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Leaders' debate: the verdicts on who won

By Stuart McTeer

Updated on 30 April 2010

The opinion polls suggested David Cameron won last night's third and final leaders' debate, however political analysts are far more divided over who fared best.

Leaders debate (Credit: Getty)

Figures out today suggested eight million people had watched last night's final leaders debate in Birmingham.

The polls conducted immediately afterwards suggested Cameron had outscored his opponents, with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg largely in second place and Gordon Brown third

A YouGov survey for The Sun gave the Tory leader the biggest lead, with 41 per cent saying Cameron had won, compared to 32 per cent for Clegg and 25 per cent for Brown.

A Guardian/ICM survey gave Cameron 35 per cent, Brown 29 per cent and Clegg 27 per cent.

An ITV News/Comres survey suggested the leaders' standings were even closer. 35 per cent thought Cameron had won, 33 per cent backed Clegg and 26 per cent Brown.

Another snap poll suggested a tie. The Times/Populus survey put Cameron and Clegg on 38 per cent, with Brown trailing on 25 per cent.

A survey on Facebook suggested Nick Clegg had won the debate.

Leaders' unwitting tribute to Eric Morecambe (right)(Credit: Getty)

This photo (left) was widely used in this morning's newspaper of Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown standing on one leg during last night's debate - unwittingly adopting the same pose used in the statute of comedy legend Eric Morecambe (right). (Credit: Getty)
Members of the studio audience who spoke to reporters after the debate seemed to be backing either David Cameron or Nick Clegg.

Teacher Michael Crowhurst, who had asked the leaders who they would improve the life chances of his pupils, said the answers he had received meant he was "probably more likely to switch to the Tories".

However he added: "I do not see the idea of a Tory Lib Dem pact as a bad thing. Between them there is a lot of common ground."

Chartered accountant Kate Collyer said she would back the Conservatives, but argued she had been impressed by Clegg's performance.

"I would not have an aversion to a hung parliament and an alliance between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats," she said.

While management consultant Basil Chambers said the three debates meant he had changed his support from Labour to the Liberal Democrats, although he did not think Clegg was "at his best".

But he went on: "What I think has swayed the election from David Cameron is the inheritance tax. The unfairness of it has stuck with him and overshadowed a lot of the positive points.

"Gordon Brown seemed to be reciting the same old mantras, although he was good at pinpointing the differences between Labour and the Conservatives."

The views of political analysts about the debate were mixed, with some suggesting the prime minister had fared better than in the previous two debates.

Channel 4 News Political editor Gary Gibbon suggested Brown had got the best of the arguments during the ninety minute long programme.

"Gordon raised his game and spoke in ways that cut through," he wrote in his blog at the end of the debate.

However he questioned what impact Brown's debate performance would have at the ballot box: "Will it do him any good? Are people listening? Have they closed their minds? Can he pick up anything more than a couple of percentage points which, depending on which poll you are looking at, won't get him very far?"

The Sun's associate editor Trevor Kavanagh disagreed, arguing that Cameron was "the outright winner".

"He ran rings around exhausted Gordon Brown and an increasingly rattled Clegg as they traded blows over the economy," he wrote.

The Telegraph's Benedict Brogan also thought Cameron was the most fluent performer, noting: "tonight Dave pulled the stops out."

"It wasn't quite railing against the closing night, but it felt like the end. Suddenly tonight it feels like weeks of uncertainty have been replaced by the likelihood that Dave is going to do it, he wrote".

The Independent's chief political commentator Steve Richards thought that Nick Clegg had done enough last night to ensure he came out on top overall after the campaign's debates: "Clegg was the winner when all three are considered. Cameron has cause for optimism and these are very dangerous days for Brown and his party."

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