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Summary

  1. Five Westminster opposition party leaders took part in a debate, with Labour's Ed Miliband and the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon in heated exchanges
  2. UKIP's Nigel Farage accused the audience - which was independently selected and broadly representative - of being "left-wing"
  3. Leanne Wood, of Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party's Natalie Bennett took on Mr Farage over his attitude to migrants
  4. In other news - Richard Desmond, whose publishing company owns the Daily and Sunday Express, gave £1m to UKIP
  5. Nick Clegg said a vote for the Lib Dems could prevent a right-wing coalition of the Conservatives, UKIP and the DUP - or "Blukip"
  6. There are 21 days left until polling day

Live Reporting

By Tim Fenton, Andy McFarlane, Bernadette McCague and Tom Moseley

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Thursday's round-up

That brings us to the end of another busy day dominated by a leaders' debate:

  • The UKIP, SNP, Green Party, Plaid Cymru and Labour leaders debated live in front of a representative audience
  • Clashes between Nicola Sturgeon and Ed Miliband were the most significant moments, according to BBC Political Editor, Nick Robinson .
  • The SNP leader urged her Labour counterpart to be more radical, while Mr Miliband challenged David Cameron to debate him one-to-one
  • Daily Express owner Richard Desmond announced a £1m donation to UKIP , saying it was a party for "good, ordinary British people".
  • Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg warned of the prospect of a "hard-line right-wing" government under a coalition between the Conservatives, UKIP and the DUP
  • The Conservatives launched their Scottish manifesto warning of a "coalition of chaos" involving Labour and the SNP
  • And an ex-head of the NHS said politicians of all parties were ignoring a "substantial financial problem" in the health service

'Lively debate'

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has used

Twitter to post a backstage video thanking supporters. In it, she said: "I really enjoyed it, I thought it was a lively debate and I'm really, really grateful for all the messages of support." Scotland's First Minister also used the video to reiterate her party's opposition to the Conservatives and said a vote for the SNP will make Scotland's voice heard "more loudly than ever before".

Andrew Neil

@afneil

tweets: There's not been enough politics on BBC1 tonight so I'm sure your're looking forward to more on This Week in a few mins .... Noooooooo!!!!!!

Friday's Guardian

Guardian front page, 17/4/15
Guardian

HIV questions for Carswell

On Question Time, Piers Morgan asks UKIP's Douglas Caswell whether he was ashamed of Nigel Farage's comments on the cost of treating foreigners with HIV - given that Mr Carswell's father was an eminent researcher into the condition. Mr Carswell says it is "entirely legitimate and right" the that NHS is not "the international health service" and highlights the progress made in treating HIV. Pressed on Mr Farage's choice of example, he says: "You need to talk to Nigel".

Coming up on This Week

And there's yet more debate reaction coming up live at 11.45pm when Andrew Neil brings on Alan Johnson, Michael Portillo, Miranda Green and Diane James for This Week on BBC1.

This Week panel in BBC newsroom
BBC

There'll be time for other subjects as financial expert Louise Cooper gives her take on right-to-buy plans, and Chris Tarrant will be talking about personal and political windfalls. Readers on the desktop site can watch the programme on the Live Coverage tab above.

Spending pledges

Can parties' spending pledges be trusted with a hung Parliament expected, the Question Time panel is asked. The SNP's Angus Robertson offers a "straight answer" - he would not renew the Trident nuclear missile system. Piers Morgan says this is "crackers" and claims Ed Miliband had said earlier that he would not "press the button". Morgan asks: "What kind of deterrent is that?"

Question Time
BBC

Friday's Mirror

Daily Mirror front page, 17/4/15
Daily Mirror

Friday's Telegraph

Daily Telegraph front page, 17/4/15
Daily Telegraph

Question Time

The debate is still raging on Question Time, which is on BBC 1 and can also be seen on the live coverage tab above. Here's a reminder of the panel:

Question Time panellists
BBC

Friday's Times

The Times front page, 17/4/15
The Times

More on that poll 'victory'

Some more from that Survation poll: Respondents might have judged Ed Miliband to have won, but 35% thought Nicola Sturgeon performed best, compared with 29% for the Labour leader.

