Nick Clegg clashes with Nigel Farage in EU debate

 

Mr Clegg and Mr Farage each had one minute to set out their position as the debate began. Courtesy LBC/Global TV

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Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage have clashed over who is telling the truth about EU immigration.

The pair were taking part in a live TV and radio debate about whether Britain should stay in the European Union.

Mr Clegg - who wants Britain to stay in - said the UKIP leader's claims about how many Romanians and Bulgarians might come to the UK were "simply not true".

But Mr Farage denied this and said EU immigration was costing Britons jobs and driving down wages.

The exchanges on immigration were the most heated in the hour-long debate, which ranged across issues such as trade, the Human Rights Act, the EU referendum, gay marriage and political integrity.

'Scare' tactics

BBC chief political correspondent Norman Smith said "there was no knockout blow" and both men had given a good account of themselves and their case.

Start Quote

Much will be written about who won and who lost this debate. That, though, ignores the reason both men agreed to take part - they knew they could both be winners”

End Quote

In a YouGov poll of 1,003 voters, some 57% thought that Nigel Farage had performed better in this evening's LBC debate and 36% Nick Clegg.

Mr Clegg - who stared down the TV lens during his opening statement as he did during the 2010 election debates - made jobs the centre of his pitch to the audience.

Mr Farage said Britain needed to regain control of its own laws and borders, saying the European Union was a "failed project" and it was time to leave it.

He also hit out at the EU's role in the Ukraine crisis, saying: "We should hang our head in shame - we have given false hope - the EU does have blood on its hands in the Ukraine."

The issue of immigration sparked a fiery exchange between Mr Clegg and Mr Farage. Courtesy LBC/Global TV

The UKIP leader made a few jokes - but it was an earnest, and at times, impassioned battle of wits between two politicians who, despite being former colleagues as MEPs in Brussels, are diametrically opposed on the European Union.

Mr Farage attacked Mr Clegg for being part of the political elite who had "never had a proper job" but the pair mostly steered clear of personal attacks.

Mr Clegg brandished a UKIP leaflet from the Eastleigh by-election, highlighting its claim that 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians were poised to come to the UK - a claim he said was wrong and a "scare" tactic.

Start Quote

They couldn't bear to look at each other, eyes fixed firmly on the studio audience or TV cameras. ”

End Quote

Mr Farage said: "I am not claiming 29 million have the right to come to Britain, I am saying 485 million people have the total, unconditional right to come to this country."

He said the accession of eastern European countries to the EU meant that "for hundreds of thousands of people, working in trades like the building industry, we have had a massive oversupply of labour and you've seen your wages go down over the last 10 years as the cost of living has gone up, and that is not fair on working people in this country."

Mr Clegg hit back, saying immigration was good for the economy - claiming the NHS would "collapse" without foreign workers - and denied the UKIP leader's claims that it was uncontrolled.

"I am not prepared to see anyone lose their job on the altar of Nigel Farage's anti-European dogma," he said.

'Crumbling EU'

On trade, Mr Farage said "people like Nick don't think Britain is good enough" to strike its own deals with countries such as India and China.

The UKIP leader said the UK was now "the eurozone's biggest export market in the world" and would hold "the whip hand" in obtaining good terms in any trade negotiations following exit.

But Mr Clegg said: "It's not the 1950s, we can't turn the clock back.

"We have got new powers on the world stage - Brazil, China, India - and we get more clout by being part of the world's biggest economy."

At the start of the hour-long clash, Mr Farage won the toss (of a pound coin) to decide who made his opening statement first, but said: "I will ask Nick to open the batting."

Mr Clegg said: "Make no mistake - if we cut ourselves off from Europe, from the countries that we trade with more than anyone else, then our hard-won economic recovery will simply be thrown away."

Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage

He said he wanted "a Britain that leads in the world by standing tall in our own European backyard, a Britain prepared to work with other countries on the things we can't possibly sort out on our own".

Mr Clegg said: "We are better off in Europe - richer, stronger, safer - and that's why I will fight to keep us in, for the sake of jobs, for the sake of our clout in the world, for the sake of Britain."

But Mr Farage replied: "This debate is between a tired status quo defending a crumbling EU that frankly isn't working any more, and a fresh approach that says let's be friendly with Europe, let's trade with Europe, but let's not be governed by their institutions."

'Real question'

The UKIP leader said that if Britain was voting now on whether to join the EU, it would be presented with the offer "to join a club that will cost £55m a day as a membership fee, and there will be thousands of new laws over which our own Parliament and you the electorate can make no difference, and mean an open border, unconditionally, to 485 million people from across the whole of Europe - many of them from very poor countries - who can come here to work and live and settle and bring their families".

