TV watchers score Cameron the victor – but Labour are happy

Majority of those thinking of switching their vote after watching the show would swap to Miliband

Columnist Don Brind

The scores are in - and it appears David Cameron’s gamble in refusing a head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband has paid off, just. He emerged narrowly ahead after last night’s Channel 4/Sky event, according to an instant Guardian/ICM poll of 1,100 voters who watched ‘Cameron & Miliband Live: The Battle for Number 10’.

After each leader had been grilled by Jeremy Paxman and given comparatively easy questions by a studio audience, 54 per cent thought Cameron did better, against 46 per cent favouring Miliband, after excluding don’t knows.

The Times reports an even closer result according to an instant reaction app developed by YouGov and used by 800 viewers. They scored it 51-49 for Cameron.

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Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who turned up at the event, gave victory to Miliband. He told Sky News that the Labour leader had clearly given a better performance, scoring him 7/10 against 4/10 for the PM.

“It was not what I expected at all,” Farage said. “In terms of personalities, he [Miliband] fought back more, was more human and got the audience clapping. Cameron was nowhere near that. Cameron looked discomfited.”

ICM’s sample of viewers, weighted to match the broader population, were asked to put aside their party preference and concentrate only on what they heard during the programme.

Labour will be happy that although Cameron retains his lead as best prime minister in this survey by 48 to 40, the margin is smaller than in most polls.

They will also be encouraged by the answer to the “crucial question” – as The Guardian put it – of whether people would shift their votes as a result of what they had witnessed: “56 per cent of the respondents who said they might change their mind plumped for Labour, as against just 30 per cent for the Conservatives”.

Other new polling:

The Tories have a two-point lead in this morning’s regular YouGov poll. Con 36 (up 2), Lab 34 (down 1), Lib Dems 7 (down 1), Ukip 13 (up 1), Greens 5 (down 1).

A survey of voters in London – one of the key battlegrounds in the election - shows Labour set to gain most of their targets. A special Guardian/ICM telephone poll puts Labour on 42 per cent in the capital – ten points ahead of the Tories. It’s reckoned that would deliver eight gains to Labour – six from the Tories and two from the Lib Dems.

The next TV event will be the seven-way leaders’ debate scheduled for Thursday 2 April on ITV.

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is a former BBC lobby correspondent and Labour press officer who is watching the polls for The Week in the run-up to the 2015 election.