The Second TV Leaders’ Debate

(Telegraph) – THE STAKES WERE RAISED for the three party leaders, Labour’s Gordon Brown, the Conservatives’ David Cameron and the Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg as they went head to head for the second televised debate of the 2010 general election campaign. Here is a run-down of the questions they faced:-

Q. How would you tackle EU interference?

Mr Cameron said “we have let too many powers go from Westminster to Brussels” and “we should take some of those powers back”.

“I want us to be in Europe, but I don’t want us to be run by Europe.”

After saying he did not want to join the Euro, the Tory leader vowed to cut bureaucracy and rules.

Mr Clegg said the EU was not perfect but said “size does matter”.

He said: “There are a whole lot of things, whether we like it or not – whatever your views on Europe and the European Union – which we simply cannot deal with on our own.”

Saying Europe would help target climate change and international crime, he added: “We are stronger together and weaker apart.”

Mr Brown said there were “three million reasons why we need to be part of the European Union – and they are called jobs”.

Isolating Britain from Europe would be a “terrible, terrible mistake”, he added.

Saying that when the EU and US work together “we are so much stronger”, Mr Brown added: “Let us never again be an empty chair in Europe.”

Q. Given our involvement in Afghanistan, if there is another multinational operation to remove al Qaida or another terrorist group from a failed state, would the UK participate?

Mr Clegg: “The principle of the reason why we went into Afghanistan, why I supported our mission in Afghanistan, unlike the illegal invasion of Iraq, is to keep us safe.

“It’s because we believe that, if you allow Afghanistan to be a haven of extremism and terrorism, there will be more terrorist attacks in Britain. So from that principle if we need to do that again we should.”

But he said if we were to take such action again, the UK must make sure that troops had the right equipment.

Mr Clegg said a strategic defence review after the election was essential and insisted he would not spend money on the third tranche of the Eurofighter Typhoon.

“I don’t think it’s right to do what both David Cameron and Gordon Brown want, which is now to commit, before we even need to make a decision, to spend up to £100 billion renewing, in the same old way, the Cold War Trident nuclear missile system.”

Mr Brown said there were already problems emerging with al Qaida in Somalia and Yemen and the UK would continue to have to act internationally to combat this.

He said: “There is a chain of terror that links these al Qaida groups in different parts of the world to action that could happen in the United Kingdom.”

He added: “To keep the streets safe in Britain we have to take on al Qaida wherever it is.”

The Prime Minister said he believed the war in Afghanistan can be won, and insisted that Britain must keep its nuclear deterrent in the face of the threat from countries such as Iran and North Korea.

Mr Cameron said: “If I was your Prime Minister I would want to think very carefully what’s in the national interest. What would make us safer in the UK?”

He added: “If you look at future operations like that, we have to learn from the mistakes of the past.

“We need to make sure that we never send our troops into battle again without the proper equipment, without the proper helicopters.”

In a future conflict the UK would need to make sure that there was a political exit strategy in place, he said.

But Mr Cameron said the budget to give soldiers better equipment must not come at the expense of the nuclear deterrent.

Q. What are you doing personally to tackle climate change?

Mr Brown vowed to boost the UK’s use of renewable powers, tackling Britain’s dependence on oil.

Promoting the use of wind turbines and solar panels, he also said the development of Britain’s high-speed rail network was “helping to get people off the roads and also get off domestic air flights and I think that’s incredibly important”.

On a personal level he said he had been using trains while on the campaign trail and said he was using solar panels at his family home.

Mr Cameron said the “biggest change” he had made was that his party were “very strongly against the third runway at Heathrow”, adding we should have a “high-speed” rail hub instead: “I think it would be a really big step forward.”

He added: “In terms of my own life, the biggest thing I’ve done is have proper insulation in our house – it really can cut your energy bill, making life cheaper as well as greener.”

Mr Clegg said that in his personal life he was “acutely aware I do not do enough” on a personal level.

The Lib Dem leader said the use of flights needed to be tackled and called for a “plane tax” to be introduced to tackle the pollution caused by freight as well as passengers.

Q. When the Pope visits Britain in September, will the leaders dissociate themselves from him?

Mr Cameron welcomed the visit and said that, as Prime Minister, he would do “everything in my power” to make it a success, although he does not share the Pontiff’s views on contraception and homosexuality.

He said: “I think the Catholic Church has got some very, very serious work to do to unearth and come to terms with some of the appalling things that have happened and they need to do that. But I do think that we should respect people of faith.”

