It was a very quick fire set up. Paxo reeled off question after question. 7 in 15 minutes. Gave Cameron about 30 seconds to reply. Paxo interrupted constantly, as is his usual inquisitor style, which probably allowed Cameron time to think. Paxman also asked some cheeky questions, which were a little unexpected . He made them quite personal. Not really about the party but the man. Cameron looked uncomfortable, but not damagingly so. Was more a case of the quickfire Paxo and questions without easy answers that made it difficult for him
- Could you live on a zero-hours contract, Prime Minister?
- Why did you hire Andy Coulson and Stephen Green. Why did you back Clarkson?
- How much have you borrowed, Prime Minister?
- You twice told me to my face PM, that you wouldn't raise VAT. Yet that was the first thing you did!
- Where will welfare cuts fall?
- Why did you say you'd cut immigration when it has massively risen?
- What was you worst foreign policy decision ?
- Why did you rule out a third term ?
Cameron did fine on them all. He was probably weakest on the foreign policy and debt questions. Tried to explain Libya, and said no one knew warlords would take over. Well..a lot of people did say just that. Iraq was a bit of a giveaway. But he said it was never going to be troops on the ground.
And on the debt, when asked how much had he borrowed since 2010, he struggled to explain how borrowing more than even the most proliferate labour government was cutting the debt.
But overall , no new converts, but no harm done.
The Q+A with the public was at a slower pace. Cameron remembered to call them by their first name and talk directly too them. Audience were restrained. Kay Burley asked each questioner afterwards if they were happy with the response. Which few were. More like Question Time this set-up. But the clock is running and Kay pushes the debate along very briskly. If this audience reflects the public mood, then its a Miliband government. Not overtly hostile but a definite them of no cuts and more spending set of questions.
Miliband opted for second. That meant he would have seen the aggressive Paxman assault and couldn't have done his nerves any good.
But he was straight on with the audience and not Paxman.
I think he fluffed his first question. "You always sound gloomy ..are you gloomy. Are things really that bad?" to audience laughter. he says 'no..but they could be better.'
He should have laughed along and said 'I have much to be gloomy about.." and then launched into his tales of Tory cuts and zero hours contracts and such. Instead he just launched into the prepared answer.Which was a bit shallow.
Throughout he kept saying he was a Democratic Socialist. Stressed it. Maybe the Democratic bit was to woo ex-Social Democrats?
The questions were delivered at the same fast bowling pace.Here are some
Q: I’m a higher-rate taxpayer. Labour’s messages make me feel demonised.
Q: If you are prime minister, what will the budget deficit be at the end of the parliament?
Q: Why won’t you give people a vote on the EU?
Q: Wouldn’t your brother do better job? He was better qualified.
The brother one probably gave him the most difficulty, but he's used to it and looked sincere.
And he handled the audience well enough. Probably slightly edged it over Cameron.
But then came his turn vs The Pax.
Not good, not good at all.
Q Is Britain full?
Q Climate change levy on energy bills pushing up prices.
Q: You’ve been wrong on unemployment, inflation and wages.
Q: Labour got immigration completely wrong. Some 400,000 people came in. What else did Labour do wrong?
Q: Jim Murphy said the mansion tax was a way of taking money out of the south of England and giving it to Scotland.
Q how is it even your own MP's think you are a liability.
Q: As for Alex Salmond’s demands, will you scrap Trident?
The audience, or the lefty bit applauded Miliband. Twice. And groaned when his brother was mentioned. Must have been a different brief for Labour supporters as the conservatives were quiet hroughout.
The Guardian called it for Cameron. Because of his confidence and better grasp of figures. And Miliband's "I'm not going to be drawn" responses.. which looked evasive. And his "i don't care..i don't care' response to why his personal ratings are poor was very Brown like.
Guardian was right