British TV showdown throws up a surprise winner

Last Updated: Friday, April 16, 2010 - 18:07

London: Britain`s first ever US style
pre-election live television showdown has thrown a surprise
winner, Nick Clegg leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats
who many had written off, before the three contenders hit the
airwaves.

As 10 million Britons stood glued to the television
sets last night, little known leader of the third placed party
emerged ahead of both Prime Minister Gordon Brown and
Conservative leader David Cameron.
A series of polls put Clegg ahead of Brown and Cameron
as the two traded verbal blows on Britain`s economic woes,
involvement in Afghanistan in front of a carefully chosen
studio audience.

Though Clegg`s Party is unlikely to win outright in
the May 6 General Elections but the Liberal Democrats could
play a key role in the event of a hung Parliament being thrown
up.

Dressed in suits, but clearly appearing nervous as the
first of the such debates got underway, but it soon descended
into a political free for all as Brown and Cameron lashed at
each other over the economy and war in Afghanistan.

There were fierce clashes between Brown and Cameron on
the economy, a key issue in the election as Britain recovers
from its worst recession since the 1930s.

Brown repeatedly accused the Tories of planning to cut
USD 9 billion of public spending by slashing a planned rise in
payroll taxes by his Labour party.

Cameron hit back "cut the waist, stop the tax, that is
the right answer".

The Liberal Democrat leader distanced himself from the
two parties telling the viewers "don`t let them tell you that
the choice is only between the two parties. They have been
playing pass-the-parcel with your votes for 65 years".

Another important issue thrown at the three contenders
was immigration.
Brown was immediately forced onto defencive, claiming
that immigration had been falling since he moved into 10
Downing Street.

"Let`s be honest with each other, net inward migration
is falling," he said.

"Falling because of the action we are taking."

However, he came under attack from Cameron, who
pledged to introduce a cap on immigration.

"I want us to bring immigration down so it`s in the
tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands."

Clegg set out Liberal Democrat policy to restore exit
controls and ensure that immigrants were matched regionally
with jobs before arriving in Britain.

He called the current system "complete chaos".

As the rivals clashed, `Sun` newspaper opinion surveys
put Clegg ahead with 51 per cent to Cameron`s 29 and Brown at
19 per cent. An ITV poll gave Clegg 43 per cent ahead of
Cameron`s 26 per cent and Brown`s 20 per cent.

But there was no killer blow and Cameron appeared to
be the most confident and relaxed of the three. However, it
was Clegg who appeared to hit it off with the viewers.

"Clegg comes of age," screamed `The Times`. The paper
hailing his performance said, "Enter the outsider." The `Daily
Telegraph` said, "Clegg made the most of the opportunity".

While `The Guardian` said "most of the people
underestimated Clegg who made a powerful pitch that
represented a change from the two old parties".

"It was Clegg`s night. He used the biggest opportunity
to ever come before the Lib Dems".

PTI



First Published: Friday, April 16, 2010 - 18:07

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