He said that the UK would also be told it would have to cut links with the Commonwealth and other English-speaking countries as a result of joining the club.

And he told the audience: "I know the result of that referendum: You wouldn't join it."

Conservative minister Anna Soubry: "What [the public] want is the opportunity to have a referendum."

The first EU debate was hosted by radio station LBC. On 2 April, round two will be televised live at the same time on BBC Two.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who has promised an in-out referendum if the Conservatives win the next election, and Labour leader Ed Miliband, who says he will only sanction a referendum if further powers are handed to Brussels, have opted not to take part in the debates.

Conservative minister Anna Soubry said Mr Cameron's decision not to take part was "not really of any relevance at all" and "the real question" was who could deliver a referendum.

Jon Ashworth, Labour shadow minister: "Is it the big issue on people's minds? I don't know."

Labour's shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Ashworth said it had been an "amusing" debate but did not mean much to ordinary voters worried about the cost of living.

For the Scottish National Party, MSP Aileen McLeod said: "Scotland's always been much more pro-European than other parts of the UK

"Our interests are best served by being part and parcel of the EU."

Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood said: "There are one in 10 jobs in Wales reliant on our membership. Civic society in Wales is united in wanting Wales to remain as a member of the EU.

"So the debate that took place tonight was one that wasn't really focusing on Wales's interests, and Wales's part in this debate."

 

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    @FraserNelson Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator

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  12.  
    06:59: Murdoch response

    When the Labour leader declared he was tough enough to be prime minister by virtue of having stood up to Mr Murdoch, the News International owner tweeted: "Thanks for 2 mentions, Ed Miliband. Only met once for all of 2 minutes when you embarrassed me with over the top flattery."

     
  13.  
    06:58: The Twitter conversation

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  14.  
    06:50:
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  15.  
    06:49:
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  16.  
    06:38: Post-match opinions

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    • BBC presenter Andrew Neil: "Paxo was superb tonight. But winging it towards end with Miliband. Seemed better prepared against Cameron. Miliband was struggling at times but viewers will perhaps think he stood up better to Paxo than the PM."
    • Tony Blair's former spin doctor Alastair Campbell said: "Good night for Ed, neutral for Kay, bad for Jeremy, dire for Dave."
    • Piers Morgan weighed in, tweeting: "Paxman eviscerated Cameron with such masterful savagery ... that Cameron won all the debate polls."
    • Apprentice boss Lord Sugar tweeted: "I think Miliband made mincemeat out of Paxman."
    • UKIP leader Nigel Farage had a kind word for his Labour counterpart, tweeting: "Miliband is showing more humour and courage than Cameron! BattleForNumber10."

     
  17.  
    06:25: Good Morning

    Good morning. Dominic Howell and Matthew West will be bringing you all the latest news and analysis from the main political stories of the day.

    Here's a quick round up of the main points from the last night's television performance

    • Cameron conceded he could not live on an exclusive zero-hours contract
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  18.  
    23:59: Thursday recap
    • David Cameron and Ed Miliband were grilled by Jeremy Paxman and faced questions from a studio audience in an election special hosted by Sky News and Channel 4
    • The Labour leader said wealth creation is "incredibly important" and said his relationship with brother David was "healing"
    • Mr Cameron said he had "turned the economy around"
    • A snap Guardian/ICM poll suggested a victory for the prime minister with 56% thinking he won, compared to 46% for the Labour leader
    • A government bid to change the rules on electing the Commons Speaker was defeated
    • The Electoral Commission revealed it has referred two allegations the Liberal Democrats received donations in breach of party funding rules to the Metropolitan Police

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  19.  
    @benatipsosmori Ben Page, Chief executive of Ipsos MORI

    tweets: Labour much more disciplined online that Conservatives. Their MPs sent 358 Tweets. Conservative MPs sent just 27, #BattleforNo10

     
  20.  
    23:57: Miliband 'quite happy' The Spectator

    James Forsyth says Ed Milliband will be pleased with tonight's performance. Despite the Labour leader losing the night by 54% to 46%, according to the Guardian's instant ICM poll, he will be reassured by the narrowness of his defeat, Mr Forsyth argues.

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  21.  
    23:56: Labour fracas Chris Mason Political correspondent, BBC News

    A senior Labour source has acknowledged that Ed Miliband was caught up in what Friday's Daily Mirror describes as an "ambush" in which he was "pushed and shoved by protesters" whilst out campaigning.

