Cameron vs Miliband: 11 things to expect from Thursday’s live TV showdown

Here’s what we reckon will crop up

They’re not exactly having a debate, but the leaders of the two biggest parties will go head-to-head this evening when they’re interviewed live at 9pm on Sky News and Channel 4 and then take questions from the audience.

Tax bombshell

How will they fund their new policies? We’re not even convinced they know. One thing that will definitely be mentioned is how both parties have pledged to not increase VAT or National Insurance in the next parliament, leaving little space for tax increases.

Northern powerhouse

It might sound like a club you went to in Doncaster or a band you saw at the Big Chill festival in 2006, but the “Northern powerhouse” is in fact George Osborne’s plan to attract northern voters at the election. It’s a term that’s been coined to generically mean a boom in business and industry in the north, as a result of investment and devolution of powers. Tonight will probably see both interviewees fielding questions about devolved cities, with voters hoping for an answer as to how to restore growth outside London.

Housing

On the opposite end of the spectrum, London is booming. With the economic growth comes population growth, as workers are sucked into the capital from less productive parts of the country. The obvious and crippling downside to the thriving and lively city is the cost of housing. Even though they’ve slowed recently, property prices are rising nearly 10% year on year (in some London boroughs it’s more like 30%), making it impossible for young people to get on the property market if they don’t have access to the Bank of Mum and Dad.

Defence

Defence spending has been lingering in the background for much of this parliament. With the UK’s economic and social troubles, we haven’t been as inclined to talk about defence spending as in previous parliaments. However, after Cameron refused to commit to Nato’s target of 2% of GDP being spent on defence, the subject is back on the agenda.

The NHS

The NHS is getting worse for the first time in 20 years, headlines scream this morning. Earlier in the week, Cameron was heckled at an Age UK event over the state of the health service and before that we’ve been treated to “red alerts” at many hospitals as staff struggled to cope with cuts. The NHS is regularly given titles such as Britain’s most-loved institution and the thing that makes Brits most proud of the country, there’s no way it won’t crop up in tonight’s debates.

Food

Food safety and security has hit the spotlight this week with the selloff of the government’s testing and research lab Fera (which was instrumental in uncovering the horsemeat debacle). The sale has been labelled a “scandal”, while commenters have said commercial interests will risk public health.

Deficit

It’s the big one. The subject mentioned in almost every party leader’s interviews and speeches (that’s if you don’t miss a chunk of it out). The deficit will be possibly the most bickered-over subject, with the blame for the size of it being thrown around the studio like a frisbee.

Transport

Crossrail, HS2 and the proposed HS3 have all been making the news in recent weeks, whether it’s because of costs (it usually is) or skeletons. This week the Lords rejected the economic case for the £50bn HS2 and many people (particularly in the south) are complaining the scheme is too expensive.

Immigration

UKIP won’t be taking part in the live TV event, but immigration will be a hot topic nonetheless. While Labour plans to introduce new rules banning the indefinite detention of immigration applicants, the Office for Budget Responsibility has said immigration will continue to rise. Meanwhile, with the possibility of leaving the EU hanging over like last orders at the pub, this week we were warned a Brexit could cost the UK £56bn a year.

Coalition

To many people’s surprise the Lib Dem/Tory coalition has largely been a success (perhaps not so much for Nick Clegg’s party when we go to the polls in May). But with the likelihood of any party gaining a majority looking very small, everyone wants to know who would be prepared to make a deal with who. Let’s hope we can get some answers.

Wildcard: Drugs

We haven’t seen much about illegal drugs in the news recently but there is a chance leaders will be roped into discussing legalisation. For some people, it’s a huge issue and certainly very controversial. Less than a month ago Nick Clegg said if the Lib Dems got into power, they’d hand the responsibility for drugs policy from the Home Office to the Department of Health. Would the other leaders do the same? Maybe we’ll find out.

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Christian Wolmar

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