Nigel Farage is set to emerge as the winner from the seven-way leaders’ debate on Thursday with 8.9 million viewers tuning in, according to the political spread betting firm Sporting Index. The 2010 debates catapulted Nick Clegg into the national consciousness but the Liberal Democrat leader is expected to finish fourth this time around, behind David Cameron (2nd) and Ed Miliband (3rd).
Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party is predicted to finish 5th, while lesser known Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood will come 6th. The Green Party leader Natalie Bennett is expected to finish last following a run of rather less than impressive interviews on the campaign trail to date.
Sporting Index predict nearly nine million viewers to tune into the debate on ITV, slightly down on the 2010 debate figures.
Ed Fulton, political spokesman for Sporting Index, said: “The campaigning has finally started in earnest and it’s clear that debates, in whatever format, will be a crucial factor for many voters when it comes to marking ballot cards on 7 May.
“With time for each candidate to speak limited by the size of the group, viewers will likely only remember short soundbites. Nigel Farage will certainly come prepared with barbs to needle Cameron and Miliband with and we see him coming top in post-debate snap polling. However, whether his performance will translate into seats come 8 May remains to be seen.”