Leaders' Question Time special: What happened, who won, who lost, what did we learn?

 
Guy Bentley
Follow Guy
Cameron was hailed the winner of the debate (Source: Getty)

Three main party leaders faced an onslaught of questions and criticism from the public last night in the last big TV event of the General Election.

David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg put their case to the country in front of a BBC Question Time audience in the hope of breaking the deadlock in the polls.

On the morning after the night before we've gathered up the must-have info on the contest.

Who won?

A snap ICM poll for the Guardian showed Cameron came out on top with 44 per cent saying he performed best compared with 38 per cent for Miliband and 19 per cent for Clegg.

David Cameron

The Prime Minister gave an assured performance but got a rough ride from the audience over immigration and welfare. The Tories will be glad their man was widely credited to have put in the best performance that was a world away from his shaky appearance with Jeremy Paxman at the beginning of the election.

Cameron rejected claims made by the Lib Dems that the Conservatives planned to cut £8bn of child benefit. However, he was not able to give an absolute guarantee there would be no further reform of child benefit and child tax credit.

The PM made his case by asking the country to let the Conservatives finish what they started by brandishing the infamous note left by former chief secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne that told the incoming UK government "there is no money left".

Cameron batted away a question about why he wouldn't debate with Miliband head to head, telling the audience: "This, giving you the chance to answer questions directly, this is more powerful than a televised debate."

Ed Miliband

Miliband has consistently beaten expectations during the campaign. Though he is still seen as a liability to Labour by Tory strategists he performed well in both TV debates and his approval ratings have been gradually rising throughout the campaign. However, last night was not Miliband's finest hour. Miliband suffered a bruising encounter with the audience over Labour's spending record.

Miliband argued the last government did not borrow too much which elicited howls of disapproval from the audience. One man went so far as to call Miliband a liar. Another asked: "If you can’t accept you overspent why on earth should we trust you that you won’t overspend again?."

Miliband boxed himself in saying he would not do any deal with the SNP in the now very likely event of a hung parliament. As the polls stand, Miliband would be unable to command a majority of votes in the House of Commons.

Nick Clegg

The Lib Dem leader put in a confident performance, reiterating his stance that the Lib Dems would anchor the main parties in the centre ground. Unsurprisingly Clegg received a strong grilling over tuition fees and what deals his party would make in the event of a hung parliament.

Clegg went on the attack, telling the audience the Tories had "a very unfair plan to balance the books, which departs from what we've done in coalition and I think we are entitled to say: 'What are you going to do? Who are you going to hurt?." He added that he would seek to do a deal with whichever party won the largest number of seats.

That stumble

In a moment that capped an underwhelming performance, Miliband stumbled leaving the stage; the stumble sparked a flurry of derision on social media.

Visit our General Election poll tracker to see how the polls changed in the build-up to election day. 

Related articles