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The leaders’ debate in numbers

The leaders of seven political parties took part in a live TV debate on ITV on Thursday night. With so many opinions, claims and counter claims being thrown around during the two hour political marathon, we’ve boiled it all down to the numbers on the night to help give you a clearer picture of who you might like to vote for on May 7.



The number of times David Cameron mentioned the Conservative Party’s “long-term economic plan”. A surprisingly low number although he simply shortened this to “plan” on many more occasions throughout the debate.



The number of minutes Nigel Farage said a house needs to be built in order to keep up with the 300,000 net migrants coming into the UK.



The number of times the party leaders name-checked the first questioner of the evening, Jonny. The 17-year-old politics student could barely stifle a smirk as the leaders continually used his name while making their point.



The number of times the NHS was mentioned. Hardly surprising really considering one of the four questions on the night was dedicated to the National Health Service. But the NHS was a recurring theme throughout the evening, also being referred to in relation to austerity and public spending cuts, the economy, deficit reduction and immigration.

Ukip’s Nigel Farage said he’d put an extra £3 billion, saved from contributions to the EU, into the health service, and raised concerns about non-British people using the NHS, which he said is costing the UK around £2 billion a year. He said there are 7,000 diagnoses each year in the UK for people who are HIV Positive and 60% of them are not British nationals. He said it costs up to £25,000 a year per patient to treat and that foreign people should have health insurance when they come to work in Britain.

The Green Party’s Natalie Bennett said that, in order to make the health service more efficient, she would take the market mechanism out of the NHS, which she said is costing the UK £10 billion a year. She raised concerns over the privatisation of the NHS and highlighted the £6 billion that went to private health firms under the Government last year. Ms Bennett cited figures from Help the Aged that say there are 2 million people over 65 who need social care and 800,000 of them aren’t receiving any. She said the Greens would provide free social care to all those over 65 who need it.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the Liberal Democrats were the only party to have a plan for how to find the £8 billion the head of NHS England says it needs. He said that, unlike the Conservatives, he would ask the rich to pay more into the health service. Mr Clegg denied there had been a “a great push towards privatisation” saying that when the coalition came to power five years ago the amount of NHS money devoted to the private sector was 4% and it is now 6%.

The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon was Scottish Health Secretary for five years. She said the NHS budget in Scotland had increased by £3 billion since the SNP came to power north of the border and it would rise by £400 million in 2016. She said Mr Clegg’s £8 billion figure is for England only and £9.5 billion is needed for the whole of the UK. She said the Government had made it possible for 49% of hospital beds to be used by the private sector.

Leanne Wood says Plaid Cymru wants to recruit an additional 1,000 doctors into the Welsh NHS to bring it in line with the rest of the UK. She said it would be funded through general taxation.

Ed Miliband said Labour would use a mansion tax on homes worth more than £2 million, as well as money taken from hedge funds engaging in tax avoidance and tobacco companies to fund a £2.5 billion scheme that will hire 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more doctors, 5,000 more care workers and 3,000 more midwives. He said that under the current Government 1 million people waited in Accident and Emergency for more than 4 hours. He added that over 13 years the previous Labour government had cut NHS waiting times from 18 months to 18 weeks and this is now going backwards.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the Government’s continued funding of the NHS had resulted in 7,000 more nurses being trained and 9,000 more doctors. He said the Government had also cut 20,000 bureaucrats from the NHS. Mr Cameron said 460,000 more people are being examined for cancer under his Government. The Conservative leader also said he wanted the NHS to become more of a ‘seven day’ operation. He said the Government had started a funding programme worth £5.3 billion to join up health and social care.


Rounds of applause. The first of the night came when Leanne Wood confronted Nigel Farage over his comments on non-British people being treated for HIV on the NHS. The Plaid Cymru leader said: “This kind of scaremongering rhetoric is dangerous, it divides communities and it creates stigma to people who are ill and I think you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”


The number of times Leanne Wood mentioned Wales. This is almost double the 18 times SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon mentioned Scotland. The Plaid Cymru leader is hoping to build a strong support base in Wales, a feat already achieved by the SNP in Scotland. Ms Sturgeon’s party, on the other hand, could have a role to play in supporting a minority Labour government so is focusing more on talking about the rest of the UK.



The number of times Natalie Bennett mentioned climate change. While stressing it was a massive issue for her party, perhaps this is an indication of the direction she’s taken the party in under her leadership to focus more broadly on issues like social justice and housing.



The number of times immigration was mentioned. Always a hot topic, this was the subject of another of the evening’s four questions.

Ed Miliband said a Labour government would ensure that people who come to the UK will not be allowed to claim benefits for at least the first two years. He said he would crack down on employers exploiting migrant Labour by only recruiting foreign workers and not paying them the minimum wage, adding that there had only been two prosecutions for this over the last five years.

Nicola Sturgeon said hundreds of thousands of British citizens go to live in other countries and asked how we would feel if they were talked about the way migrants are in the UK.

This was echoed by Nick Clegg who said there are almost as many Britons living and working elsewhere in the EU as there are Europeans working in the UK. He added that in order to ensure British youngsters are able to get the jobs people from elsewhere in Europe might also want, we need to train them up and said there are now 2 million people starting new apprenticeships.

Nigel Farage said the UK has a “total open door” to 10 former Communist countries and the eurozone where people are struggling. He said 77% of British people “want something done”. He said that since the Second World War up until the 1990s Britain had operated with net migration of around 30,000 a year but this figure has now risen to 300,000 a year.