Mr Clegg said his children are being raised as Catholics and there are feelings of “anguish” in the community about the abuse scandals.

He said: “Many Catholics themselves feel really extremely torn apart by what’s happened and I think they do want to see the Catholic Church express greater openness.”

“I do welcome the Pope’s visit but I hope by the time he does visit there is a greater recognition there has been terrible, terrible suffering.”

Mr Brown said the Church had to “make sure that there is an open and clean confession” about the abuse scandals.

But he said he welcomed the Pope’s visit because the Catholic Church was a “great part” of British society and that religious barriers must be broken down.

Q. Given the scandals of the past year, how do you plan to restore faith in politics?

Mr Clegg called for the transfer of power to be handed back to the people, saying: “You’re the boss.”

“We all agree on the rhetoric of cleaning up politics but we actually have to act,” he added.

Calling for voting reforms, he said: “Many people are being ignored and we need to change that.”

Mr Brown said: “We will give the right of recall so that if you don’t like an MP for being corrupt and Parliament doesn’t take an action then you can remove them.”

He added: “You’re vote matters because this is a big choice election.”

Mr Cameron pointed to the anger surrounding the expenses scandal, saying: “Every where I go in this country during the election, there is, simmering and bubbling below the surface, anger about the expenses fiasco.”

He said he would ensure transparency and promote “simple changes” to put people in control, but said “let’s not have permanent hung Parliaments”.

Q. Do all of you think that a state pension of £59 per week is a just reward?

Mr Brown said every woman should have a full state pension and that if Labour wins the election everyone who works for an employer would get an occupational pension, and pensions would be linked to earnings from 2012.

He told the audience: “The one thing that scandalises our society above all else is that we cannot give dignity and security to all pensioners in their retirement, that’s what I want to see.”

He said he would cut the costs of care for the elderly to make it easier for pensioners to keep their own homes.

Mr Cameron said: “Fifty-nine pounds is not enough and we’ve got to do better as a society in giving people what we all want. Those that have done the right things through their lives, we should be giving you dignity and security in old age.”

He agreed that the pension should rise in line with earnings not prices, and said that from 2016 the Conservatives would raise the age of retirement for men by one year to fund changes.

Mr Clegg said the link between earnings and pensions should be restored immediately.

He said there were 2.5 million pensioners in poverty.

“I think we need to therefore make sure that we use what little money we’ve got – money is tight at the moment – wisely.”

Age of eligibility would rise to 65 for winter fuel payments to allow it to be made to people who are terminally ill or disabled.

He said funding social care was “one of the biggest issues we face” and therefore the three main parties must adopt a common approach.

“It is one issue where we just have got to put people before politics for once, this is something which is such a big issue we need to agree on a common approach.”

Q. Is a coalition Government the best way forward for Britain?

Mr Cameron said: “I think we should work together where we can. I have always thought that was important in politics, I helped Tony Blair get his education Bill through Parliament because I thought it was a good Bill.”

But he said: “If there is a hung Parliament, we must be responsible and we must try and deliver the best government that we can for this country but, actually, if you want my frank and honest answer, I don’t think a hung Parliament would be good for Britain because I think we do need decisive government to take some of the difficult decisions for the long term.”

Mr Clegg said: “It is better if politicians try to work together” and added that he would set up a council for financial stability.

“I do think there is potential for politicians to work with each other – don’t believe all these ludicrous scare stories about markets and political Armageddon if that is what happens.”

Mr Brown said the “key thing” was “that we have got to have an agreed plan to reduce the deficit, protect our public services and get growth in the economy and I’m afraid that we don’t have agreement.”

He added: “We should never take the votes for granted, it is up to the public to decide.”

Q. I recognise that immigration is becoming a problem in the country. What new measures would you introduce in order to make the system more fair?

Mr Clegg said his party would reintroduce exit controls and direct immigrants to areas where there was enough space.

He said Labour and the Conservatives had created “chaos” in the past, meaning illegal immigrants were hidden in the “shadows of our economy”.

“I’d rather get them out of the hands of criminal gangs so that we can go after those criminal gangs, into the hands of the taxman. If they want to play by the rules, pay their taxes, speak English, that is a smart, fair effective way of dealing with immigration.”

Mr Brown said an amnesty for illegal immigrants would encourage more people to try to live in Britain, and that the points system was an effective way of managing immigration.

