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Local elections: The leader interviews

In the run up to the local elections, leaders of the major political parties in Britain have been interviewed by the the Today programme.

Listen again to the interviews below.

DAVID CAMERON, CONSERVATIVE

David Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron offered a staunch defence of the coalition's record in government and its vision for the country, despite the series of set-backs it has suffered in recent weeks.

He acknowledged that the period - which has included controversy over the so-called pasty tax, and criticism of the handling of a possible strike by fuel tanker drivers - had been "difficult."

However, Mr Cameron insisted that, overall, his administration was on the right track, telling Today presenter John Humphrys that "I want us to to do better, it's been a difficult month, governments have difficult months.

"But I think what really matters is keeping your eye on the long term and the big decisions that really matter and the picture, and that's that this government came together to dig this country out of the huge economic mess that it was in.

"We're involved in an economic rescue mission, but we're not just a bunch of accountants dealing with a deficit, there's also a driving passion and vision to change this country and make it much more on the side of hard-working people who do the right thing."

ED MILIBAND, LABOUR
Ed Miliband

In a wide-ranging interview Mr Miliband said that it "beggars belief" that Jeremy Hunt was still in his job, and was pressed on his vision for the UK.

He said the economy was working only for "a few people at the top" and promised to introduce changes to bring down energy bills and executive pay.

"We have to do a whole series of things to change the way our economy works," he said.

"It's about how you create productive wealth in this country and how you have a much broader-based economy, not just reliant on financial services; how you stand up to vested interests. And we're talking in this local election campaign about how we stand up to the energy companies, the train companies, how we make different decisions on taxation and how we have fair rewards."

NICK CLEGG, LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
Nick Clegg

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that the "centrepiece change" in the budget over the basic income tax allowance had been "somewhat lost" in the subsequent media coverage.

Mr Clegg said that he was "not in the slightest bit defensive" about the Lib Dem record, but admitted that that "bumps and scrapes" in the media had made it difficult to get the government side of the story across.

"We're doing good things which I believe will last... which will help the young, the old and people across the country," he said.

When asked about the row over limiting tax relief on philanthropy, Mr Clegg said they would look at the issue with an open mind and look "sympathetically" on how the changes would effect charities.

He said he felt genuinely lucky to be playing a role in pulling the country "back from the brink", but that "painful compromises" have had to be made in the coalition government.

"If you want the Liberal Democrat manifesto in full, vote for Liberal Democrats in larger numbers. It didn't happen," he said.

"I have to deal with the world as it is, not as I'd like it."

ALEX SALMOND, SNP

The interview with SNP leader Alex Salmond focussed on his meetings with Rupert Murdoch, which he defended saying that they were primarily aimed at securing jobs and investment for Scotland.

Speaking to Today presenter Justin Webb, Mr Salmond said that he wanted to have a "good professional relationship" with Mr Murdoch.

And he added that he had met the News Corporation chief five times in the past five years, as opposed to 18 such meetings between Mr Murdoch and David Cameron and 19 with leaders of the Labour Party.

Mr Salmond has faced fierce criticism in the Scottish Parliament after details of his correspondence and meetings with Mr Murdoch emerged at the Leveson Inquiry. Emails released at the inquiry suggested Mr Salmond was prepared to lobby the UK culture secretary for Mr Murdoch's bid to take full control of BSkyB, something which Mr Salmond has strongly denied.

Referring to the inquiry, Mr Salmond said that "the idea that malpractice and potential illegality is confined to one newspaper organisation is for the birds".


LEANNE WOOD, PLAID CYMRU

Leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood, said that "alternative radical platforms" are gaining ground because mainstream politics is "clearly failing".

Speaking to the Today programme's Evan Davis, she said that Plaid Cymru describes itself as "community champions" and is "a decentralist socialist party".

"It's about rolling up sleeves and getting involved in grassroots projects," she said.

When asked why Wales appears to be falling behind the rest of the United Kingdom, she said that "we do have a weak economy and what we've done in the past isn't working now".

"No one else is going to get us out of our economic decline," she said.

CAROLINE LUCAS, GREEN PARTY

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas acknowledged that it is hard to get the the environmental message across in times of austerity.

But she told the Today programme's Justin Webb that overlooking green issues at a time like this was a "tragedy".

"There is no contradiction in promoting a green economy and dealing with jobs and the environment," she said.

"It is through investing in green technologies that we can get the economy stabilised".

NIGEL FARAGE, UKIP

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said they are building "a real political party, not just a protest movement".

Speaking to Sarah Montague, he said the party had made headway in European elections, but "what we now have to do is build up a base in local government".

As part of a series party leader interviews, Mr Farage said UKIP supported free trade, but were against the "unrestricted flow of labour from eastern Europe".

Free market economics is "a completely different argument" to the free movement of people across borders.




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