Ed Miliband and David Cameron both faced hostile questions in the first of four live TV debates with the party leaders ahead of the May election. Here is the debate in highs and lows:
Jeremy Paxman began with a question that the PM might have expected, but could not answer: “How many food banks were there in this country when you came to power?”
“I don’t know the exact figures, but I know usage of food banks has gone up,” replied Mr Cameron.
Paxman provided the figures – the numbers have gone up from 66 to 421 with some 900,000 people receiving free food parcels last year. He asked was it “acceptable in a rich country like ours that there are that number of people dependent on free food aid?”
“I want fewer people to be using food banks,” responded Mr Cameron meekly.
Mr Cameron was much more relaxed on the economy.
“There are 1.89 million more people in work than when I became Prime Minister, we’ve got 900,000 fewer people on out-of-work benefit,” he said. “We’ve turned the economy round and it’s jobs that are the best route out of poverty...”
A question from the audience. “What are Ed Miliband’s best qualities?” Mr Cameron replied with apparent sincerity that his opponent was “trying to do the right thing for our country”
Pressed on whether he would reduce government spending, Mr Miliband said vaguely that hundreds of millions of pounds would be cut from the budgets of departments other than Education and Health. But he would only say that overall government spending was “likely to fall”. As Paxman pointed out “bit of a weasel word, ‘likely’, isn’t it?”
Putting Paxman in his place. The presenter asked him about the deal he would have to cut with the SNP. But the Labour leader hit back: “You don’t get to decide the outcome of the general election – you’re important Jeremy, but not that important.”
Asked if he would share a pint with David Cameron, Mr Miliband reminded people of a photograph of him eating: “I don’t know whether we’d have a pint… we could share a bacon sandwich or something.”
David Cameron edged the first major TV clash of the general election campaign against Ed Miliband by a margin of 54% to 46%, according to a snap opinion poll released moments after the end of the 90-minute programme.