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LIVE COMMENTARY- KATIE WILSON
BBC Leaders’ Debate Thursday 16th April
The opening statements bring the usual spiel from Nigel Farage in particular “closing the borders” being key for him- as always. Miliband was very keen to comment on the fact that David Cameron “had chosen not to be present”, his speech earlier in the day highlighting that Cameron was essentially missing a job interview. Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru leader was of course promoting the improvement of Wales, whilst SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is obviously all about Scotland and “progressive politics”. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett highlighted that her party is not actually all about trees, and is in fact keen on helping out the elderly and those in need.
Question from someone about to enter the job market -Is it fair to increase government spending when her generation will be left to pay off the debt?
The phrase “balance the books” is yet again a heavily recurring statement from Miliband, covering himself and the non-present Clegg, and to be quite frank it’s beyond boring. Bennett is again all about the figures- particularly GDP and claims to be concerned about the younger generations’ debt problem and the fact that WE will be paying the national debt off for years. Farage also keen on pointing out the missing David Cameron- which is indeed bizarre, but at this stage, I hope will result in a slightly calmer debate than we saw a couple of weeks ago.
Sturgeon receives huge round of applause for a comment on the “disgrace” at Cameron’s lack of presence. Strangely, Miliband or Farage were not applauded for similar comments. Sturgeon keen on people voting for parties who will “hold Labour to account”, clearly wants the Tories out of power.
There’s a real sense of girl power here today! Wood questioning Miliband directly- who responds well to questions and is always directly talking to his audience. You have to hand it to him, he has a certain way of trying to connect with the audience.
Right now- I feel like people are going to suggest that Sturgeon has “won” this debate again- audience seem to love her: comments on the idea that Conservatives and Labour aren’t different enough. Farage is quite an informal character, referring to his fellow leaders as “this lot”- not quite what you’d expect from someone in such power.
Question about “tackling housing crisis”.
I must say, the audience here are so much more supportive than at the ITV debate, they’re applauding at every available opportunity. I’m all for saving Green Belt- so right now, Miliband doesn’t ring true with my ideas. Wood believing in MORE social housing and further investment in it (I think everyone will agree with this). Farage loves his stats too eh?! “We need a new house every 7 minutes”- I quoted this the other day, so I know for a fact he is just re-quoting himself- boring: very few applauded for his comment on social housing being for UK nationals only- clearly not everyone agrees with his ideals. Bennett- nothing dragging me in to listen at this point, sorry Natalie. Sturgeon massively applauded AGAIN for her comments against Tories- intriguing tactic. Says that we need more house available to rent. Wood talks about reducing homelessness levels and comes across with a strong comment on social housing and protecting those who need help. Right to buy scheme doesn’t seem a popular one amongst these five leaders- but Miliband says he is not “totally against it”. Miliband talks about capping rent within three years as well as cutting letting fees- this is a good concept that I am sure a lot of us students would welcome; living on a student loan- but how true is it? FARAGE COMMENT: “real audience are sitting at home”: this seems very true: are the BBC encouraging these applauses?
Sturgeon- I’ll hand it to her, she is strong and I enjoyed her comment about the fact that “not everything is because of immigrants”. Farage- questions how she cannot accept that everything is down to immigrants. Bennett moves the debate on- will we get back to housing? Thank you Bennett- yet again she knows her figures and people always seem to be prepared to listen to her. Miliband: “we are letting down our young people and we are letting down our families”. Miliband agrees that net migration needs decreasing, but does not by any means agree with Farage.
Wood- blames Thatcher’s Right to buy policy and is against the idea that immigration is part of the problem.
Question: Can we allow defence spending to fall below 2% GDP?
All seem in agreement here, Farage starting the commentary. Bennett’s statement shows that she does by no means approve in weapons of mass destruction: *applause*! She is very keen on making a “safer World”. Wood agrees here, and says that Plaid Cymru was against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan- this will no doubt be to Wood’s and Bennett’s favours as so many people went against Blair when we initially went to war over ten years ago. Sturgeon: “priorities are plain wrong”- naturally, the audience seem on her side- she is a loved character and I think it’s clear that she is able to connect with the people and knows what to say to gain the respect that she needs as a new leader of SNP. Miliband seemed slightly weaker here, but did say that he would be “able to say no” when needed.
This is not massively engaging and the most intriguing part right now is the idea that there are talks of a “European Army”- Miliband has no intention of taking this on board, whilst Farage pushes that it is a possibility. Wood’s comment as backlash on Miliband’s ISIS comment is interesting “would you push the button”- I find this intriguing but the audience are perhaps not with me on this one. Miliband continues to waffle on for a while but maintains that in the case of ISIS military action would be continues under Labour.
