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'

Gloves come off in second leaders debate

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 22 April 2010

The party leaders adopt a more combative style in their second live televised debate - but Channel 4 News Political Editor Gary Gibbon argues Nick Clegg may be the happiest.

Second party leaders' debate (Getty)

All video clips courtesy of Sky News HD

The party leaders were asked questions by a specially selected audience during the second live debate of the election campaign in Bristol.

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg quickly displayed signs that they had learned from last week's debate in Manchester, which the Liberal Democrat leader was widely seen as the victor.

Early polls published straight after the debate suggested the result was much closer.

A ComRes/ITV News survey suggested Mr Clegg was again judged the strongest performer. 36 per cent of those asked said he had won the debate - David Cameron and Gordon Brown both finished on 30 per cent.

An online survey carried out on the Channel 4 News website during the debate also suggested Mr Clegg was judged the winner.

He was backed by 52 per cent, with Mr Brown on 31 per cent and Mr Cameron on 17 per cent.

However Mr Cameron came out on top in a YouGov survey for The Sun, with 36 per cent of the people questioned saying he won the debate, against 32 per cent for Mr Clegg and 29 per cent for Mr Brown.

Analysis fom Channel 4 News political editor Gary Gibbon
I don't think anyone has taken a real slice off Nick Clegg and that was what David Cameron needed to do.

I don't think David Cameron did enough to make himself sound like "the change."

Gordon Brown got a lot of his agenda in but in that dogged way that may not have people listening. So, given where we started after last week, I think Nick Clegg leaves the happiest.

There has been no killer blows though he has been bruised a few times in a way he wasn't last week.

International debate
The first half of the ninety minute long programme focused on international affairs.

Opening the debate, Gordon Brown said: "This may have the feel of a TV popularity contest, but in truth this is an election about Britain's future, and a fight for your future and your jobs.

"If it is all about style and PR, count me out. If it is about the big decisions, if it is about judgment, if it is about delivering a better future for this country - I am your man."

Mr Cameron said: "It is clear from last week's debate that the country wants change but the question is what sort of change and who's best placed to lead that change?

"If you vote Conservative you will get a new team on 7 May and we won't be stuck with what we have got now."

Mr Clegg said he was "proud" of Britain's traditions of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, but said the two "old parties" had let these values down by allowing the UK to be involved in the Iraq War and implicated in abuses like rendition.

"I want us to lead in the world and I want us to lead in Europe, not complain from the sidelines," he said.

For more Channel 4 News coverage of Vote 2010
- Leaders' debate - live blog
- Vote 2010 - latest stories
- Poll of Polls - latest figures

After the mild-manned politeness of last week's debate - the party leaders were quick to go on the attack and Mr Clegg's policies were repeatedly challenged by his rivals.

On foreign affairs, Mr Brown accused Mr Cameron of "anti-Europeanism" and Mr Clegg of "anti-Americanism".

As the Tory and Lib Dem leaders clashed over Europe, Mr Brown said: "These two guys remind me of my two young boys squabbling at bathtime, squabbling about referendums on the EU when want we need is jobs and growth and recovery.

Mr Cameron said the Lib Dem policy on having a referendum on whether Britain should be in or out of the European Union was "a con" and said the Conservative pledge to offer a public vote on future transfers of power.

But Mr Clegg accused the Tories of allying themselves with "nutters and anti-Semites" in the European Parliament.

In a humorous reference to last week's debate, when "I agree with Nick" became something of a catchphrase as each of the other leaders tried to co-opt the Liberal Democrats on to their side, Mr Cameron said: "I have never uttered these words before, but I agree with Gordon."

The comment came as both the Tory and Labour leaders criticised Lib Dem policy to include the future of Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent in a strategic defence review which all parties say they will hold after the election.

Mr Clegg said it was "dangerous" to commit tens of billions of pounds to a Cold War era weapons system, when US President Barack Obama saw the threats of the future coming from terrorists and failed states against which Trident would be no use.

