Live blog of the final Leaders' Debate
It is taking place at the University of Birmingham, with David Cameron stage left, Nick Clegg at the centre podium and Gordon Brown stage right - and David Dimbleby chairing the debate.
Tim Montgomerie has already set out three goals for David Cameron tonight.
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8.33pm Clegg is second to open.
8.34pm Brown is third. He refers to yesterday's incident when he says "I don't get all of it right, but I know ho to run the economy". He expectedly says the Tories risk the recovery.
8.35pm First question: There will be spending cuts - why can't you behonest and tell us?
8.35pm: PG Lobby hacks on Twitter writing that Clegg looked very nervous in opening statement - and was looking down at script.
8.37pm Clegg says more than just efficiency savings are required. Brown say the Tories risk a double dip recession. Cameron says he will do all he can to protect frontline services and that unpopular things like a public sector pay freeze and increasing the retirement age must be implemented.
8.39pm JI: Clegg appears to admit that the questioner is right that none of the parties has spelled out enough on where cuts must come and that more must be done.
8.40pm Brown uses his mantra that Tory cuts of £6 billion now cannot be afforded. Cameron responds directly by pointing out that this is a 1% saving - highlighting NHS managers' 7% pay rises and glossy leaflets from council and cites the business support for stopping the proposed NI rise.
8.42pm JI: Brown keeps repeating that mantra on the £6 billion - clutching at straws - and grins when Cameron rebuts him again. Bizarre.
8.44pm PG: Laughter in media room as Clegg says politicians should move beyond point-scoring.
8.45pm Cameron gives good explanation that Brown is confusing "the economy" with "the government".
8.46pm Clegg, weak as he is on the economy, clings to the suggestion that all the chancellors and shadow chancellors should get together to agree what to do.
8.46pm TM: Good opening round from Cameron. He hits lots of buttons. He'll rule out joining the Euro. He'll clamp down on welfare. He'll stop Labour's waste. He'll protect people on modest incomes from Labour's National Insurance increase.
8.46pm We're on to tax with question two. Brown rolls out his line about "Tory inheritance tax cut for millionaires".
8.47pm Cameron says that many Labour tax rises cannot be stopped but stopping NI that hits the lowest paid the hardest is the priority. He also says that tax credits will stay under the Tories and Brown must stop lying about the issue.
8.49pm PG: Debate taking shape. Clear ideological divide - Brown on about Tory cuts, Cameron on about waste and cancelling the NI rise - with a nice hit on the Euro. Clegg got squeezed on the first question.
8.51pm JI: Brown goes on the attack against Clegg by saying he (Brown) would never form a coalition with a Tory Government that reduced child tax credits. Cameron accuses Brown of being desperate and gives good justification for raising IHT threshold, ie it is a tax on savings.
8.53pm Brown says Tory IHT plans are "immoral". Cameron explains that child tax credits will only hit those onincomes of over £50,000 and accuses Brown of trying to frighten people and should be ashamed of what he's doing.
8.54pm TM: Gordon Brown has nothing to lose tonight and he's throwing the kitchen sink at Cameron. All his fire is directed at the Tory leader, not Clegg. This is for the Labour core vote.
8.55pm Clegg playing it very folksy - have lost count of number of times he's name-checked "Nadine".
8.55pm Good to see that David Dimbleby is going to challenge the leaders as he tries (in vain) to get Brown to say if he's go into coalition with the Lib Dems.
8.56pm Next question is on how the parties intend being "fair".
8.57pm Cameron wants the retail banks lending again and not getting involved in the riskiest practices.
8.59pm Clegg plays the "bash the banker" card as he wants a ban on bonuses at director level and above £2,500 for anyone.
9.00pm PG Twitter curiously quiet. Little sign of Whelan and Alexander this week, or of some of the Conservatives who were much more aggressive last week than in the first.
9.01pm TM: Good answer from Cameron on banks. He mentions bank levy, restoring supervision to the Bank of England, getting banks to lend more to small businesses and to separate retail and other banks.
9.01pm JI: Good line from Cameron on pointing out that Brown gave a knighthood to Fred "The Shred" Goodwin for services to banking.
- Brown says he's tried to be fair, but he doubled the 10p tax rate on the poorest
- Brown said: “What David is doing is giving 3,000 people, who are the richest people in the country, he is going to give them 200,000 each a year.” NOT TRUE: The Tory inheritance tax plan will help over 4 million people who are currently at risk of falling into Brown’s inheritance tax net. On tax credits, Labour continue to lie about our policy, which will not affect anyone with a household income of under £40,000.
- Clegg said: “where I really disagree with David Cameron and Gordon Brown is try to fool you into think efficiency savings are enough. You can't fill the hole by saving on pot plants and paper clips in Whitehall." BUT That is how the Lib Dems would fund the NHS and pupil premium.
9.04pm JI: Strong line from Cameron attacking Lib Dem pro-euro policy, which Clegg tried to laugh off.
9.08pm FACTCHECK: Clegg said: “I just don't think it makes sense really at a time when money is tight that someone even on my salary, which is a really good MP salary, could be entitled to the family component of tax credits.” BUT Steve Webb, the Lib Dems’ work and pensions spokesman, was accused of hypocrisy for topping up his MP’s salary with tax credits of £545 a year for his two children (Daily Mail, 30 June 2005).
