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  1. Voters put questions to a panel of candidates from the North West
  2. The debate was shown on Wednesday at 22:50 on BBC One
  3. Updates on Wednesday 29 April

Live Reporting

By Tom Airey

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Good night

Tom Airey

BBC News

Thanks for staying up and keeping me company tonight.

Stream ends

There will be further reaction on BBC North West Tonight tomorrow, so please tune in.

REACTION: 'Still don't have a clue'


tweets: "Still don't have a clue on who to vote for".

Sticking up for the old folk

Socks Chick

tweets: I hate the way old people are blamed for visits to A&E. I saw stats that said most visits were from people between 30/45 #GE2015NW

Roger nailed it

Mark Whitehead from Salford

tweets: Great to have a regional debate, but it did end up stuck on the national themes more than I'd have liked #GE2015NW #rogernailedit

Your comments

Tom Airey

BBC News

Thanks for all your reaction to tonight's North West election debate which are continuing to come in on social media. Don't forget to use #GE2015NW

A 'poor' campaign for most parties

Julie Tempest

tweets: Did enjoy being part of @BBCNWT #GE2015NW debate. But for me showed how poor the overall #GE2015 campaign has been for most parties

That's all, folks

Election 2015

That concludes our live coverage of the North West debate.

Thanks to all who have tuned in and got involved online using the hashtag #ge2015nw

Election graphic

With only a week to go until the general election, the countdown to the vote now really begins.

REACTION: 'Healthcare about people'


tweets: "NHS rethink: Lucy Powell = integrate Social care with hospital beds. Ukip chap = blame Labour. Healthcare is about people."


tweets: "Local councils do not run long-term social care any more it's all in the private sector."

REACTION: NW Independence?


tweets: "#Scotland #Independent #Wales #Independence why not #NorthWest #Independence too?"


tweets: "Is Bickley here to debate or just attack the Labour Party at every junction?"


tweets: "Torys in total denial of the existence of zero HR contracts".

'Balance the books'

A woman at the front says: "We are spending more now on debt repayment than on defence spending. How are we going to start some far bigger issues?"

Audience member

Conservative Ben Wallace responds: "Until we balance the books, we can't pay the debt down. We can't do it overnight."

Patch up the NHS

Presenter Roger Johnson ask the Green Party's Elizabeth Ward how her party will patch up the NHS.


She responds: "We're committed to £12bn extra spending on the NHS, but we believe you can't just throw money at the problem, you have to really look at the situation.

"We're careering towards a future where great numbers of our population will be over 65, the government and the previous government have not thought that through."

REACTION: Northern government?


tweets: "Why can't we have a northern government fed up run by south who only look after themselves".


tweets: "We would not have a health service without immigration".


tweets: "Great to have a regional debate on TV, got to stay up late for it!"

'Protected the NHS'

Conservative Ben Wallace said the NHS needs a "sound economy to fund it".

Ben Wallace answers question

He said: "The coalition had to fix a broken economy when it came in in 2010 where we were borrowing £241,000 a minute more than we were raising in revenues.

"Despite this, we protected the NHS, we increased spending by £12.5bn".

Further PFI criticism

Lib Dem Gordon Birtwistle said: "The local hospital in Burnley was built for a cost on a PFI, the cost of the hospital was £130m. By the time the trust has finished paying for it, it will cost £2bn.

"That money could be used to finance health, finance social care, mental health care. The vast amount of cash that is leaking from the NHS is to fund these hideous PFI schemes."

'Back to the bare bones'

Labour's Lucy Powell says: "We have too many older people turning up at A&E and taking up beds and doctors' time, when they should be being better looked after at home or in the community.

"One of the reasons for that is we have seen cutting back to the bare bones of social care which has meant people have had to go to hospital.

"Labour has long been campaigning for the integration of health and social care. We need to ensure that the NHS has the money and the staff it needs."

