David Cameron has been given a huge advantage in Thursday’s leader’s debate, being drawn to stand on the far right, well away from the other main party leaders. Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage and Ed Miliband will all be bunched together centre stage while Cameron will be three spaces away with the SNP and Plaid Cymru in between.
The party leaders will be standing in this order (left to right): Natalie Bennett (Green), Nick Clegg (Lib Dem), Nigel Farage (UKIP), Ed Miliband (Lab), Leanne Wood (Plaid), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) and David Cameron (Con). The running order was decided by drawing lots.
Most commentators think the position of the leaders means that Cameron will be insulated from spats between Farage, Miliband and Clegg. This could make him look more authoritative and above the cut and thrust of politics.
Each of the leaders will make short opening statements at the beginning of the programme and closing statements at the conclusion. Natalie Bennett will kick off proceedings, then each leader will take it in turns to answer first. David Cameron will end the show with his closing remarks.
During the two-hour live debate, leaders will address questions posed by the studio audience. The format will allow each leader to give an uninterrupted one-minute answer to each question, before the debate is opened to moderated discussion between the leaders, for up to 18 minutes on each question.
A Conservative spokesman told The Sun: “We’re very happy with the way it has turned out. But the Prime Minister is more than happy to debate in any position that the podiums are in.
“He’s looking forward to setting out the Conservative case of economic competence versus the chaos that would come with a Labour government led by Ed Miliband.”
The leaders will face each other live on ITV on Thursday at 8pm. This is the second attempt to copy the leader’s debates at the 2010 election, which were deemed to have made a major impact on the final result.
Last week David Cameron and Ed Miliband both appeared in front of a live audience at different times. The show also featured them being grilled by Jeremy Paxman, but the whole format made the ‘debate’ awkward to watch.
Cameron had been reticent to agree to lots of debates, as he privately believes going head-to-head with Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown last time caused the Liberal Democrat surge that cost him the election.
Nigel Farage is predicted to win the debate, which is expected to be watched by nine million people. He said: “It would be nice to be a bit closer to the Prime Minister. It’s difficult to get him to debate anything, but we’ll do our best.”