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Cameron has edge over Miliband in first TV showdown

By Staff Reporter

David Cameron edged the first major TV clash of the general election campaign against Ed Miliband last night by a margin of 54% to 46%, according to a Guardian snap opinion poll released moments after the end of the 90-minute programme.

The Battle for Number 10 show broadcast live on Sky News and Channel 4 saw the Conservative and Labour leaders grilled by veteran TV inquisitor Jeremy Paxman and answer questions from a studio audience. Mr Cameron urged the electorate to vote for a "strong economy", while his Labour rival insisted: "We can do a lot better than this. We're a great country."

Mr Cameron was faced with questions about his friend Jeremy Clarkson - saying the BBC's decision to sack him was "absolutely right for them" - and admitted that he would not be able to live on the kind of exclusive zero-hours contract that the coalition has outlawed.

Paxman told the PM that many voters found it "problematic" that he had chosen to surround himself with people like Clarkson, ex-HSBC boss Lord Green and former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, asking: "What do you have in common with all these rich people?"

But the PM replied: "The aspersion you are trying to cast is completely ridiculous."

Mr Cameron admitted he had not asked Lord Green about possible tax avoidance in HSBC's Swiss branch at the time of his appointment as a trade minister but said that "all the normal processes and procedures were followed" and said that allegations the bank helped clients dodge tax had emerged only "subsequently".

Later, Mr Miliband told the studio audience his relationship with brother David was still "healing" after their bruising battle for the Labour leadership, but said he still thought he was the right man for the job.

And he dismissed suggestions that he was a "north London geek" without the steel needed to lead the country insisting: "Am I tough enough? Hell, yes, I'm tough enough.".

Mr Miliband said that he had shown his toughness by refusing to go along with Mr Cameron and Barack Obama's plans for military action in Syria in 2013.

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