'Millstone round their necks'

Speaking about the NHS, UKIP's John Bickley says: "The last Labour government has made a lot of city bankers and fat cats very rich.

"They let them do lots of PFI deals - which on one level means we have new hospitals, but on another the hospitals have a millstone round their necks. They have a massive debt payments that they have to keep paying for 25 to 30 years."

He added Labour used the NHS "like a crutch" and outsourced too much to the private sector.

REACTION: 'Unemployment figures aren't representative'


tweets: "Unemployment figures aren't representative of the real picture".


tweets: "The awkward moment when Ben Wallace makes a comment about Zero Hours contract and Elizabeth Ward shoots him down "I'm on one!"


tweets: "If wages go up, the cost of goods and services will do to, the cost always get pass on".

Does the NHS need a re-think?

Phil McDermott, from Edgworth, asks: "Even with the extra funding being promised by some of the parties, doesn't the aging population mean that the NHS needs a fundamental re-think?"

Phil McDermott

'Dickensian times'

A woman at the back says the panel aren't aware of how tough it is at the moment for working families.

Audience member

She says: "I don't know what city you're living in, but in the city I live in, the poverty - you might as well go back to Dickensian times."

Arguments are 'farcical'

There's applause from the audience after a lady sat at the front calls the panel's arguing "almost farcical" as "we will not have a majority government".

Audience member

Lib Dem Gordon Birtwistle responds his party "had to align themselves with the Conservatives" in 2010.

He continued: "The Labour Party wanted to bottle out - they had left the mess, they didn't want to know."

'Flexibility to work elsewhere'

UKIP's John Bickley accuses the Labour Party themselves of using zero-hour contracts. Lucy Powell jumps in to flatly deny this.

Mr Bickley said: "We say, if you are working on a zero-hours contract, the company cannot bind you to them only, you would have the flexibility to work elsewhere."

The candidate says people who are told to work with only 12 hours' notice "should be paid" if the work is then taken away at the last-minute.

#GE2015NW reminder

Quick reminder - get in touch with us by using the hashtag

#GE2015NW on Twitter. We will feature as many as we can.

Burnley apprentices

Lib Dem Gordon Birtwistle says over the 13 years of a Labour government they "virtually destroyed" manufacturing.

He goes on: "The problem is at the moment is we don't have the skilled people to do the vacant jobs and that's why the government brought in apprenticeships - another thing the Labour party virtually got rid of.

"There are over 4,000 apprentices in Burnley learning real skills, jobs for the future that will be highly paid."

Zero-hours 'not fun'

Green Party candidate Elizabeth Ward, 22, tells the audience she is currently on a zero-hour contract and describes them as "not fun". She says she is among 70,000 people in the North West on zero-hour contracts.

Elizabeth Ward

"One week I'm on 20 hours, then next week I'm on 40 hours then the next week I'm on 12 hours. It's impossible to plan your life," she said.

Ms Ward continued: "[The North West] is not the economic heartland the Tories will have you believe, we are missing a trick here with the green industries that need more investment."

'A Labour party myth'

A lady in the audience says Ben Wallace should "feel" ashamed for the impact the Government's austerity measures have had on people looking for work in Greater Manchester.

Audience member

Mr Wallace says a Office for National Statistics survey shows that zero-hours contracts are between 0.8% and 1.2% of the workforce.

He said it was a "Labour party myth" that the jobs being created were zero-hour positions.

'Constituents feeling worse off'

Lucy Powell says she is "glad" to see devolved powers for Greater Manchester and even praises George Osborne for continuing the path "started by Labour".

She said: "At the heart of this election is Ed Miliband's promise that he wants the next generation to do better than the last. Let's be honest, most young people at the moment don't feel like that. Most of my constituents are not feeling the benefits of this recovery, they are feeling worse off."

She adds Labour will reduce tuition fees, provide better access to apprenticeships and provide jobs other than zero-hour contracts.

'I would rather live here'

Presenter Roger Johnson challenges Conservative Ben Wallace to answer the question without saying 'Northern Powerhouse'.

