Peter Hoskin

The final TV debate - live blog

The final TV debate - live blog
Text settings

2227, JGF: Rumour going around the press room that a certain A Campbell has been overheard saying 'I think we've had it'

2201, PH: And that's it. I'll be putting up my verdict in a separate post shortly. Thanks for tuning in.

2200, PH: Woah. Brown starts positive - thanking everyone involved in the debates.  But he's soon into hardcore negativity: attaking the Tories for their inheritance tax plans and pointing out what areas of spending they will cut.  It's all scaremongering about child tax credits, cancer guarantees and the like.  This, lest you need reminding, is his pitch for the country.

2128, PH: Clegg hones in on the "old parties," claiming that they will stand in the way of "real change".  He says that he will "fight for fairness".

2156, PH: And so we come to the closing statements.  Cameron makes a direct pitch for votes: "If you vote Labour it's more of the same. If you vote Liberal you just get uncertainty.  If you vote Conservative, you'll get change."  He makes a strong point about looking out for the "most disadvantaged in society".

2154, PH:
Great stuff from Cameron: "I think people will see through [Brown].  I have two children in the state sector, and I want to see all the education spending follow children like them across the playground and into the classroom."  He highlights instances of DCSF waste.

2154, PH:
Oh dear. Brown is saying that Cameron and Clegg are forming a "coalition of cuts".

2152, PH: Cameron points out Brown's relentless negativity, beforetalking about aspiration and choice in education.  This is his strongest answer so far, I think.  He does the "sunshine" stuff extremely well.

2151, PH: Brown is shrinking back into his "investment vs cuts" shell: the Tories would cut this, that and the other.

2149, PH: Cameron's response is snappy.  And, crucially, it includes a good pitch for the Tories' schools policy.  Cameron says that he wants "choice, diversity and excellence" in the state sector.

2147, PH: A question, now, on improving opportunities for young people.  Brown leads with Labour's tax credits He adds: "I care about social mobility."  The lines don't seem to be working though.  Brown seems tired and distant.

2146, JGF:
Mandelson enters the press room, looking glum. Here's a photo:

2144, PH: Surprise, surprise - Brown is going on about  the "same old Tories."  Cameron says that the PM is talking "as though he has a good economic record".  Points out, rightly, the high numbers of young people who aren't in jobs, education or training.

2142, PH: Brown points out that there are 2.5 million people in work than in 1997 - the vast majority of those jobs are either in the public sector or imported, though.

2140, PH: Brown says that unemployed people will be put back into work, while Cameron talks convincingly about welfare reform.  The Tory leader is improving as the debate goes along.

2137, PH: Welfare now. Clegg says that you need to "give incentives to work" - and talks about a fairer tax system.  A good point - and one that's often overlooked.  But must go hand-in-hand with benefits reform.

2136, JGF: Interesting Tweet from Fraser: What a clanger from Clegg: 31pc of immigrants from EU not 80pc as he hysterically claimed. ONS figures:

2134, PH: Clegg: "There's a role for good, old-fashoned council houses..."

2132, PH: Clegg and Brown make similar points about increasing housing supply as Cameron.  But it sounds robotic from Brown.

2131, PH: Question on the lack of affordable housing.  Neat answer from Cameron, as he talks about stamp duty and building more housing.

2130, JGF: That immigration exchange went as well for Cameron as he could have hoped. Be fascinating to see how it polls.

2129, PH: Cameron says that the Tories are the only party which will deal with immigration.  Brown murmurs that Cameron "won't answer the question" - but the record of the New Labour years is acting against him here, I imagine.

2128, JGF: Clegg accusing Cameron of raising 'false hope' on immigration. But he doesn't have the response he needs on the amnesty point.

2127, PH:
Clegg is trying to claim that the other two are being "misleading" about Lib Dem immigration policy.  To be honest, Clegg doesn't sound certain on the issue of whether he'd introduce an amnesty or not.  He just keeps returning to those shadows in our economy.

2145, PH: Hold the front page. Brown just said "I agree with David" about the Lib Dem plans.

2124, PH: Cameron takes on Clegg over an amnesty for illegal immgrants.  Clegg points out that Boris backs an amnesty - and that something must be done about the people "living in the shadows of the economy".

2122, PH: Clegg talks about "strengthening controls" - and returns to the points about "criminal gangs" exploiting immigrants that he made in the first debate.

2122, JGF: Cameron strong on immigration, his best answer so far.

2121, PH: Cameron has what I suspect will be the most popular line for this: "We will cut immgration from the hundreds of thousands ... to the tens of thousands."

2120, PH:
Brown goes on about Labour's points system.  Problem is, I doubt this will sway many folk after Labour have been in power for 13 years.

2119, PH: A tricky question for Brown after the events of yesterday.  The leaders are asked: "Why do you ignore what the people think about immigration."

2118, JGF: Cameron is winning the clash with Brown. The key question is, is Clegg being squeezed out or is he successfully reprising his the two old parties performance from the first debate?

2116, PH:
Cameron belatedly responds to Brown's claim that the Tories want to cut corporation tax "for banks".  He stresses that he wants to cut corporation tax "for everyone" - including small businesses.

2115, PH: This is a bit of a snooze-worthy answer session.  Brown is giving it his all with "investment" figures, one after another, after another.

2113, PH: Cameron outlines Tory plans to involve more small and medium businesses in government contracts.

2110, PH: Clegg is the first to mention Kraft's takeover over Cadburys - in the home city of Cadburys.

