist for entry now and we are not promoting it now, but clearly we can't rule it out for ever," he tells BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

0754Discussion continues over who won last night's debate and Labour's election co-ordinator Douglas Alexander says David Cameron's performance was "curious". Former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown reckons the series has "gone to Nick", while shadow foreign secretary William Hague says the Lib Dems came out of it "rather flakily" on topics like an asylum for illegal immigrants. No surprises there, then.

0748Asked whether any future Conservative government would have a mandate to take a measure such as raising VAT, given that it wasn't discussed during the TV debates, shadow foreign secretary William Hague tells BBC Radio 4's Today programme they have no plans to raise VAT. "Whoever wins the election, there would at some course during that parliament be financial measures that haven't been debated during the election campaign," he says, adding that the only known plan to raise VAT was one considered - and later abandoned - by Chancellor Alistair Darling before last year's Budget.

0648Former PM Tony Blair is joining Labour figures on the campaign trail today - Douglas Alexander tells GMTV the party is looking forward to bringing "stars not just of our past" but from the current Cabinet too. William Hague says it will just remind people of "13 wasted years" under Labour.

0646Lib Dem Ed Davey tells GMTV the election is becoming a "two horse race" and there was one loser last night - that was Gordon Brown, he says. Labour's election co-ordinator Douglas Alexander says the instant polls "come and go pretty quickly" and Mr Brown had "dominated the debate" on the key issues of tax and the recovery. He said the other candidates had slogans - Mr Brown had a plan. For the Tories, William Hague says Mr Cameron won on style and substance and showed a "real sense" of how to get the economy moving and jobs growing. He says 31% of immigrants into Britain come from the EU - not the 80% Nick Clegg said last night when querying the Tories' proposed immigration cap.

0634Up bright and early in Birmingham is BBC political correspondent Ben Wright - he says the arguments last night were sharp and had more passion than perhaps we've had in the previous two weeks. Mr Brown was urging people not to vote Conservative and got across his attack lines - but the fact the polls seem to put him in third will be a serious concern to Labour. Today programme political correspondent Norman Smith also had an early start. He says Nick Clegg seems to have sustained his position as a credible candidate on an equal footing with Mr Cameron and Mr Brown. He's shaken up the election and the Lib Dems are within touching distance of coming second in the "popular vote", he says.

0623Our expert says the ComRes and YouGov polls registered no change for Nick Clegg from the second debate, an increase of 5 points for David Cameron and a drop of 4 points for Gordon Brown. Meanwhile a Sky News poll of polls had the Tory and Lib Dem leaders tied with an average of 33% against the PM on 27%. That's probably enough polls for now...

0619Good morning. The post-debate analysis is already underway. Some "instant poll" news. They suggest David Cameron did best last night - YouGov for The Sun put him on 41%, against Nick Clegg on 32% and Gordon Brown on 25%. But a ComRes poll for ITV News suggested the result had been much closer with Mr Cameron on 35% to 33% for Mr Clegg and 26% for Mr Brown. The BBC's poll expert David Cowling said we'll have to wait for the weekend polls to see if it's likely to have any affect on voting day.

0001The debates are over but the analysis will continue long into Friday, with every gesture and word from the three prime ministerial candidates pored over. Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg will be out on the campaign trail, frantically trying to gather votes, with only six days left before the election.

2358 The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones has spent the evening "poised with my laptop in front of the television to follow social media reaction to the debate" and reports on it in his blog. Sentiment analysis, football and Nick Clegg's policy on the euro feature, along with some online bickering. Read Rory Cellan-Jones's blog
Rory Cellan-Jones

2356From Nick Robinson: This felt like the debate the country had been waiting for - when the choices facing voters came to life. Read Nick Robinson's blog
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2351Gordon Brown tells supporters at the West Bromwich Labour Club: "It was a bit hot in the television studio, but I tried to put the heat on the other candidates, and I tried to expose some of the deficiencies in their manifestos and in their policies. I think from now till next Thursday we have got to campaign like we've never campaigned before. You don't want to wake up next Friday and regret that you haven't done enough to make sure that there's a Labour victory."

2347 Stephen Joy from Cambridge writes: I don't know who won the leaders' debate, but I'm watching Question Time and I know that, based on this debate, I wouldn't think twice about voting for Janet Street-Porter.
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2235 The Sun is having fun with the debate, at the expense of the Lib Dem and Labour leaders. "Scrambled Clegg and toast," it shouts from the front page. And, continuing the breakfast metaphor, it calls Mr Cameron "full of beans".