He said: "The north is growing faster than the south, and that never happened under the 13 years of Labour."

Ben Wallace

Mr Wallace continues: "I would rather live here than anywhere down south - where everything is more expensive and the quality of life is far worse".

(A completely fictional alarm goes off when the candidate indeed mentions the Northern Powerhouse.)

Second question

Tonight's second question comes from Esu Hill, from Sale, who asks: "My daughter is studying for a PHD at Oxford. What can the panel do to persuade her that her future lies in the North West?"

Esu Hill

Heading for a tie?

In a possible bid to remain completely impartial, the debate's presenter Roger Johnson has picked the most multi-coloured tie in his collection.

Roger Johnson

Channel 4's Jon Snow would be proud of that one.

Greens and UKIP clash

John Bickley says we have "a right to control our borders", while Elizabeth Ward says we were "a country built on immigration".

Bickley and Ward

Ms Ward said she came from a family who came to the UK "not particularly skilled", but then built up their roles.

REACTION: Election promises


tweets: "why are people getting sanctioned for having no job history if they don't know how to use a computer?"


tweets: "Why do all politicians only promise things when its election time?"


tweets: "Roger Johnson's tie is out of control."

'Short of skilled people'

Gordon Birtwistle of the Liberal Democrats said immigrants who were "creating wealth and prosperity" were "more than welcome".

Gordon Birtwistle

He said: "The North West of England is a manufacturing area, and we are desperately short of skilled people."

Immigration 'works both ways'

Elizabeth Ward says the Green Party treated immigrants "as people".

"I think the term 'immigrant' has become highly politicised. The party recognises the economic importance of EU migrants to the UK.

Elizabeth Ward

"We reject a complete open borders policy. We want controlled migration, working with the EU, and we need to realise that it works both ways. There are two million Brits that live in the EU."

'Hit our targets'

Conservative Ben Wallace said while immigration for the North West was positive, uncontrolled immigration is "not a good thing".

Ben Wallace

He said: "In 2010, 90% of the new jobs were being taken by foreign nationals, while at the same time 1.4m British nationals were off work on benefits. That's wrong.

"We have hit our targets and capped the numbers of non-EU citizens coming here."

'Points-based system'

UKIP's John Bickley says they were the only political party that was having an "open debate" about immigration.

John Bickley

He said: "This is a sovereign country last time I looked, our DNA is about controlling our country and parliament making our laws.

"We have been saying we want an Australian type, ethical, points-based immigration system."

'Demonising immigrants'

Presenter Roger Johnson puts it to Lucy Powell that she had advised Labour candidates "not to talk about immigration" in the past, which she denies.

Lucy Powell

She said: "We need a balanced debate as it is a very sensitive issue. It's not prejudice of people to worry about immigration, but equally we shouldn't be demonising immigrants and setting one side of society against another."

Ms Powell added the Labour Party are putting forward "sensible controls" on immigration.

Immigration question

Tonight's first question comes from Garrick Prayogg, from Liverpool, who asks:

Garrick Prayogg

"What part do immigrants play in the future of the North West, and why have the parties allowed the debate to become so toxic?"

Meet the panel

Tonight's panel is made up of (from left to right):


Lucy Powell, Labour and Co-operative candidate for Manchester Central (


John Bickley, UKIP candidate for Heywood and Middleton (


Ben Wallace, Conservative candidate for Wyre and Preston North (


Elizabeth Ward, Green candidate for St Helens North (


Gordon Birtwistle, Lib Dem candidate for Burnley & Padiham (


The debate's about to kick off

The MediaCityUK studio used for the NW election debate is usually reserved for filming Match of the Day.


Despite no sign of Robbie Savage this evening, things may still kick off.

In the green room

After a quick bit of make-up and a microphone check, the panellists are ready to take their seats.

Green room

The biscuits are staying in the green room, which is bad news for the guests but excellent news for me.