Nigel Farage was judged the "worst" performer but came joint-top with Mr Miliband when people were asked who had the most convincing arguments, and his answers were rated highly on many topics. Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett struggled to make an impression in many of the categories.

More from the audience

A Conservative voter from the audience says it was disappointing that David Cameron wasn't taking part. "Ed Miliband needed someone to debate with properly," she tells the BBC News Channel.

What the audience thought

The BBC's Ben Brown has been gauging reaction from some of those who were in the live audience. One UKIP voter tells him that Nigel Farage's jibe about the "left-wing" audience was "a stupid, stupid comment". He describes Mr Farage's performance as "fairly weak" and says he's "come out a little bit undecided" about how to vote next month.

The man adds that it was a "poor show" from Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett to choose not to shake hands with the UKIP leader at the end, and he uses the same term about the UKIP leader's decision not to talk to the audience. However, another audience member says Mr Farage had a fair point about audience bias. "It was a minority who were clapping," she points out.

Lord Ashcroft, former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party

@LordAshcroft

tweets:

Survation BBC debate poll: Miliband 35% Sturgeon 31% Farage 27% Bennett 5% Wood 2%

Poll give victory to Miliband

Labour's Ed Miliband "won" the final TV debate by four percentage points, according to a Survation poll for the Daily Mirror.

Robin Brant, Political Correspondent BBC

@robindbrant

tweets:

Noticed ed did go on to shake @Nigel_Farage hand and lightly pat him on the back #ge2015

Have your say

Email: politics@bbc.co.uk

Peter Fautley:

Get involved

Email: politics@bbc.co.ik

I can understand Toby Young's comment. The Conservatives have made a cynical decision not to take part so they do not have to defend their record on equal terms. Clearly David Cameron does not fancy facing Ed Milliband as he would then be seen as inferior. Cameron correctly calculated that the minor parties would expend their efforts in criticising Milliband because he was there and had to answer rather than challenging the Conservative record and the limitations of Cameron's character

Social media buzz

More stats from Twitter: Ed Miliband's challenge to David Cameron to "debate him one-on-one" inspired 8,652 tweets per minute, making it the biggest single talking point of the night.

Progressive alliance?

Here's evidence of that group hug between the women who took part that's been mentioned on Twitter.

Leanne Wood, Natalie Bennett and Nicola Sturgeon take part in a group hug, as Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage stand apart
BBC

Jamie Ross, @BuzzFeedUK politics reporter

@JamieRoss7

tweets:

An audience member tells me Sturgeon, Bennett, and Wood had a group hug at the end of the debate. #bbcdebate

Add to the debate

Text: 61124

BBC Politics Live viewer:

If Hague and Alexander wanted their parties to be able to address issues from tonight's debate, their leaders should have been on the podium. Instead they were given a platform by the BBC with no right of reply from the other parties.

Debate: analysis

Nick Robinson, BBC political editor

The BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson sums up the debate as "The Ed v Nicola show".

Of Mr Miliband, he says: "This may allow the Labour leader to be seen as more moderate than his left-wing rivals."

But he adds: "[SNP leader] Nicola Sturgeon showed once again what a formidable debater she is."

Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon during the debate
PA

This was a debate unlike any we've ever seen. I can't believe there will ever be another like it."

NHS finance ignites division

One of the most heated exchanges during the debate was sparked by NHS finance. Check out

our clip.

Borrowing: current forecast

There was much talk about the public finances during the debate. This graph shows net public sector borrowing since 1997/98.