    Mr Miliband was in Rotherhithe, in south east London, at lunchtime today when he found his path back to his car blocked by a few noisy demonstrators - including one wearing a facemask of the former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond.

    Those around the Labour leader don't want to make much of it.

    A senior source told me: "This is part of the rough and tumble of the election campaign. Ed shrugged it off and moved on."

    I'm told the protester wearing the facemask "got a bit exuberant."

    Labour suspect he was a Conservative activist "who got a bit carried away."

     
  22.  
    23:43: Leader interviews: Ed on David Sky News
    Ed Miliband (L) and David Miliband (R) embrace at Labour Party conference in September 2010

    One of the most interesting exchanges tonight was over Ed Miliband's relationship with his brother David. Ed Miliband conceded their relationship is still "healing" after both stood to be leader of the Labour Party in 2010. Mr Miliband was asked by a member of the audience if he thought David Miliband would have done a better job. "No" was his answer.

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    But he maintained he was right to stand.

     
  23.  
    @AndrewSparrow Andrew Sparrow, Guardian journalist

    tweets: Cameron/Miliband showdown - Verdict from the Twitter commentariat - Generally, they think Miliband did best

     
  24.  
    23:36: SNP membership
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  25.  
    23:33: English 'worry' over election deals
    Janet Street Porter on Question Time

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  26.  
    23:31: Tomorrow's Herald front page
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  27.  
    23:29: Your say Vincent Adams, Reading, UK

    writes: I am a floating voter swaying towards the Conservatives. With that in mind I was surprised at how well Ed came across, after what I thought was a shaky start. I think David edged it but it was closer than I thought it would be.

     
  28.  
    ‏@brianpaddick Brian Paddick, Lib Dem peer and former London mayoral candidate

    tweets: Left-leaning people call it for Miliband, right-leaning for Cameron, poll about even. Conclusion: neither convincing. Need to see Nick Clegg

     
  29.  
    23:24: Salmond wants to 'write Labour budget'
    Nicky Morgan

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  30.  
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  31.  
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  32.  
    @RichardA Richard Adams, Guardian education editor

    tweets: Ed Miliband made a big mistake by not going first tonight. He missed out on the biggest TV audience, which he needed.

     
  33.  
    @DPJHodges Dan Hodges, Commentator for the Telegraph

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  34.  
    23:10: Interviews poll

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  35.  
    23:09: Pic: Question Time continues the debate
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  36.  
    Coming up on This Week
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  37.  
    23:08: Recap on brotherly relations

    Ed Miliband has conceded that his relationship with his brother, David, is still "healing" after both stood to be leader of the Labour Party in 2010.

    At the Sky/Channel 4 election question and answer, Mr Miliband was asked if he had regrets about creating division in his family. Mr Miliband said it was "hard" and it "was bruising for me, it was bruising for David". He described the brothers' relationship as "strained". "It's healed or healing I would say - just being completely frank with you about that," he said.

     
  38.  
    @SamCoatesTimes Sam Coates, Deputy Political Editor, The Times

    tweets: Instant result on tonight's TV debate by YouGov's First Verdict app for The Times:

    Cameron 51%

    Miliband 49%

    802 respondents

     
  39.  
    @IndyPolitics IndyPolitics

    ‏tweets: Labour spin doctor dismisses 1st poll (showing Ed lost): "People who watch late at night are "older, richer & tend to be more Conservative"

     
  40.  
    23:07: Recap of the Lord Green question

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  41.  
    @afneil Andrew Neil, BBC presenter

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  42.  
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  44.  
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  45.  
    22:56: Janet Street Porter's verdict

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  46.  
    ‏@faisalislam Faisal Islam, Political editor, Sky News

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  47.  
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  48.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

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  49.  
    22:48: Farage preparing...

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  50.  
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  51.  
    22:48: UKIP verdict

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  52.  
    22:47: SNP verdict

    The SNP's Humza Yousaf, says: "This programme showed that neither the Tories nor Labour reflect the needs and priorities of the people of Scotland. David Cameron had no answers to where the cuts would fall, but we know from the Tory record that they would fall on the most vulnerable in society and the working poor. Ed Miliband's fatal flaw is to accept the same level of Tory spending cuts, while wanting to waste £100 billion on a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons to be dumped in Scotland."

