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Analysis: 'Hell yes, I'm tough enough to be PM'

By Ross Hawkins
Political correspondent, BBC News

image copyrightGetty Images

Hell yes, I'm tough enough.

Ed Miliband might just have acquired a catchphrase.

The Labour leader who Jeremy Paxman dubbed a "north London geek" borrowed the argot of a Wild West gunslinger when he came out to confront questions about his character during the first of the leaders' TV specials.

When Paxman - the grand alpha-male of political interviewing - leaned in, so too did Miliband.

"That's why Cameron didn't want to debate him," one Labour aide declared, at volume, as he entered the post-show spin room.

Labour think Miliband has been caricatured and if the public sees more of the real man they will be impressed.

Political image

The question is: will the tough guy image convince the public?

Miliband faced hostile questions from the voters in the studio audience, some of whom looked pretty unconvinced by the answers.

They picked, once again, over his relationship with the brother he beat to the leadership. It's healing, apparently.

But then despite this not being a head-to-head debate, and certainly not the event the broadcasters originally wanted, it wasn't an easy night for either leader.

image copyrightReuters

David Cameron came under sustained fire from Paxman, accepting that he had failed to meet his commitment on net migration.

Could you live on a zero-hours contract he was asked, time and time again.

Cameron mentioned a government ban on exclusivity in those contracts, but he squirmed a little all the same.

Westminster spin

There was an on the record commitment from him to serve every day of a second term, while committing not to serve a third.

Just how would that work? A question the PM's aides say is for another day.

There were interesting hints from the other side about their future plans - Ed Miliband said overall spending would probably fall under Labour.

But really - this was all about the theatre.

It was pretty good telly, but then this is written in the spin room half an hour after the show's end credits.

Everyone here, now, seems excited - spinners, journalists and politicians.

The Westminster village has come to west London to play its favourite games.

Just how it will actually go down in the country at large, and just how much attention voters will give to 90 minutes of politics on a Thursday night several weeks before the election, won't be revealed amid the dirty coffee cups of a post-programme spin room.

Related Topics

  • Ed Miliband
  • David Cameron

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