Graphic on psb
BBC

Jamie Ross, @BuzzFeedUK politics reporter

@JamieRoss7

undefinedtweets:

I've spoken to six or seven audience members, each of whom have either named Sturgeon as outright or joint winner. #bbcdebate

Twitter analysis

The Press Association has been analysing the number of tweets about each party leader during the debate. It says Nigel Farage was the most talked-about leader for almost all of the programme, with his mentions rocketing when he decided to attack both the audience in the hall and the BBC.

Immigration numbers

Reality Check

Conservative William Hague says the Coalition has reduced immigration from outside the EU to the lowest levels since the 1990s. According to the Office for National Statistics, 248,000 non-EU citizens came to the UK in 2013. The last time immigration was below this level was in 1998.This doesn’t take account of the number of non-EU migrants who, having come to the UK, then leave. Net migration from outside the EU (the difference between the number of people arriving and the number leaving), was 143,000 in 2013. The last time net migration was below that was in 1999, when it was 179,000.

Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party

@Ed_Miliband

tweets:

@David_Cameron I believe my plan can give this country a better future than yours. Disagree? Prove it - debate me & let the people decide.

'No plan to end austerity'

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which is fielding more than 130 candidates across Scotland, England and Wales, claims none of the leaders who took part in the debate had spelled out how they would end austerity.

Chairman Dave Nellist says: "The majority of participants in tonight’s debate declared their opposition to the brutal austerity carried out by the current government. None, however, have policies which would end austerity."

Ed Miliband was crystal clear, his party would continue to cut public spending and prioritise eliminating the deficit. Hundreds of millions more would be cut from local authorities that have already been slashed to the bone. At best this is austerity-lite, in reality more like austerity-nearly as heavy."

Farage, once again, showed his party acts in the interests of the stockbrokers when he called for even more cuts. In contrast the three women in the debate all tried to claim the anti-austerity mantle. They did so because it is popular. In reality, however, all three have carried out significant public spending cuts when they have been in power at both local authority and Scottish and Welsh levels."

Council houses

Reality Check

Former Conservative leader William Hague has told the BBC's debate analysis programme that more council houses were built in the last five years than during the previous 13 years of Labour government.

He is right. DCLG statistics show that 9,230 council homes were built in the UK from 2010-11 to 2013-14, compared with 6,400 from 1997-98 to 2009-10.

'Rabble'

Danny Alexander, of the Lib Dems says a "centre-ground voter" would have been "alarmed" at watching the debate. A "responsible, strong and balanced" coalition needs the Lib Dems, he says. "Listening to that rabble tonight people will be very worried about the future of their country," he adds.

Sarah Sands, Editor London Evening Standard

@sandsstandard

tweets:

Not sure Farage promise to protect the 'little woman' works especially after getting whacked by Sturgeon.

'Rugby scrum'

The BBC's John Pienaar describes the spin room atmosphere as "somewhere between a rugby scrum, and the first day of the boxing day sales". Labour's Douglas Alexander trots out the line that David Cameron had decided "not to turn up for a job interview with the British people".

Laura Kuenssberg,

@bbclaurak

tweets:

Liz Truss tells me another debate btw Cameron and Miliband won't happen

Foreign-born doctors

Reality Check

Let's catch up on a couple of claims made during the debate. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said that one in four doctors was foreign-born.

TheHealth and Social Care Information Centrehas collected statistics on the nationalities represented in the NHS workforce. Its data (from 2013) does indeed show that 25% of doctors who declared their nationality said they were not British.

Conservative reaction

The BBC News Channel's reaction programme is under way, with William Hague among the representatives of the Conservatives. He tells Emily Maitlis: "What we saw then was that any combination would be a coalition of chaos."

Spin room
BBC

Tom Newton Dunn, Political Editor of The Sun

@tnewtondunn

tweets:

The Sun Twitter Worm verdict on #BBCDebate: the women won it - 1. Sturgeon 2. Bennett 3. Wood 4. Miliband, 5. Farage http://www.sunnation.co.uk/election-debate-challenger/ …

Toby Young, columnist

@toadmeister

tweets:

Just filed my verdict for @Telegraph – a win for Cameron #BBCDebate