Party leaders clash over economy, NHS and immigration in seven-way ITV debate

Party leaders. Credit: ITV

Video report by ITV News Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship

All seven party leaders went head-to-head for the first and only time this general election last night in the ITV leaders' debate, clashing over issues such as the economy, the NHS and immigration.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, the Green Party's Natalie Bennett, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, Ukip's Nigel Farage, Labour's Ed Miliband, Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon set out their key messages in front of a studio audience of around 200 people in Salford in the two-hour event.

Mr Cameron said Ed Miliband planned on more debt, taxes, borrowing and spending, but the Labour leader said "Britain could do so better" and repeatedly described what he would do "if I am prime minister".

A snap ITV News/ComRes poll showed Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband and Mr Farage all tied at the top on who performed the best.

Key moments from the debate included:

  • Nick Clegg accused his former coalition colleague David Cameron of wanting to impose "ideologically-driven cuts"

  • Ed Miliband urged Britons to use their vote" as a weapon" to fight for the future of the NHS

  • Nigel Farage was told he should be "ashamed of himself" for his comments about HIV-positive foreign national and the NHS

  • A heckler interrupted David Cameron, later saying she wanted to stand up for the 1%

Labour leader Ed Miliband. Credit: ITV

Ukip leader Nigel Farage accused the leaders of being "all the same", saying he would take back "control of our borders".

But he was heavily criticised for comments about foreign nationals receiving HIV treatment on the NHS.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage. Credit: ITV
Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru. Credit: ITV

Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood accused him of scaremongering, telling him, "I think you should be ashamed of yourself", prompting loud applause from the audience.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg admitted he had made "mistakes", but said his party had the "grit and resilience" to "finish the job".

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader. Credit: ITV

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, said the "old boys network" at Westminster needed to be broken up, as she outlined her plan to "end austerity" and protect the NHS.

She also attacked Nigel Farage, asking whether there was anything the Ukip leader would not blame immigration on.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon. Credit: ITV

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said British people "all deserve better", promising to put "principles and values first".

Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party. Credit: ITV

ITV News Political Editor Tom Bradby said while the seven-way debate was "fascinating", it may not "change a single vote".