Currently no unskilled worker from outside the EU was allowed to come and live in Britain, he said, and work was being done to reduce the number of skills needed from abroad.

He said a system to count who was going in and out of the country would be reinstated if Labour was elected.

Mr Brown said: “The big key to the future is the points system. If you don’t have the points to come into this country, in other words if you don’t have a skill we need, don’t come to the country.”

Mr Cameron said the UK had benefited from immigration and Britons should be “incredibly warm and welcoming” to people coming into the country legally.

However, he added: “Immigration in recent years has just simply been too high and we do need to bring the level down. That’s the first bit of fairness that needs to be sorted out.

“People do want this addressed and the other two parties are not actually really addressing this issue because we believe you do need to have a cap on people coming from outside the European Union for economic reasons.”

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What You Need To Know About Trident

IN THE TV LEADERS’ DEBATE, last night on ITV, Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, suggested that the cost of replacing Britain’s nuclear deterrent would run into ‘100 billion pounds.’

Not true.

The government has put the bill at £15bn to £20bn; but campaign group Greenpeace claims it will run to at least £34bn once extra costs like VAT are factored in.

Nick Clegg’s figure seems to be some kind of ‘totalling’ of Trident’s replacement costs and other expenditure expected to be incurred, directly and indirectly, throughout the system’s lifetime.

Scrapping Trident would not produce an immediate saving of £100 billion that could be used to pay-off the nation’s debt – particularly since scrapping the deal, at this late stage, would involve considerable cancellation costs.

Moreover, the system’s cancellation would inevitably require some other form of military defence to replace it.

Whatever your view on nuclear weapons, doing away with this country’s only deterrent is no panacea for the huge black hole in its public finances – and such a decision would, in any case, cost some 15,000 British jobs.

Clegg Smashes Through Two-Party System

(Independent) – NICK CLEGG broke the duopoly in British politics with a strong performance in last night’s historic first televised election debate between the three main party leaders.

The Liberal Democrat leader matched Gordon Brown and David Cameron blow for blow during 90 minutes of lively exchanges which confounded expectations that the strict rules would produce a sterile discussion. A YouGov survey of the public for The Sun showed that Mr Clegg had won the debate. A text poll of 10,000 viewers of Sky News showed Mr Clegg on level pegging with Mr Cameron during the debate with Mr Brown trailing in third place. But then the Tory leader moved ahead to 41 per cent, with Mr Clegg on 32 per cent and Mr Brown on 27 per cent.

Other polls taken during the debate put Mr Clegg ahead, confirming that he had seized the moment.

Although all three parties inevitably claimed victory afterwards, Mr Clegg’s strong showing raised hopes among the Liberal Democrats that Britain had finally entered a new era of three-party politics. Last night’s debate in Manchester, screened live on ITV offered a unique opportunity for Britain’s third party to compete on an equal footing with Labour and the Tories.

Mr Cameron, ahead in the opinion polls, had the most to lose last night – and Labour and the Liberal Democrats agreed that he had indeed lost. Ironically, he was first to propose the leaders’ debates.

Labour insisted that Mr Brown had dented Mr Cameron’s performance by exposing that the Tories would not match Labour’s commitments on police and schools. Tories claimed Mr Cameron had proved he was ready to be prime minister.

The three leaders referred to each other by their Christian names but that did not prevent fierce clashes over issues such as economy, MPs’ expenses and immigration.

Mr Cameron claimed that immigration was “out of control” and called for numbers entering the country every year to be brought down from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands.

The Prime Minister retorted: “I don’t like these words, because we are bringing it under control.” He also condemned Conservative plans to impose an annual cap on migrant numbers as “arbitrary”. Mr Cameron protested that Britain had had 13 years of a Labour government, but only just started talking about immigration

Turning to the expenses scandal, Mr Brown said he had been “shocked and sickened” by what had happened and Mr Cameron denounced it as an “horrendous episode”. But the Liberal Democrat leader accused the two main parties of falling far short of the sweeping action needed to clean up politics.

The Prime Minister insisted he agreed with Mr Clegg over the need for electoral reform, pointing to his plans to hold referendums on changing the voting system and replacing the Lords with a directly elected chamber. Mr Clegg fired back: “They did nothing for 13 years.”

Mr Cameron dismissed Labour’s backing for electoral reform so close to the election as a “bit of a ploy” and accused the Liberal Democrat leader of being “holier than thou”, pointing to the £2.5m his party received from Michael Brown, a “criminal on the run”.

