Election 2015 Wales

Election 2015: Leaders argue over public spending in TV debate

BBC Debate
Image caption The five opposition leaders debated election issues for 90 minutes

Party leaders have clashed over public spending, in a BBC election debate.

With Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg absent, Labour's Ed Miliband was challenged to be "bolder" on spending.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood called on Mr Miliband to hold an "emergency budget" to reverse cuts made by Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg

The Labour leader said there was a "huge difference" between his plans and those of the Conservatives.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said she would encourage Labour to spend more, in the event of a hung parliament.

"If Labour won't be bold enough on its own, I think people should vote for parties who will hold Labour to account and make them bolder," she said.

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Media captionPlaid Cymru's Leanne Wood: "Continuing on the path of austerity will deliver a very uncertain future for the next generation"

Ms Wood said people were "seeing through the austerity myth", and that austerity and old politics were not inevitable.

"We will work for a new politics for all," she pledged.

Mr Miliband said Labour would defend the NHS, with more doctors and nurses, and stand up for working families.

He said Labour's plans included a "mansion tax", ending the so called "bedroom tax" and a bankers' bonus tax to fund jobs for young people.

He said he would "reject" the arguments of parties trying to break up the United Kingdom.

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Media captionLabour leader Ed Miliband: "This coalition government has become an excuse for broken promises"

Asked by Ms Wood to commit to £1.2bn extra for the Welsh government's annual budget, Mr Miliband said he would not make "false promises".

UKIP leader Nigel Farage called parties' spending plans "farcical".

He also accused the BBC of selecting an audience that was too "left-wing".

"The real audience is at home," Mr Farage said.

David Dimbleby, who hosted the event, said the audience had been chosen by an independent polling organisation.

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Media captionUKIP's Nigel Farage accused the BBC election debate audience of being "left-wing"

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett called the austerity agenda "spiteful".

"The Green Party are the real challengers, offering a million new jobs, combating climate change, protecting vital community services," she said.

In later exchanges on the NHS, Ms Wood told Mr Miliband Labour's record on running the service in Wales was "not good, you know".

Mr Miliband said there were "challenges" for the NHS in Wales, but suggested cuts to the Welsh government's budget - set in Westminster - were to blame.

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Media captionNatalie Bennett: 'Get back houses as homes not assets'

In a BBC interview following the debate, Conservative Leader of the Commons William Hague said the debate highlighted the "interesting" relationship between Labour and the SNP.

"Nicola Sturgeon, it is very clear from this debate, wants to put Ed Miliband into Downing Street and then drive him into more and more extreme positions," he said.

"It is also very clear that she would be in the driving seat."

Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said a "centre-ground voter" would have been "alarmed" by the debate.

A "responsible, strong and balanced" coalition needs the Lib Dems, he said.

"Listening to that rabble tonight people will be very worried about the future of their country."

Debate details

  • Mr Miliband was on the far left of the podium, with Mr Farage on the far right
  • Each of the leaders made a short opening statement before facing five questions from the audience
  • They had a minute to answer followed by 10 minutes of free debate
  • At the end, each leader delivered a short closing statement

Image caption The debate, in central London, was 90 minutes long

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