2330After watching from the US, Fox News anchor Dan Rather says the debate was "livelier" than the earlier two. It seems much likelier, from the candidates' body language, that Mr Clegg can reach an agreement with Mr Cameron than with Mr Brown. Immigration is a "gut issue" on which Mr Cameron handled himself best, he tells Sky News.

2323For its first edition, The Times goes for a jokey headline based on the focus on the issue of employment during the debate. Above a picture of the three leaders, it reads simply: "Britain's job seekers".

2319 The Daily Telegraph focuses on the Conservative leader, with the headline: "Cameron on the money". "The Conservative leader delivered his most effective denunciation of Labour's 13 years in power while articulating a powerful vision for Britain," its lead article states. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal's Europe edition focuses on the Lib Dem leader, saying: "Clegg takes up the TV challenge again"

2318Former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown says the Conservatives and Labour are pretending that immigration policy as it stands is not a problem.

2317 Tory blogger Samuel Coates tweets: Clegg really plumbed the depths of sanctimoniousness this evening. Read Samuel Coates's tweets
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2315The first editions of Friday's newspapers are coming in, with the debate dominating. The Financial Times leads with the headline: "Brown misses his last big chance". The Guardian states: "Brown fights for his life".

2314The SNP's John Swinney says the Westminster parties have squandered Scotland's oil wealth and the UK needs more effective economic direction.

2313 "David Cameron has definitely got the hang of this: this was his strongest performance thus far," says Janet Daley from the Daily Telegraph . She adds that the "real news" regards the Lib Dem leader: "Nick Clegg was firmly pinned to the wall on his immigration policy. Having first denied that the Lib Dems were advocating an amnesty on illegal immigrants, he then admitted that this was precisely what they were advocating." Janet Daley at the Daily Telegraph
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2311David Cameron tells supporters the Conservatives will publish a contract with the British people, says the BBC's Chris Buckler. The ´contract´ will make promises should the Tories get into government, including improving schools and getting the economy moving. He said the debate marked the end of one stage of the campaign and the start of another.

2300In shirtsleeves, Mr Cameron urges supporters to show "unbelievable energy" in the run-up to next Thursday. "Don't waste one minute," he exhorts. He adds that it's been a "good night". There are cheers as the short address ends - and a kiss from one Tory follower.

2300David Cameron is talking to a rally of Conservative supporters in Birmingham. He says the biggest enemy is a sense of cynicism in politics, rather than the other two parties.
David Cameron

2259Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox says party policies came through more clearly tonight than in the first two debates.

2256Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox says party policies came through more clearly tonight than in the first two debates.

2255On BBC One's Question Time Schools Secretary Ed Balls, a close ally of Gordon Brown, reminds the audience that next week's vote is what will decide the general election, rather than TV debates.

2254 I am 20 years old, I did all the things the government says you should do. Go to College, get qualifications, earn more money, and save. And yet, I'm working part-time in Burger King, desperately trying to move in with my partner. So, my vote is going with Clegg. The £10,000 tax limit will help me loads.
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2251Conservative blogger Tim Montgomerie says Mr Brown was too aggressive, while Mr Cameron was very clear, particularly in ruling out the UK entering the euro under a Conservative government.

2249 Paul Waugh from the Evening Standard tweets: Clegg's "Yes or No, Yes or No?" made him sound like the 'old politics' he is supposed to dislike. Read Paul Waugh's tweets
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2251Tony Blair's ex-spokesman Alastair Campbell says only Gordon Brown showed mastery of economic detail.

2248Plaid's Eurfyl ap Gwilym tells the BBC Mr Brown looked tired, that Mr Clegg's novelty is wearing off and Mr Cameron will bear down cuts disproportionately in Wales.

2245Plaid Cymru's Eurfyl ap Gwilym says the three leaders were silent on the size of the deficit and the need to balance economic development across the UK. Cuts will jeopardise Wales's economy, he adds.

2243 Alan from Munich, Germany, writes: Is it just me, or are George Osborne, Vince Cable and Peter Mandelson the very last people I want to hear from after the debate?
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2241From Robert Peston: What have I learned tonight about the parties' policies on sanitising the banking system and rebalancing the economy so that it is less dependent on the City? Not a great deal - and, believe me, I was listening intently. Read Robert Peston's blog
Robert Peston

2237Green Party deputy leader Adrian Ramsay says the prime ministerial candidates ignored the issue of how to create more environmentally sustainable jobs.