     
  53.  
    22:44: Bouts to come... BBC Newsnight BBC Two, 22:30
    Next week's contest

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  54.  
    22:44: Guardian poll

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  55.  
    22:44: Pic: Ed Miliband and Jeremy Paxman share a smile
    Miliband and Paxman
     
  56.  
    @paulwaugh Paul Waugh, Editor, PoliticsHome

    ‏tweets: Tonight proved Lynton Crosby right that Cameron has most to lose from TV debates. Public get to see Miliband in way not previously seen

     
  57.  
    22:43: Hague's verdict

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  58.  
    22:40: Mirror verdict

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  59.  
    @MarinaHyde Marina Hyde, Guardian columnist

    tweets: Went to one of the spin rooms in 2010. A definite two-bath event.

     
  60.  
    @rupertmurdoch Rupert Murdoch

    tweets: Thanks for 2 mentions, Ed Miliband. Only met once for all of 2 minutes when you embarrassed me with over-the-top flattery.

     
  61.  
    22:38: Pic: Miliband finished, now for the spin...
    Spin room
     
  62.  
    @TheEconomist The Economist

    tweets: First TV duel of British election campaign over. Verdict: passionate Ed Miliband bested tetchy David Cameron. Full details on @EconBritain.

     
  63.  
    @PickardJE Jim Pickard, Chief political correspondent, Financial Times

    ‏tweets: The press room at Sky HQ has gone spin-tastic. William Hague: "Miliband had a series of disconnected policies that don't add up."

     
  64.  
    @Jeremy_Hunt Jeremy Hunt, Tory health secretary

    tweets: The more we saw of Ed M the less he felt like a PM

     
  65.  
    @campbellclaret Alastair Campbell

    tweets: Good night for Ed, neutral for Kay, bad for Jeremy, dire for Dave

     
  66.  
    22:33: Independent front page
    Independent front page
     
  67.  
    22:32: Post match analysis

    Well, there was a lot of get your teeth into there. Who did it better? Have you changed your mind on who you'll vote for? Email us politics@bbc.co.uk or tweet us @bbcpolitics with your views

     
  68.  
    ‏@rosschawkins Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Labour are confronting the - is your leader up to it issue head on. All the tough guy stuff no coincidence.

     
  69.  
    @DavidWooding David Wooding, Political editor, Sun on Sunday

    tweets: Bet both Cameron and Miliband would have preferred a head-to-head than separate maulings by Paxo. But both survived it. #BattleForNumber10

     
  70.  
    22:28: We're all alright

    As they finish, the microphones pick up Jeremy Paxman asking Ed Miliband: "Are you ok, Ed?" The Labour leader replies: ""Yeah, are you?"

     
  71.  
    22:28: Pic: Paxman finishes interview and asks 'You alright?'
    Sky interview
     
  72.  
    22:27: Tough enough?

    "You need a toughness in this job... I'm a pretty resilient guy and I have been underestimated at every turn," says Ed Miliband. There's an audible sympathetic "ooh" from the audience at that question.

     
  73.  
    @georgeeaton George Eaton, Political editor, News Statesmen

    tweets: Miliband clearly better-prepared than Cameron - advantage of not being PM. #BattleForNumber10

     
  74.  
    22:27: Geek?

    "They see you as a north London geek", says Jeremy Paxman. "Who cares?" replies Ed Miliband.

     
  75.  
    22:26: Star front page
    Daily Star front page
     
  76.  
    22:25: Media image

    Ed Miliband says criticism of him in the media are "water off a duck's back". The thing I have learned most in this job, he says, is to be yourself. He has stood up for the things he believes in, he says. "I don't care about what the newspapers say... I care about British people and what happens to them," he says.

     
  77.  
    22:25: Tough enough

    People think you're not tough enough, Jeremy Paxman says. Let me tell you, Ed Miliband says, looking a bit tougher. On Syria and intervention there, Mr Miliband says he made up his mind and said No. Standing up to the leader of the free world shows character, he adds. He adds: "Am I tough enough? Hell yes, I'm tough enough."

     
  78.  
    @MASieghart Mary Ann Sieghart

    tweets: "Keep the language simple, Ed." "OK - can I use words like 'consequentials' and 'redistribution' then?" No! #BattleForNumber10

     
  79.  
    22:23: Trident

    Would you move Trident out of Scotland if the SNP demanded it? No, Ed Miliband says. I'm not going to get into a bargaining game with Alex Salmond, Mr Miliband says. Oh yes you will if you need a coalition deal, is the suggestion from Jeremy Paxman as they discuss the subject.