9.08pm FACTCHECK: Clegg said: ‘This is really getting desperate. No I'm not advocating entry into the euro, I would only ever advocate it if the economic conditions were right, it was good for your jobs, good for pensions... and it only has to be decided on referendum where you can vote on it.’ BUT The Lib Dem manifesto says: ‘We believe that it is in Britain’s long-term interest to be part of the euro.
9.08pm TM: Cameron forced Clegg to retreat on Euro. Clegg wanted UK in Euro whatever he says now. Euro membership would have crippled UK economy.
9.09pm Next question is on how to promote manufacturing.
9.10pm PG: This is nice and clear. Brown trying to pull back public sector voters from Liberals with spectre of Tory cuts. Cameron incisively trying to pull back wavering voters from Liberals by emphasising need to sort out economy. Will it work for either of them?
9.13pm JI: Cameron again makes the important point that the economy and the government are not synonymous as Brown would have us believe; also says that government should take a lead in procurement from SMEs.
9.15pm TM: Click on http://twitter.com/BenatIpsosMORI to see how MORI is recording instant voter reactions. Promising for Cameron at this stage.
9.19pm JI: Cameron: "Immigration in this country has been too high for too long" and explains plans for a cap. Brown's waffly answer will not have resonated.
9.21pm TM: Immigration has been raised as an issue in all three debates. Good answer from Cameron. He says a Conservative government will cut net immigration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands.
9.22pm PG: Cameron's done well in the two immigration bouts so far - and should do so again. Brown looking rather shifty in the wake or, er, yesterday's debate.
9.23pm Cameron strong on exposing the nonsense of LIb Dem policy on immigration. Clegg claims he does not advocate an amnesty. Cameron says Lib Dem do propose it and they can't get away from it. Brown: "I agree with David on this".
9.27pm Clegg tries to blame the immigration problems on the old parties and goes on to admit his policy is "controversial".
9.27pm CCHQ tweeting a Times survey showing Cameron in the lead so far - very clearly.
9.28pm TM: Brown and Cameron both hammering Clegg on his amnesty for illegal immigrants. Expect follow up in the media on this. Really damaging for the Liberal Democrats.
9.29pm Clegg pursuing the line of just blaming Tory and Labour government for the immigration problems.
9.29pm TM: Cameron is hitting immigration harder than he has ever done before. There is none of the warm words about immigration from the first two debates. The issue of immigration has now moved centre stage in this campaign.
9.30pm Next question from a woman, wanting to know how to help families who cannot afford a home.
9.31pm Cameron explains stamp duty policy, desire to reduce taxes and allow more house-building.
9.32pm FACTCHECK: Brown said: ‘I want to increase the number of jobs that people trained in britain can take’. BUT There are fewer UK-born people working now in the private sector than there were in 1997. In 2009 the private sector employed 18,732,000 UK-born workers, compared to 19,020,000 in 1997.
9.33pm PG: The long immigration debate will have done Cameron no harm. And now a question from a self-described married person. Will the M-word come up in the answers? (Not so far.)
9.34pm FACTCHECK: On immigration Clegg said: “I’m not advocating an amnesty.” BUT in 2007 Nick Clegg said that his party’s policy was ‘a selective amnesty’ which would create ‘a route to earned legalisation for the up to 600,000 people who have being living in this country invisibly, illegally, often exploited by unscrupulous employers and others’.
9.36pm FACTCHECK: Clegg says he is worried about people getting affordable homes. So why does he want to charge VAT on new homes - costing £15k more on the average home?
9.37pm Next question from a retired person angry at abuse of benefits system by people who haven't paid in.
9.38pm JI: Clegg's answer weak. Brown too doesn't really address the question. Cameron should give a robust answer on this.
9.40pm JI: Cameron does indeed point out that after thirteen years of Labour government, millions are now living on benefits. He also highlights Tory policy to say simply that if you can work you should not be able to refuse a job. A straightforward explanation of a straightforward policy - strong.
9.41pm JI: Brown talking about winter fuel allowance, but this week doesn't acuse the Tories of wanting to scrap it.
9.43pm JI: Cameron again hits home with the line that Labour have had 13 years to sort out these isseus and have failed.
9.44pm TM has grabbed this amusing image of the three leaders!
9.45pm JI: Cameron points out that Brown is in denial over the number of young people not in employment, or training today.
9.46pm PG: Dimbleby admirable in not letting leaders get off benefits question. Clegg very much wanted to - nothing in Liberal manifesto on stopping benefits for those who won't work.
9.47pm Next question (probably final one?) on educational opportunities for all across all social backgrounds.
9.48pm Brown claims to be interested in promoting social mobility. Cameron strong on promoting excellence in state schools, where, he reminds us, he is sending his children.
9.51pm PG: Chaos breaking out in Birmingham media spin room. Mandelson out on the floor while debate still going. Michael Gove fighting back.
9.52pm JI: Cameron strong again on positive changes to education system whereas all Brown is offering is scaremongering.
9.54pm JI: Brown still droning on about Tories cutting child tax credits. Like a broken record.
9.56pm Closing statements. Cameron first. Government must back families, work and keep us safe and secure. But the test of a good society is how you look after the poorest and must vulnerable. We've got a great team. Labour is more of the same, Liberal is uncertaintiy. Voting Conservative will get a you a new government taking us in fresh direction.
9.58pm Clegg say "Don't let anyone scare you from following your instincts" and offers fairness for everyone. He relies on notes for his final peroration. "You can make the difference".
9.59pm JI: Brown closes. Claims the Tories would put the economy at risk, and continues scaremongering over and over on issue after issue. "I don't like having to do this," he bleats, "they are not ready for government".