Election 2015 TV debate: And the winner is…

Natalie Bennett, Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood
With the polls pointing towards another hung parliament, the leaders have all to play for

Who won? That is the question everyone will ask at 10pm tonight, so before anyone answers perhaps we should pause and ask something else: what on earth does winning a TV debate really mean? And how will we know?

Should we take seriously the instant polls of the few who choose to watch all two hours of seven party leaders arguing on the eve of the Easter holidays? Maybe not.

They are likely to be a small and pretty unrepresentative sample of voters as a whole. Not only that. They will include many whose minds were made up long ago. And the inclusion of the Scottish and Welsh nationalists means that most viewers will not be able to cast a vote for two of the leaders they are watching.

So, how about the verdict of Twitter or Facebook? Ditto. Social media lends a loudhailer to the committed, the partisan and organised.

What then about the sage words of the commentariat as they emerge from the hothouse of the "spin room"? Cramming political journalists, spin doctors and live cameras into a room is the best possible guarantee that the media "pack" will produce its own, not particularly reliable, conventional wisdom.

The 'undecideds'

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Election 2015: Me... and why it's all about you

Composite images of politicians, historic election moments and BBC broadcasters

1) Nick's news: Do not adjust your set

Today I'm taking a baby step towards returning to work and covering the election, starting with a little light blogging.

The operation to remove a carcinoid tumour from my lung was a complete success. I am now beginning a course of chemotherapy to try to stop the cancer even daring to think of returning. I'm also working to restore the strength of my voice after the op.

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What a difference a day makes

Sir Malcolm Rifkind

What a difference a day makes. In just 24 hours, Sir Malcolm Rifkind went from angry defiance to a grim-faced acceptance that he would have to quit his job - both as a member of parliament and chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

So what changed in that time?

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Labour yet to agree tuition fees policy funding

Graduates celebrating

I understand Labour has still not agreed how to finance a cut in tuition fees from £9,000 a year to £6,000 a year even though the policy is due to be announced in a week's time.

Peter Mandelson, formerly the minister responsible for universities, will give a speech later today in which he will warn the universities must be compensated in full for any cut in their income due to a cut in their income from tuition fees.

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Miliband's unorthodox strategy

Ed Miliband

Don't pick a fight with big business. Don't fall out with Murdoch. Don't look anti-aspiration. Those have long been considered the rules for anyone serious about winning an election.

What makes this campaign so unpredictable and so fascinating is that Ed Miliband is tearing up those rules. That's why he'll lose, say his critics. That's why he believes he'll stand on the steps of Number 10 in just 82 days' time.

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Who's winning the tax dodge row?

David Cameron and Ed Miliband

Dodgy...bang to rights...up to his neck.

Not normal parliamentary language, but those are the words and phrases Ed Miliband used today in the Commons to allege that David Cameron's Tory party takes money from tax dodgers.

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Why young people should register to vote

"Can I get you to vote?"

That's what I asked when I took my ballot box to the hair salon to ask a group of apprentices whether they're going to bother.

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Miliband's 'on your side' Commons gamble

Ed Miliband speaking at Prime Minister's questions

The morning after the Newsnight embarassment before, Ed Miliband did something rather interesting.

He chose to march towards the sound of Tory gunfire.

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Debates - on or off?

TV debates 2010
David Cameron is setting new conditions for taking part in the TV debates

Debates - on or off? David Cameron says he wants to take part in TV election debates and that he thinks a deal can be done but... he's also setting new conditions for taking part.

The PM told the BBC this morning that the Northern Ireland parties should be included now that the SNP and Plaid Cymru have been invited.

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Scots votes on English NHS laws

I have been speaking to Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about how SNP MPs will vote after the next election.

With the polls predicting a doubling in the party's support and, potentially, a huge increase in the number of their MPs this really matters.

Read full article Scots votes on English NHS laws