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Leaders’ broadcast: Ed Miliband praised for showing personal touch

Ed Miliband finished ahead on personality after using humour to turn around questions about his character during his grilling from Jeremy Paxman, Nigel Farage said.

Speaking in the wake of the first election programme, the Ukip leader appeared to reverse his earlier prediction of a David Cameron victory in the Sky/Channel 4 clash.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Farage said: “There were two parts of this debate. One is policy, I thought on policy Ed Miliband said the last Labour government got almost everything wrong and we have got no solutions to offer at all.

“But, because there were only two people in it, this wasn’t just about policy, it was about personality.

“What was really interesting was the Prime Minister was deeply discomforted from the very start, didn’t really get into his stride until about the 16th minute.

“What surprised me about Ed Miliband, having said to you before the programme he might struggle against Paxman, is Paxman was just as tough on both of them on policy.

“But he asked Ed Miliband some very tough personal questions. Miliband sat there, took it, fought back, and actually showed some humour and got the audience on his side.

“Taking policy out of it, on personality, for me, Miliband was ahead.”

Commons leader William Hague said a “very strong performance” from the Prime Minister would help give the Conservatives a push going into the election campaign.

“He got the economic message across from beginning to end and that is the central message in this election.”

A snap poll suggesting Mr Cameron had “won” the night by 54% to 46% showed people “were listening to the answers”, Mr Hague said.

“Here is a man with a clear plan for where this country is going and they are not going to get that clear plan from Ed Miliband.”

Labour’s general election co-ordinator Douglas Alexander said the poll lead was related to Mr Cameron “having the authority of being prime minister”.

“The truth is I think that Ed Miliband showed that while David Cameron is planning his retirement, he (Mr Miliband) is hungry for change.”

He said the performances of the two leaders “explains why David Cameron has been so keen to avoid a head-to-head” debate.

MPs clashed on Twitter over the performances of their leaders, with many predictably claiming their man had won the night.

Shadow Labour minister Chi Onwurah said: “We’ve just seen why Cameron bottled a head to head with Ed. Without his pals behind him his weakness, privilege and insincerity is obvious.”

Labour MP Karl Turner said it was a “clear win” for his party leader while Tom Blenkinsop said the question remained over why the pair could not have gone head to head.

Jon Trickett said: “Clear win for Ed. Passion, values and leadership in abundance.”

But former Tory Welsh secretary David Jones said: “Most interesting moment of the Miliband interview was when he dissed Tony Blair. A touch of venom there.”

Conservative Nadine Dorris added to criticism of the Labour leader, adding: “Looses his rag, too intense, obviously doesn’t know the detail. He’s bombed.”

Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said Mr Cameron had run away from the chance to debate with Mr Miliband.

She said: “Ed was warm, energetic and confident. He laid out very clearly what his hopes are for our country.

“What we have with David Cameron is a guy who really doesn’t understand what it’s like for people working on zero-hour contracts, a guy who made promises about VAT and immigration and has failed. And of course the biggest failure of all was his promise to wipe out the deficit.

Ms Flint said she was “very proud” of Mr Miliband, and that he did a “fantastic job” taking on Mr Paxman and in the town hall debate question and answer session.

She said after last night’s debate: “What was great about Ed tonight is that he showed passion, he showed conviction and I think he also showed humour.”