Leaders’ debate reaction from the spin room

All the reaction from the spin room in Birmingham after the conclusion of the final leaders’ debate of the 2010 general election campaign.

William Hague

The shadow foreign secretary comments to politics.co.uk about the leaders’ debate:

“David Cameron won that debate on the big issue of the economy, the one that the prime minister said was going to be the biggest. The polls showed he [Cameron] won on the issue. More to the point, who had the big substantive arguments on jobs creation, on the banks, on immigration, on welfare? It was David Cameron. I thought that was his strongest performance of the three debates and I think he showed the country that he was ready to be the prime minister of this country.”

“I think Nick Clegg actually tried to change his policy on some points – on immigration and on the euro. Suddenly we have a Nick Clegg who is not in favour of joining the euro. But in the Liberal Democrat manifesto they are in favour of joining the euro. So I think he came under a lot of pressure there and I don’t think he was very good under that pressure.

“We don’t predict opinion polls. They will come out soon enough. But we think David Cameron gave a very strong performance during that debate, we think he showed clear leadership, that he was in command of the situation, so that was a very good performance indeed. We are working for a majority and maybe we got a bit nearer to it tonight.

When asked what happens to David Cameron if he doesn’t secure a majority at the general election Hague told politics.co.uk:”The party is completely behind David Cameron – all the more so after tonight’s performance.”

Peter Mandelson

The business secretary gives his take on the final leaders’ debate:

“Gordon showed real stamina, real strength, real passion, a real sense of conviction and above all a plan for getting Britain taken forward and clearing our way out of this financial and economic crisis and government working with business in order to create the jobs of the future which is most important to the people of this country.

“I think between the strength and clarity of what the prime minister had to say on immigration and the button pushing from David Cameron a hole opened up and Nick Clegg fell through it.

“The public went into this debate tonight in so many cases undecided and with open minds. They are still listening to the arguments and what they got tonight was a very strong clear passionate argument from Gordon Brown. What Cameron had to do tonight was to put in the performance of his life in order to reclaim to claw back that original polling lead that he came into the campaign with. And his performance tonight simply wasn’t good enough. He will not succeed in clawing back that original poll lead that he blew at the time of the first debate.

“In my view it will be another four or five days for public opinion to settle in the wake of the events this week and this final debate. What the debate has done is give people and enormous amount of food for thought. They have taken away I think a very strong impression of a barnstorming prime minister who got straight back on his horse after yesterday and has just galloped through this debate tonight and I think they will respect and admire the strength and the determination and the sheer resilience that the prime minister showed in this debate today. That counts for a great deal for people they want to see people who has grip who has strength who don’t buckle under pressure and whose going to be good in a crisis and that is what Gordon Brown has shown through the financial and economic crisis we have come through and again tonight and I think that will find a very strong response from voters.”

Paddy Ashdown

Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown comments on the final leaders’ debate:

“Another very solid performance by Nick Clegg. Indeed I thought he was particularly good on the economy. I like a politician who can, and the public, I think, respects a politician, who can argue a tough case and stick to his guns. He did that.

“By the way he’s the only person with a policy here for this problem of the illegal immigrants who you can’t see, the other two don’t have any and my feeling is if you looked at the famous worm during that period you’ll probably find that he won that.

“Now that’s a big politician and strong politician. I think the more important thing is rather than getting into the intestines of who did what and this let’s say where we are in British politics today and here’s where I think we are. I think Labour is now out of it. I think Mr Brown’s performance tonight will not have lifted Labour it may even have depressed it further. I think this is now a straight battle between the Tories and the Lib Dems.

“You saw that by the way in the way in Mr Brown attacked Mr Cameron and Mr Cameron attacked Mr Clegg and I think that was very very revealing. So here’s the choice, I think the last three weeks of this campaign has been about the people of Britain deciding they want choice and the final week of this campaign will be about which choice do you want? Nick Clegg has given the people, and that’s his gift to them in a way, the opportunity for a once in a generation chance to change politics and the way we do things in this country for good.

“I think that’s the gift he’s given them. In the next week they will consider that. My guess is that many, many, many of them will want to take that choice.”

George Osborne

The shadow chancellor comments on the debate:

“David Cameron won that debate on the big issue of the economy the one that the prime minister said was going to be the biggest. The polls showed he (Cameron) won on the issue. More to the point, who had the big substantive arguments on jobs creation? On the banks? On immigration? On welfare? It was David Cameron. I thought that was his strongest performance of the three debates and I think he showed the country that he was ready to be the prime minister of this country.”