2109, PH: A question on jobs and manufacturing.  The three answers are broadly similar in content - new technologies, green, digital, skills, etc.  But Brown's is lagging behind on tone, with a bunch of tractor statistics on the number of jobs he expects to create.  He really only comes alive when attacking the Tories.

2107, JGF: Before the debate, there was an expectation that Brown would attack Clegg quite a bit. But so far, his fire has been concentrated pretty much solely on Cameron.

2105, PH: Cameron makes a detour into the Lib Dems' former enthusiasm for the Euro.  Nick Clegg defuses the issue by stressing that he's only ever thought that we should join the Euro if the circumstances were just right - and they're not.

2104, PH: Brown caricatures the Tories' plans to cut corporation taxes as "a tax cut for banks".  I wonder what other businesses, who will benefit, will make of that?

2102, PH: Clegg says that both Labour and the Tories are "too close" to the banks.  It's sanctimonious and disingenuous - but it seems to work.

2101, JGF: Strong stuff from Cameron as he throws back at Brown the fact that the Labour governnment knighted Fred Goodiwn.

2100, PH: Classic Brown. He starts a sentence quite punchily: "I have never been so angry..."  But then it descends into a technocratic drone: " when a bank director told me that his bank had a cash flow problem, when I knew it was a structural problem."

2058, PH: I imagine Clegg's answer will go down well.  He lists which bankers shouldn't be entitled to bonuses - and when.

2058, JF:
Clegg's performance is very similar in style and tone to his one in the first debate, trying to rise above the other two and be the tribune of the people.

2057, PH: Question three, now - and it's on bankers bonuses.  Cameron gives a point-by-point answer, setting out Tory plans for regulation, for a bank levy etc.  Clear and persuasive.

2056, PH: Brown says that child tax credits are "paid to children". Erm...

2055, PH: Clegg's loving the old politics jibes: "here they go again," he says.  He follows up with a sensible point about cutting the tax credits given to people who don't necessarily need them.

2053, PH: Clegg and Brown are rounding on Cameron over their inheritance tax plans.  Brown says that it is "immoral" to cut IHT, while cutting tax credits.  This is typical Brown stuff, but his most forceful moment so far this evening.

2052, JGF: Cameron gets in the stat that one in every four pounds is borrowed.

2050, PH: Brown returns to the Tories' IHT plans.  Cameron says that the PM is in a "desperate state".  On the surface, this is all very civil so far - but there's a venomous core running through it.

2048, PH: Cameron and Clegg are strong in their initial responses.  Cameron highlights the national insurance cut - and says that Brown is "misleading the public" over Tory plans for tax credits.  Clegg majors on his party's plan for a £10,000 tax-free threshhold.

2047, JGF: Brown's line for tonight is 'the same old Conservative party'.

2046, PH: Question on tax.  Brown can barely wait to get into the Tories' inheritance tax plans.  "Richest 3,000..." etc.  A shame, for him, that this is a popular policy.

2044, PH: At last, Cameron hits back against Brown claim that the NI cut is "taking money out of the economy".  He says: "Gordon is saying that the government is the economy."  He does well, too, to characterise Brown's position as "let's keep wasting money this year, and raise taxes the next."

2043, PH:
...which lets Clegg slide in with a request to "take this beyond political point-scoring for one minute."

2041, PH: Guess what. Brown's going on about the Tories risking the recovery. His battle with Cameron is already reducing to that £6bn of Tory efficiency cuts this year...

2040, JGF: Clegg's idea of getting everyone together to discuss the black hole is phooey. But I'm told it goes down very well in focus groups.

2040, PH: Clegg is pushing his old politics, new politics shtick, asking for a cross-party economic council to sort the public finances.

2038, PH: Clegg is doing the sincere thing very well: "You're quite right, we do need to do more to set out spending cuts ... but there's only so much we can say now."

2037, PH: Brown goes into full technocrat mode - listing pension relief thresholds and the like.  He ends with a flourish about how the Tories would "risk the recovery."  Cameron hits back saying that we need to kill the national insurance hike - and he stresses that the Tories will do more than just efficiency savings.

2036, PH:
First question on spending cuts.  And Clegg starts well.  He stresses that the Lib Dems have set out their spending plans in their manifesto - and lists some of the big ticket projects they'd cut.  He adds that "efficiency savings aren't enough".

2034, PH: Ohh, Brown refers to his gaffe straight away: "As you saw yesterday, I don't always get it right."  His pitch is relatively negative, saying that the Tories are a "risk".

2033, JGF: Very impressive opening statement from Clegg, brackets Labour and the Tories together and touts his plan to raise the tax threshold to ten thousand.

2033, PH:
More direct stuff from Clegg. He tries to defuse his opponents attacks by saying "they'll tell you it can't be done".

2032, PH: You know the drill: it's the opening statements first. Cameron gives a list of measures for fixing the economy: "Reward work ... get manufacturing again ... get value money for public services ... I would never join the Euro."  Direct stuff.  He ends: "If you vote conservative next Thursday, we'd get started on Friday".

2030, PH: So here we go. Dimbleby sounds very echo-ey in the hall.

2028, JGF: Amusement in the press centre as the big screen is showing the BBC feed of Dimbleby warming up.

2025, JGF: One thing I expect Cameron to do tonight is, in his closing statement, to look at the camera and ask people directly for their vote. This would (if my memory serves me right) be the first time, Cameron has actually asked people to vote for him.

Stay tuned for live coverage from 2030.