GENERAL ELECTION 2015: Prime Minister David Cameron insisted his five years in charge had left the UK “immeasurably stronger” in the first televised set-piece event of the General Election campaign.
Both Mr Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband subjected themselves to the grilling by Jeremy Paxman and a studio audience in what was originally intended to be a head-to-head debate. The Prime Minister said he would only take part if the two were interviewed separately.
Mr Cameron told the special live Sky News/Channel 4 programme: “What I have done for the last five years is lead a government that has got the economy growing, has got people back to work, has cut the taxes of the poorest people in our country. I am not saying we have achieved everything we set out to do, but the country is immeasurably stronger.”
He admitted that he did admire some qualities of his opponent, saying he appreciated his support “against the death cult of Isis” in Iraq.
He said his children had questioned the way Mr Miliband and he attacked one another at Prime Minister’s questions, stating “we couldn’t get away with this at school”.
In answer to a question from a pensioner called Bridget, he said he would “think about” having an older people’s representative in the Cabinet but added: “I want all my ministers to be thinking about older people.”
He went on: “If we don’t do right by old people, blame me.”
Mr Cameron insisted that his record on tackling poverty was good even though last year 900,000 people used food banks.
He said: “Obviously, I want less people to use food banks but jobs is the way out of poverty.”
Under pressure, he also pointed out that the threshold where income tax is paid has risen to £10,600
But he admitted that more could have been done about the national debt.
He said: “If you are saying we have not gone fast enough to cut the deficit, I would agree we would need to do more.”
He refused to say if there were circumstances he would recommend a No vote in a referendum on staying in the European Union.
But in answer to an audience question, he said that Britain “is at its best when it is out there in the world co-operating and trading with other countries”.
Mr Miliband, meanwhile, was hit with a question from the audience about why he always looked “gloomy”. He was asked: “Are things so bad?”
Mr Miliband replied: “No. But things can get a lot better.”
He also denied that he was anti-middle class and people who pay higher-rate taxes.
He admitted there would be spending reductions in areas outside health and education but said he would bring in “fairer taxes” to cut the deficit.
Audience member Veronica Monty asked why Labour was prepared to deny the people a referendum on the EU.
He said: “I want us to stay in the EU and a referendum is not my priority.”
He warned that a departure would be a “disaster” for jobs and the economy.
Another audience member challenged him if he thought his brother David would have done a better job and was better qualified and positioned.
Mr Miliband laughed and answered: “The answer is no. I had strong views about changing the country and moving the party on.”
Asked by Sky presenter Kay Burley about the divisions in his family after the leadership election in 2010, he said: “It was bruising.”
However, he added: “Look, I thought I was the right person to be prime minister.”
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