2235 The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg tweets: Cameron's team heard giving him a big cheer as he returned to the Green Room. Read Laura Kuenssberg's tweets
Laura Kuenssberg

2235Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond says there was no "clear winner". He adds: "Gordon Brown was certainly the loser - just in terms of his demeanour - through the debate. And the ending, uttering the word 'desperate', and then there was that strange smile to the camera which was the last thing the viewers saw."

2231David Cameron said he'd enjoyed the debate as he left afterwards, says the BBC's Carole Walker
Carole Walker

2230A year from now, if the Tories win, people will be talking about cuts to public services rather than the Gillian Duffy episode, Alastair Campbell says.

2227Tony Blair's former spokesman Alastair Campbell dismisses the importance of instant polls, saying there are many undecided voters "out there". David Cameron ignored "question after question", he adds.

2225 Mixed reactions to the debate are coming in on the BBC's Have Your Say website. David O'Brien thinks "Cameron has a solid team, they have a strong heritage and they look energised to make things happen," while J McGhee believes "Brown is the only one who knows what he's talking about". Clyons agrees with the LibDem Leader: "Clegg is right - we need a German style coalition".
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2224Some instant reaction. A ComRes poll suggests David Cameron did best, with 35% of respondents saying so, with Nick Clegg on 33% and Gordon Brown on 26%.

2222Gordon Brown managed a somewhat strained smile as he left the studio, says the BBC's Carole Walker.
Carole Walker

2221UKIP's Nigel Farage says the politicians themselves created ineffective rules for banks.

2220 Reaction is coming in now - English Democrats chairman Robin Tilbrook said: "All three British establishment parties' motor-mouthed leaders showed increasing desperation about boosting their careers but none of them were willing to even mention England or the English Nation, although most of what they talked about were issues that only affect England and yet there they were in Birmingham, an English City, in the heart of England

2220Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage says all three leaders looked uncomfortable on immigration. The situation is uncontrollable while the UK remains in the EU and a "big decision" is needed, to leave the organisation, he adds.

2219Nick Clegg has left the great hall at Birmingham University, where the debate took place.

2218Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable says Nick Clegg conveyed the seriousness of the UK's economic situation and the need for parties to work together.

2116Shadow chancellor George Osborne argues that David Cameron's upbeat message left Mr Brown with nothing to say.

2116Business Secretary Lord Mandelson says Mr Brown "won the argument, won the debate". He praises the PM for coming back from his embarrassment in Rochdale on Wednesday to produce a "barnstorming performance".

2214The debate showed the public where the three main party leaders were coming from. David Cameron turned his fire on Nick Clegg. There was no obvious winner other than the public, who now have a better idea of the parties policies, BBC political editor Nick Robinson says.
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2212 Journalist Charlie Beckett sounds bored by the debate. He tweets: Worthy but dull and won't change anything. Read Charlie Beckett's tweets
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2211Tory frontbencher Michael Gove says David Cameron won the debate, while Gordon Brown was "relentlessly negative".

2210Gordon Brown's former spin doctor Charlie Whelan says the PM won the debate comfortably.

2209Treasury minister Liam Byrne says the debate on immigration was "very good". He tells Sky News an amnesty for illegal immigrants would not work and nor would a cap on immigration.

2209Lib Dem Danny Alexander says his party is the only one taking immigration seriously, dealing with the "chaos" created by the other parties while in power.

2207 Channel Four's Jon Snow gives his verdict of the debate. He tweets: Cameron has not broken through; Brown has failed to fail; and Clegg has clegged: Feels like a no-score draw here in the spin room. Read Jon Snow's tweets
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2206Shadow foreign secretary William Hague says the Lib Dems are changing policy under pressure, with a "lack of thinking" exposed.

2205Now to the media room at Birmingham University, where leading politicians are giving their verdicts. Tory Theresa May says David Cameron showed he was prime ministerial.

2203From Stephanie Flanders: So, no news on how they would cut the deficit. Surprise. But plenty of evidence of their very different world views. Read Stephanie Flanders' blog
Stephanie Flanders

2203The three leaders shake hands and stand facing the audience, rather than walking among it, as was the case at the previous events.

2202 The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones tweets: Tories say David Cameron is well ahead in the betting market, Tweetminster say Clegg is ahead on sentiment. Read Rory Cellan-Jones's tweets
Rory Cellan-Jones

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