The moderator, the ITV presenter Alastair Stewart, described last night’s first debate as “history in the making.” The opening, one-minute statements by the three leaders – who did not know the audience’s questions in advance – were revealing. Mr Brown’s pitch, in effect, was that the country needed to stick with his experience until the economic storm had passed.

Mr Cameron began with an apology over the MPs’ expenses scandal, admitting: “Your politicians – frankly, all of us – let you down.” He said: “There is a big choice at this election. We can go on as we are, or we can say, ‘No, Britain can do much better’. We can deal with our debts, we can get our economy growing and avoid this jobs tax, and we can build a bigger society.”

Mr Clegg directed his fire equally at what he called “the two old parties,” saying the election offered “a fantastic opportunity to do things differently.” He told voters: “So don’t let anyone tell you the only choice is the same old politics. We can do something new, something different.”

On law and order, Mr Brown landed a blow on Mr Cameron, saying the Tories had not matched Labour’s pledge to maintain police numbers. He told the Tory leader: “This is not [Prime Minister’s] Question Time, it is Answers Time, David.” But the Tories said later that the Prime Minister had misrepresented Labour’s policy by saying spending on the police would rise.

The Prime Minister warned that Tory plans to cut £6bn from spending in 2010-11 would threaten thousands of jobs of “good people”.

Mr Cameron said the savings were achievable as the public sector remained profligate, citing a 7 per cent pay rise awarded to hospital managers.

The Liberal Democrat leader accused his rivals of not being straight and pretending that huge sums could be saved just by scrapping “paper clips and pot plants” in Whitehall.

The second 90-minute debates takes place on Sky News on Thursday next week and will focus on foreign affairs, with the final one a week later on BBC1 covering the economy.

Clash of the leaders: Key moments

8.36pm: Immigration

GB “We want to control immigration. I introduced a points system… ”

DC “Immigration is too high at the moment, it has been for the last 10 years and needs to come down. Two million over a decade – it’s too much. We need not just a points system but a limit.”

8.51PM: Crime

Clegg makes three references to “hardened criminals on the run” and describes prisons as “overcrowded colleges of crime”. Cameron tells a story about a burglary which ended with the sofa being set alight and a child dying, and says the perpetrator will soon be released, too soon for his liking.

8.54pm: First joke

Brown on the Tory attack billboards carrying his face: “My face is smiling in these posters and I’m very grateful to you and Lord Ashcroft for funding that.”

8.59pm: Political reform

The discussion began on MPs’ expenses.

GB “I was shocked and sickened… We need to reform the House of Commons and cut the House of Lords by 50 per cent.”

DC “Gordon, you’ve had 13 years… ”

NC says the Lib Dems pushed a bill to sack MPs, and points to both men, “You blocked it. You blocked it.”

9.23pm: The economy

The evening’s key exchange was on the economy, with Cameron saying Government expenditure should be cut because it was bloated by “waste”.

DC “If we think the future is just spending more money it’s profoundly wrong. It’s like saying that giving up smoking would be bad for your health. Cut the waste, it will be good for the economy.”

NC “These two talk about waste as if we could fill the black hole in public finances by cutting paperclips and pot plants in Whitehall.”

GB “The only reason we have kept the economy moving is because the Government stepped in to put money into the economy. Only the Conservative Party is against that. It is important to take no risks with the recovery. Once again the Conservatives are showing they are a risk to the recovery.”

DC “£6bn [cuts] is [only] one out of every £100 this government spends – which business or family hasn’t had to make that decision at some point?”

Before this exchange, the ITV.com live ratings were: Clegg 57 per cent, Cameron 23 per cent, Brown 20 per cent. Afterwards, it was Clegg 43 per cent, Brown 34 per cent, Cameron 22 per cent.

Each leader’s key line

Clegg: The more they attack each other the more they sound the same.

Brown: Risk.

Cameron: You’ve had 13 years, Gordon.

Broke rules (kept talking)

Nick Clegg 9

David Cameron 0

Gordon Brown 5

“I agree with Nick”

Brown love bombs Lib Dem: 7 times.

Working the crowd

Clegg name-checks the audience: 10 times.

10pm: Score on ITV.com ratings

Clegg 45 per cent, Brown 36 per cent, Cameron 19 per cent

YouGov: NC 51 per cent, DC 29 per cent, GB 19 per cent

ITV poll: NC 43 per cent, DC 26 per cent, GB 20 per cent