     
  80.  
    haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk Get involved

    Charlotte in Baildon writes: Utterly appalled by Paxman's inconsistent approach to these interviews. Cameron allowed to answer questions fully and Miliband hardly allowed to answer before he's interrupted and hit with another question. Not impressed.

     
  81.  
    haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk Get involved

    ARC Cornwall writes: The most impressive person in these debates was definitely Jeremy Paxman. Why can't we have him as Prime Minister? No weasel words or wishy-washy views with him at least. I'd vote for the Paxman Party any day.

     
  82.  
    22:22: Miliband to Paxman: You won't decide election
    Paxman interview
     
  83.  
    22:20: Mansion tax

    Mansion tax next. Is this his way of taking money from the south-east of England to give to Scotland? Ed Miliband says the levy will involve homes mostly in the south east but this is part of being a United Kingdom, he says. You can have redistribution across the UK, he adds.

     
  84.  
    22:18: Energy bills

    On energy policy, Ed Miliband used to believe in raising energy bills, now he wants them to fall, Jeremy Paxman says. Mr Miliband says that isn't the case - he didn't think higher bills would tackle climate change. He always said energy bills should be fair, he adds.

     
  85.  
    @matthancockmp Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk. Minister for Business, Enterprise and Energy

    tweets: On this evidence, can anyone imagine Ed Miliband standing up to Putin? #BattleForNumber10

     
  86.  
    22:18: 'Give us a clue'
    Audience

    The audience enjoys Miliband struggling to specify which programmes the Labour leader thought were examples of over-spending under the previous government. He was asked: "Did you spend too much?" by Jeremy Paxman, who then pressed: "Give us a clue, come on."

     
  87.  
    22:17: Cuts?

    What would you cut, Ed Miliband is asked. There are going to be reductions in spending outside some protected areas, he says. Labour is going to make these decisions in government, Ed Miliband says. He adds his overall approach is based on fair taxes and cutting spending. Would overall spending go up? No, it is likely to fall, Ed Miliband says.

     
  88.  
    22:15: Economic forecasts

    Haven't you got your economic forecasts wrong under this government, Jeremy Paxman says. Ed Miliband defends his figures - he says wages have fallen. David Cameron says things are good, Mr Miliband says. He doesn't think things are ok.

     
  89.  
    22:15: The future

    Government make mistakes, there are always inefficiencies, Ed Miliband. But let's talk about the future, he adds. "Yes let's," says Paxman. It's getting a bit feisty.

     
  90.  
    22:14: Where did Labour go wrong?

    What else did Labour get wrong when last in power, Jeremy Paxman asks. Ed Miliband, in addition to immigration, adds the party was "too relaxed about inequality". Asked if they borrowed too much, Ed Miliband said the figure was high because of the global financial crisis. He says no government gets it completely right.

     
  91.  
    22:13: Immigration figure

    "I'm not going to pluck a figure out the air on migration," Ed Miliband says. "There's no finite limit?" Jeremy Paxman asks.

     
  92.  
    @BuzzFeedUKPol BuzzFeed UK Politics
    Miliband at Sky leader interview

    tweets: For sale: one lectern, barely used, one careful owner. #BattleForNumber10

     
  93.  
    22:12: Pic: Paxman says 'you're making up a question to yourself'
    Jeremy Paxman
     
  94.  
    22:12: Population size

    We can get low-skilled migration down, Ed Miliband says. But he won't be drawn on numbers as Jeremy Paxman asks if a population of 75m or 80m was too many people.

     
  95.  
    22:10: Immigration

    Jeremy Paxman starts on immigration - and whether Britain is full. Ed Miliband says he wouldn't describe it that way; we have high levels of migration that need to be reduced, but he says he won't make false promises. He admits Labour has got it wrong before on the issue.

     
  96.  
    22:10: Pic: Miliband's grilling commences
    Sky studio
     
  97.  
    22:06: The fourth quarter

    Next up, Ed Miliband is quizzed by Jeremy Paxman.

     
  98.  
    @Kevin_Maguire Kevin Maguire, Associate editor, Daily Mirror

    ‏tweets: Mili accepts Lab was wrong not to regulate banks more toughly. Too true

     
  99.  
    22:04: Pic: Half time break
    Ed Miliband
     
  100.  
    22:03: Lessons learned?

    Have you learned from the mistakes of the last Labour government, Ed Miliband is asked. We were wrong on the regulation of the banks, Ed Miliband says. "I'm sorry we got it wrong", he adds, "but we've learned the lesson". Has Ed Balls learned the lesson the questioner asks - "yes" says Mr Miliband.

     

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