General Election TV debate: Miliband gets a head start for the seven-way debate

Labour drew comfort from survey findings that two-thirds of undecided voters believed the Labour leader had the better of the exchanges

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For Labour, Ed Miliband’s debate appearance was the first step in its election drive to boost his dismal ratings among the public and improve his credibility as a prime minister-in-waiting.

They drew comfort from survey findings that two-thirds of undecided voters believed the Labour leader had the better of the exchanges.

The party’s campaign chairman, Douglas Alexander, said he thought the debate would trigger a “process of reappraisal” of Mr Miliband among voters.

He said: “I think people will have been surprised. A lot of people watching Ed last night, who may have been expecting a caricature that they’ve read about in the newspapers, instead saw somebody who I thought was warm, honest and open, but also who communicated that passion, exactly that sense of toughness, steeliness, that you need to do the job.”

Lucy Powell, Labour’s election campaign vice-chair, said: “For the first time the public got to see the real Ed Miliband ... they liked that Ed Miliband and he came across much more strongly than David Cameron.”

But Miliband’s relative success means that expectations will be higher when he appears in the seven-way televised debate on Thursday.

He can expect to face fierce criticism over his support for spending cuts from SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, and Natalie Bennett, the Green leader.

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