2 Apr 2015

Leaders Debate: what to look out for tonight

As we head into a seven-way showdown with party leaders, Channel 4 News takes a look at which candidate has the most to lose.

David Cameron (Ladbrokes – 7/2 to win the debate) and Ed Miliband (Ladbrokes 3/1)

In terms of the polls, short of a massive gaffe the leaders won’t expect to gain much from the debates.

For months the polls have been neck and neck and most voters know what they are being offered when it comes to the Labour leader and the prime minister – not least after last week’s interviews.

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The presidential style debates may have had more impact if the public were being treated to a head to head between the pair, but with five other leaders offering plenty of cover neither leader is likely to slip up too badly.

It’s worth watching for any head-to-head battles though. Mr Cameron has the coveted spot right on the edge of the line up, while Ed Miliband is in the thick of it, (ironically) in the centre, right next to Nigel Farage. With so many people vying for position it will be interesting to see who commands the space.

Nick Clegg (12/1)

In 2010 the debates raised the Liberal Democrat to almost mythical levels of popularity. “Cleggmania” transformed him from a virtual unknown to hero and catapulting his party up the polls. Their Facebook followers doubled in a day.

This time, as Mr Clegg freely admits, it is different. Five years of coalition and a bruising over tuition fees has taken its toll and he’s unlikely to be expecting a chorus of “I agree with Nick” this time around.

He’ll try and talk about mental health – where he’s promised significantly more funding. More generally, he’ll want to position himself, and his party, as the calming, balancing influence necessary for Britain.

Natalie Bennett (25/1)

According to Michael Crick it could be her night, although she’s starting from a low base. She was widely criticised following a recent media appearance which saw her go blank in the middle of the interview, suffering from what she called “mental brain fade”.

She’s not actually an MP, but hopes to win in Labour stronghold Holborn (and no one is technically an MP in this debate as parliament has been dissolved).

She’s originally Australian but has lived here since 1999. She may be popular with the audience – advocating anti-austerity politics and talking about the NHS and housing. She’ll try to differentiate herself from the men in suits.

Nigel Farage (6/4)

He did well in the debates with Nick Clegg this time last year and was generally thought to have triumphed, but that was a long time ago and since then television screens have been saturated with the Ukip leader.

He’ll want to talk about immigration, the anti-Ukip media agenda and Europe. His gains could be limited, voters know what he thinks and his “bloke down the pub” persona will contrast greatly with the female panelists.

Leanne Wood (20/1)

The republican head of Plaid Cymru, almost unknown Leanne Wood has all to gain from the debates. Most people just don’t know who she is so the blank slate could be a powerful weapon against more familiar opponents.

She will talk about devolution and Wales and is likely to attack the Tories.

She could be a thorn in the side of Ed Miliband too, but she could be an easy target for Nigel Farage who’s party is polling well in any parts of Wales.

Nicola Sturgeon (Ladbrokes 8/1)

The new leader of the SNP is riding high with polls showing the party could scoop as many as 50 Scottish seats in May. Some Labour supporters are worried that she could be Mr Miliband’s Kryptonite by following Alex Salmond’s lead and making clear the influence the SNP could wield in any future coalition.

She’ll talk Trident and powers for Scotland and want to try and walk the line between pleasing both Scottish and English voters.