Ed Miliband sought to prove that honesty is the best policy in tonight’s televised debate, admitting Labour’s failings as he squared off with Jeremy Paxman.
Miliband looked strong from the outset as he confessed to Labour’s past mistakes on the economy in response to questions from a live studio audience. He came out of the gate fighting, though, in response to an adversarial Jeremy Paxman, who seems to have lost none of his bite since his lengthy tenure at the helm of BBC Newsnight concluded.
Later, he brought up the issue of the Iraq War, in a surprisingly candid moment that may help to humanise him to voters who can’t get that bacon sandwich out of their heads.
Earlier in the night, David Cameron had looked strong when questioned by Paxman on the European Union, but seemed to do his best impression of the Artful Dodger when it came to borrowing figures. Paxman’s breakneck pace took in issues as broad as zero hour contracts, the Libya conflict and the prospect of an immigration cap.
It was in the audience Q&A, though, that the Prime Minister came into his own, ducking and diving as a surprisingly mute Kay Burley allowed him to aimlessly filibuster at will. Even when the issue of NHS reorganisation arose, Cameron managed to emerge relatively unscathed as a result of a rather forgiving audience.
Burley seemed to find her voice as Miliband took to the stage, but the Labour leader had an answer for tough questions about whether his hard-fought leadership battle with brother, David, had created friction within the party. Miliband batted away the accusations of a soap opera struggle in the family with class, using it as an opportunity to talk about his own deeply held political beliefs.
Paxman’s initial attack seemed to faze Miliband, as he flew into a blinking fit that wouldn’t have been out of place on an episode of The Thick of It. When Paxman continued his relentless assault on the topic of immigration, Miliband’s honesty and self-deprecation became a signature retort, with a surprising willingness to go blow-for-blow.
Whilst initial polls are calling the night a Cameron victory, it’s the revelatory image of ‘Honest Ed’ that should be the enduring symbol of tonight’s event.