Sturgeon seems to side with Wood on the idea that there are much better and safer things to save money on- girl power is going strong. UN Peace keeping is a point of discussion from Bennett. Wood doesn’t see any sense in spending large amounts of money on replacing trident weapons, but does believe in caring for our serving military personnel and ensuring aftercare for soldiers. (A nice point picked up from the ITV debate a couple of weeks ago from the audience heckler!)
I anticipate this will be heated- let’s hope for some real debate here!
Bennett begins the debate, talks of the fact that she herself is an immigrant, nice personal touch to connect with the immigrants and those completely for diversity. Immigrants are “all contributing” to Britain and believes we should all “celebrate” their contributions. Sturgeon feels that the Government are far too driven and focussed by UKIP and Farage. She repeats herself from the ITV debate about UK national settling elsewhere- how would we like them to be spoken about? Miliband is keen on sharing policy here: an immigrant would need to be in the country for 2 years before being able to receive benefit. Farage talks about the sorts of things that do worry people: Primary school places/ Doctors etc. This clearly talks to the people who may have not got their youngster into the primary school of their choice today- some of his ideas of mirroring Australian ways seem strong and he portrays himself well at this point (you’d expect him too- this being his main policy). Wood hints at Trade Unions and brings in Thatcher again…
I must agree with Bennett here that there are indeed “unfair, unreasonable immigration rules” and hence non EU spouses struggle to get visas to live with British partners. As the first debater at this point she is clear and fair. NHS staff are on topic. Farage is keen to bring in the idea that health tourism is an issue and costing too much money for our system. (He’s just done the HIV comment again- cue backlash)! Actually, this isn’t as debate- like as one may hope. Miliband to Farage: “I’m afraid Nigel, you fail that test”. NHS is a hot topic- immigration disappeared simply because a lot of Doctors and Nurses are foreign born- did I miss another question on the NHS?!
I love that Bennett usually brings it back on topic- but actually didn’t this time. All ganging up on Ed Miliband now!
“The NHS is not part of this debate tonight”- well, it seems it should have been.
Dimbleby tells Miliband to save his “we’re aiming for a majority” speech. Nice touch, glad to see this slight sense of humour. They’re not really answering this question…Farage swerves. Sturgeon wants a deal with “the Socttish people”, she says she will “never ever do a deal with the Tories”… “I will work with Labour, Leanne, Natalie”. Finally, someone who outlines what she really wants: which is to see the back of the Conservatives. As Wood cannot be PM, but says she will not prop up a Conservative Government but appears to want to be sure that propping up a Labour Government would be for the right reasons. Bennett would also not “prop up the Conservatives” and is very keen to show that the Greens are increasing in popularity and actually says the Labour are not offering progressive policies. Miliband “fundamentally disagrees” with Nicola Sturgeon- and does not want to break up the country- “will not have a coalition with the SNP”…we’ll see after May 7th. Sturgeon simply seems to be hellbent on being rid of the Conservatives to “protect public services” and “help Labour be bolder”. This is the most exciting part of the debate- SNP and Labour finally having it out. Nicola Sturgeon is VERY VERY clear that she desperately does not want to have the Conservatives back in power; “people will never forgive you”: to Miliband on backing down to Tories.
Farage: suggests that the people of England are “worried” about the “Scottish tail” leading Britain. Wood highlights that a hung Parliament gives Plaid Cymru a huge opportunity. Bennett, questions Miliband on the fact that he doesn’t seem to want to represent those who are minorities/ non workers. Bennett shows that the Greens want to represent ALL and “protect our most vulnerable”.
With all five, rather sweeping questions, asked and answered, the five leaders have all said their piece and in my opinion, Sturgeon came across very strongly throughout the debate, with Farage always getting his ideas out there, but not always being agreed with by fellow leaders or indeed the audience. Miliband shared his policies and ideas, but ultimately, for someone representing an established party, he was rather weak especially when we compare him to the new SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who no doubt will be said to have “won” this debate yet again. Wood shares some interesting ideas and backed up Sturgeon to an extent, as did Bennett, but again always sharing figures and the policies more unique to the Green Party. The debate was less heated than the ITV Leaders’ Debate, which you can red up on here. It is a shame that Clegg and Cameron were not present, however, the constant digs at the missing Lib Dems and Tories were slightly unnecessary, especially as it was interesting to see what some of the “smaller” parties had to say, whilst being challenged less due to fewer parties being present.