Ed Miliband wins BBC challengers' debate and Nicola Sturgeon comes second

 
Guy Bentley
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The leaders battled it out over national debt, defence, immigration and what deals the parties would enter into in case of a hung parliament (Source: Getty)

After an hour and half of intense debate between the General Election 'challengers' on the BBC, Ed Miliband has been declared the winner.

A Survation poll for the Daily Mirror found 35 per cent thought the Labour leader had come out on top, with Nicola Sturgeon taking second place on 31 per cent and Nigel Farage coming third on 27 per cent.

Five questions saw the major opposition leaders battle it out over the national debt, defence, immigration and what deals the parties would enter into in case of a hung parliament. Nicola Sturgeon posed as the anti-austerity candidate, taking care to say she would work with other progressive parties to end cuts to public spending.

The SNP leader's conciliatory tone to voters south of the border had many English and Welsh left-of-centre voters suggesting they would cast their ballot for her if they could. But her insistence that she could team up with Labour to lock out the Conservatives may unnerve some who fear the SNP will exploit a hung parliament for their own advantage.

Sturgeon attacked Miliband over a lack of radicalism, saying her party would push Labour to the left. The final question saw the leaders attempt to answer how they would act in the event of a hung parliament. Miliband ruled out a coalition with the SNP.

But Sturgeon pursued the point and asked Miliband to assure the British people he would work with the SNP to keep the Tories out of government.

The audience cheered Sturgeon when she told Miliband the public would never forgive him for letting in a Tory government. Miliband didn't give any further clarity what arrangements Labour may make with the SNP.

Nigel Farage cut a lonely figure on the stage as the only leader from the right of British politics. At one heated point in the debate the Ukip leader turned on what he called the "left-wing" audience, saying the real audience was at home.

Farage was attacked by all the other leaders on immigration. Ed Miliband accused Farage of sowing fear and division. Farage held his ground and argued immigration was putting pressure on public services and the housing stock.

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