Latest Channel 4 News:
Row over Malaysian state's coins
'Four shot at abandoned mine shaft'
Rain fails to stop Moscow wildfires
Cancer blow for identical twins
Need for Afghan progress 'signs'

Poll shows Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg victorious in first leaders debate

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 15 April 2010

A poll for ITV reveals Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg as clear winner in the first televised leaders debate. Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg clashed on a range of issues, including immigration, law and order, MPs' expenses, education, the budget deficit, defence, and health.

Leaders debate

The ITN poll of 1,000 people gave Nick Clegg 43 per cent. It put David Cameron second, with 26 per cent support, and the prime minister, Gordon Brown, third with 20 per cent.

11 per cent of those polled thought none of the leaders shone through as overall winner.

The ITV verdict was supported by an instant poll on Sky News, in which the Liberal Democrat leader won 37 per cent of the vote, against Gordon Brown's 32 per cent and David Cameron's 31 per cent

Channel 4 News Political Editor Gary Gibbon was also of the view that the debate was won by the Liberal Democrat leader.

Writing in his blog, he says: "He has raised his game. He has, in the past, looked like a man who has lost interest in his own answers. Not tonight."

During the debate, Labour leader Gordon Brown appeared to want to forge agreement with Mr Clegg on issues such as constitutional reform. He claimed on several occasions that the Liberal Democrats agreed with Labour's plans for a reformed House of Commons and a House of Lords made up of non-hereditary peers.

Asked to respond by presenter Alistair Stewart, Nick Clegg said: "There's absolutely nothing to support... What I support is something I've supported all my adult political life: a complete clean-up, from top to toe, of politics."

On immigration the prime minister asserted that the government's policies were working and that illegal immigration and net inward migration was falling. Mr Cameron stressed the need to reduce the numbers coming in, while Nick Clegg restated the party's belief that immigration needed to be targeted on a regional basis.

On law and order, David Cameron called for better sentencing. Mr Clegg argued for more police on the streets, while the Labour leader stressed that, although crime was falling, more needed to be done.

David Cameron, recalling that his mother had been a magistrate, said magistrates needed to be given the power to impose short sentences "when you've tried all the other remedies". Gordon Brown countered: "That's why there are 20,000 more people in prison as a result of the tougher sentences we've been passing."

On the deficit, Gordon Brown said the economy had to been restarted this year. Nick Clegg pointed out that the calls for a reduction in waste by both parties were not the solution. And he cited Britain’s nuclear deterrent, Trident, as an area where major savings could be made.

With both Labour and the Conservatives committed to replacing Trident, the subject of Britain's nuclear deterrent was one of the few areas where David Cameron and Gordon Brown were in agreement.

Nick Clegg, whose Liberal Democrats say they will extend the life of Trident rather than replace it, said the world was changing and that it was not appropriate to rule out cancellation of Trident at this stage.

David Cameron countered that the prime minister's duty was to protect and defend the United Kingdom - particularly with the situation in Iran and uncertainty in regard to China.

And Gordon Brown said nuclear weapons states could contribute to a huge reduction in nuclear weapons overall. He rejected abandoning an independent nuclear "when we know that Iran and North Korea and other countries are trying to get their hands on them".

On health, all three leaders were in agreement about the value of the NHS. Health, alongside education and policing, were frontline services that Labour was committed to supporting, according to Gordon Brown.

But David Cameron reiterated Conservative criticism of the planned hike in employers' national insurance contributions. He said the NI rise would take £200m out of the NHS - money which, he claimed, could be better spent on drugs for cancer patients.

Nick Clegg, whose party's manifesto gives the most detailed costings on how to tackle the deficit, called the debate over the NHS "phoney" because Labour and the Tories could not cut the deficit and then "introduce a blizzard of tax breaks and provide huge lashings of extra money to the public".

A vision for future healthcare
Analysing the leaders' answers to the future of healthcare, Channel 4 News home affairs reporter Victoria Macdonald blogs: "The question was: what are the parties' visions for the future of healthcare? And it came from a nurse.

"It would have been as interesting to hear from her about how life is in the NHS as from the three party leaders.  But since it was their moment, it was DC who grabbed the opportunity to thank the NHS for the 'incredible service'.

"He has talked about it before but it is always moving when he describes the help he and his family were given during Ivan's short life.

"Gordon Brown failed to acknowledge the work of NHS staff and instead started off by reeling off the list of the pledges Labour has made. It was all a bit dry.

"If there was any controversy, it was over David Cameron's pledge once again to ensure cancer drugs are available 'for people who need them'.  There have already been questions raised by the King's Fund think tank about how this would be funded, and Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg missed an opportunity to ask him to explain how his figures add up.

"Instead he was able to continue with the case of the person who had to sell their home to pay for drugs.

"Health, so far, has not been a big election issue, at least nationally. But locally the spectre of NHS cuts are being raised by the opposition parties and it was Nick Clegg who brought this up, mentioning the maternity unit where his son was born which is under threat and the A&E unit in Burnley which has closed.

"The final question of the night was the funding of social care, which the three parties had probably hoped they had got out of the way before the campaign proper began. Nick Clegg said it was one of those issues where they should all get together and decide how best to fund it but Gordon Brown and David Cameron were sticking to their respective plans for funding although they all agree helping people to stay in their own homes was the best solution.

"One thing though. Gordon Brown said there were 6 million carers in this country and 'I have met many of them'.  Hard to know how he has found time to do anything else if that is the case."

Send this article by email

More on this story

Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Watch the Latest Channel 4 News

Watch Channel 4 News when you want

Latest Domestic politics news

More News blogs

View RSS feed

Cartoon coalition


How Channel 4 News viewers picture the coalition in cartoon form

Token candidate?

Labour leadership candidate Diane Abbott (credit:Getty Images)

Diane Abbott: I am the genuine move-on candidate for Labour

'Mr Ordinary'

Andy Burnham, Getty images

Andy Burnham targets Labour's 'ordinary' person.

Iraq inquiry: day by day

Tony Blair mask burnt during protest outside the Iraq inquiry. (Credit: Getty)

Keep track of Sir John Chilcot's Iraq war findings day by day.

The Freedom Files

Freedom Files

Revealed: the stories they didn't want to tell.

Making a FoI request?

Channel 4 News tells you how to unearth information.

Channel 4 © 2010. Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.