Natalie Bennett said someone with a non-EU spouse or partner needs to be earning more than £18,600 a year, adding that a judge described this as unfair and unreasonable. She said 19,000 Britons can’t live in their own country with their family as a result of this. She also criticised David Cameron for the UK not taking its “fair share” of Syrian refugees. She said the last figure she’d seen was the UK had taken just 143 refugees from the middle-eastern country.

David Cameron said that if he was to remain Prime Minister he’d ensure EU migrants who have been in the UK for six months and haven’t got a job would have to go home. He said that people who come to the UK for work would need to have been employed and contributed to the country for four years before they could claim benefits. In response to Ms Bennet, Mr Cameron said there are around 6 million refugees or people in danger of becoming refugees, so it makes sense for the UK to use its foreign aid budget to help them.




Mentions of the European Union (EU). Linked to the free movement of people in EU countries, this featured heavily in the discussion on immigration.

David Cameron said he wants to renegotiate Britain’s position in the EU and then put the question of EU membership to the country in a referendum in 2017. He said he’s had success negotiating for Britain in Europe in the past.

This was something that was disputed by Ed Miliband who said the Prime Minister lost by 26 votes to two after taking a stand against the president of the European Commission because he has no allies. He said Mr Cameron has marginalised the UK in Europe.



Times young people were mentioned, particularly in relation to education, housing and debt.

Ed Miliband said Labour would build 200,000 homes a year by 2020 to ensure a fair deal for young people in the private rental sector. He went on to warn against the Conservatives’ plan for more Free Schools that would lead to a system with 17,000 unqualified teachers.

David Cameron focussed on jobs, saying the Conservatives want to create 2 million new jobs over the next five years and 3 million apprenticeships. He said ‘starter homes’ would be up for grabs at 80% of the market price that would not be available to foreign buyers or investment funds. He added that the Government’s Help to Buy scheme had helped get 88,000 on to the housing ladder.

On education, Mr Cameron said the Government had got 1 million more children in “good” or “outstanding” schools. But Nick Clegg said the Tories were planning to cut £3 billion from the schools budget.

Natalie Bennett said the Green Party is calling for a minimum wage of £10 an hour by 2020.



Mentions of tuition fees; a subject always likely to rear its head, particularly with Nick Clegg on the panel. The Liberal Democrat leader said he was unable to abolish tuition fees, despite promising it in his party’s 2010 manifesto, as a result of going into coalition. But he said the Lib Dems had put in place tax cuts that ensure workers will pay zero tax on the first £10,600 they earn.

Leanne Wood said Plaid Cymru would like to offer free tuition fees for students but is unable to do so because of austerity. She said she’d like some courses to be free, adding that free courses for medical students could attract more doctors to Wales.

Ed Miliband said Labour has a costed plan to cut tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000.

Natalie Bennett said students are leaving university with an average of £44,000 in debts and that 73% of them would never pay that off. She said the Green Party would abolish tuition fees and pay off student loan company debts.



The number of times Labour was blamed for “crashing the economy”.

Coalition partners David Cameron and Nick Clegg repeatedly blamed the previous Labour government for borrowing and spending too much money, leaving the country in a financial mess. After being criticised by Ed Miliband over his broken promise on tuition fees, Nick Clegg replied: “I’ve apologised, I’ve taken responsibility for the mistakes I’ve made. Why don’t you, in front of the British people apologise for crashing the economy?”

Mr Miliband reminded them that countries all over the world were affected by the global banking crisis and hit back saying: “We got it wrong on bank regulation. We’ve said we’re sorry for what we did in relation to the banks and the banks were under-regulated. But there was a global financial crisis.”

Turning to Mr Cameron he added: “David, when you were in Opposition at the time, you were saying the banks were over-regulated, so I’m really not going to take any lectures from you about the global financial crisis.”



The number of times tax avoidance was mentioned.

David Cameron said he would raise £5 billion from tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. But Ed Miliband picked him up on this saying he hadn’t acted on tax havens and hedge funds. He said this is because they fund his party and the country needs leadership that will stand up and act to tackle tax avoidance.



The number of times cuts were mentioned. Deficit cropped up on 32 occasions, “balancing the books” got 16 mentions and austerity was referred to 26 times.

Nick Clegg said David Cameron and George Osborne plan to make £50 billion of cuts, which he said is “way beyond what’s needed”, and claimed Labour wanted to borrow £70 billion more than necessary.

Leanne Wood said under Plaid Cymru’s plans the deficit would be cut from £90 billion to £30 billion by 2020. She said the austerity experiment had failed and that now is the time to invest in public services and to see an end to austerity and cuts.

Nigel Farage said the coalition had failed on their pledge to eliminate the deficit, adding that it was still running at £90 billion a year. He said the national debt had doubled over the last five years from £850 billion to £1.5 trillion. The Ukip leader said £10 billion a year could be saved from the foreign aid budget and another £10 billion a year could be saved by not being a member of the EU. The foreign aid budget was mentioned by Mr Farage on six occasions during the debate.

Ed Miliband said he would reverse David Cameron’s tax cut of £43,000 to every millionaire in Britain.

Nicola Sturgeon said David Cameron had missed his own borrowing targets by £150 billion and that 1 million additional children are estimated to be living in poverty by 2020. She said the country cannot afford any more cuts and spending needs to increase over the next five years.



The number of times Nigel Farage referred to an Australian-style points system; his favoured method of controlling immigration.



The number of audience members who were thrown out during the debate for heckling. Victoria Prosser got out of her seat and interrupted the Prime Minister as he talked about servicemen and women.

“David Cameron mentioned giving a fair deal to everybody in this country, including people such as our fine military service people,” she told the Guardian. Yes, they are fine. But they are not treated fine after they have left the army, when they are in poverty and destitution, homeless on the streets and no hope of getting housed. He is using their name just to garner votes, because it might be a vote winner.”

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