But Mr Brown directly addressed the Lib Dem leader, saying: "I have to deal with these issues every day and I say to you, Nick, get real."

Expenses clash
Mr Clegg also came under fire on his stance on parliamentary expenses. Mr Cameron told the Lib Dem leader not to "put himself on a pedestal" over MPs' expenses, after Mr Clegg repeated his claim that politicians from "both of the old parties" had not been held to account for flipping their second home designations to maximise their income from allowances.

The Tory leader said voters were "angry" at any party which tried to exempt itself from responsibility for the expenses scandal.

And, referring to Mr Clegg's expenses claim for a cake tin, Mr Cameron said: "Frankly, Nick, we all had problems with this, whether it was moats or politicians claiming on phantom mortgages or kitchens and cake tins.
"Don't anyone put themselves on a pedestal on this."

Mr Clegg responded: "Of course, no-one is blemish-free, people aren't angels. But if you are to persuade people to invest trust in politicians, it is not enough to talk the talk and not walk the walk."

Mr Cameron accused the prime minister of permitting "lies" in Labour election leaflets and challenged him to withdraw literature which claims that a Conservative government would cut benefits for the elderly such as free television licences, pension credits, the winter fuel allowance or bus passes.

Addressing elderly people in the audience, the Tory leader said: "These lies you are getting from Labour are pure and simple lies. I have seen these lies and they make me very, very angry."

Political parties "shouldn't be frightening people in an election campaign", he said.

Mr Brown insisted he had not "authorised any leaflets like that", and pressed the Tory leader: "Why isn't it in your manifesto that you are keeping free eye tests?"

Immigration questions
There were also fierce clashes over immigration, with both Mr Brown and Mr Cameron describing Lib Dem proposal to allow illegal migrants to earn the right to stay in the UK after a fixed period as an "amnesty" which would attract more people to come to Britain.

Mr Clegg accused the Prime Minister of being "in denial" about the prospect of removing hundreds of thousands of illegals and said Tory plans for an annual cap on incomers "has no substance and hasn't been thought through".

Economic recovery
Towards the end of the debate, a member of the audience asked about the economic recovery, the slated topic for next week's debate.

Gordon Brown criticised David Cameron for wanting to cut the national deficit this year.

Mr Brown said: "The priority at the moment is making sure that we have an economic recovery.

"David hasn't thought through his policy and neither has Nick if he's going to argue against us because it's the right thing to do."

David Cameron responded by criticising the prime minister's planned national insurance rise next year.

He also attacked Mr Clegg over his stance on Labour's national insurance policy increase.

He said: "When we announced 'lets stop the jobs tax', they said it was nauseating and in their manifesto they've now said that actually its their aspiration.

"It's the first time in politics that I can remember someone coming up with a nauseating aspiration that they want to fulfil".

Nick Clegg replied: "If you care so much about making sure that out of the rubble of this recession, we create a new economy, why won't you and indeed why won't David Cameron, take the radical steps forward that are needed to reform our banking system.

"Nothing has happened which will prevent a disaster in the banking system because of the greed of the banking system occuring all over again. We're the only party saying 'split them up'."

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 Vote 2010 news

More News blogs

View RSS feed

Winners and losers


What can we expect from the Con-Lib Dem coalition government?

Cabinet connections

The Con-Lib coalition Cabinet (Reuters)

Who Knows Who looks for "new politics" in the Con-Lib Cabinet

Marriage of convenience

Wedding cake (Getty)

Can former political rivals make the Con-Lib coalition work?

Missing women?


With four women cabinet members has old politics really ended?

The rise and fall of Brown


The events that defined and ended Brown's political career.

Sibling rivalry?


Who Knows Who finds out who could replace Gordon Brown.

Loss leaders

Jacqui Smith (Getty)

Jacqui Smith is one of several high- profile election losers.

Election night in 60

Blue Big Ben

From single-party rule to a hung parliament in one minute.

Election results - live blog

Live blog teaser

Missed the day? Read our live blog to see how it happened.

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