Who won the leaders' TV debate? Nicola Sturgeon, according to these Labour people

Two of the party's senior MPs and a Labour candidate in a key marginal seat praised the SNP leader, with one of them declaring her the winner

Considering it was the only chance Ed Miliband had to take on David Cameron directly in the election campaign, you would have assumed his own party’s MPs would have rallied behind him.

Add to that the fact he was also facing SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, whose soring popularity could stop Labour from winning the election, and surely you could bank on Labour candidates being disciplined enough to back their leader during his big moment in the spotlight.

But this was not the case for two senior Labour MPs and one of the party’s candidates fighting a key battleground seat.

Instead of singing the praises of their leader’s performance and claiming victory over a silent and ineffective Prime Minister, the three of them managed to do exactly what the Tories wanted them to do and focussed on the threat Labour faces in Scotland by praising Ms Sturgeon, with one of them declaring her the winner.

An average of the four snap polls put Mr Miliband tied in top place with Mr Cameron, with Mr Farage and Ms Sturgeon third and fourth respectively. But regardless of who won in the polls, politicians are never meant to admit their opponents won, especially with less than six weeks until polling day.

Debate.jpgThat is why it is so suprising to see Labour figures express such open support for Ms Sturgeon.

The debate had not even finished before Austen Mitchell, the veteran Labour MP for Great Grimsby who is standing down, threw in the towel:

Then it was the turn of Rowenna Davis, a rising star in the Labour party who is fighting to keep hold of the ultra-Labour marginal of Southampton Itchen, where the retiring MP John Denham won with just 192 votes in 2010.

She tweeted saying Ms Sturgeon "was good tonight" but swiftly deleted her tweet when she realised her instinct had gotten the better of her. But luckily someone had retweeted her:

And finally Diane Abbott, who was sacked from the shadow cabinet by Mr Miliband but is still a fairly loyal supporter so could still be in line for a job in a future Miliband government, praised Ms Sturgeon - and not her own leader - for taking on Nigel Farage:

The average score of the four polls – YouGov, ICM, Comres and Survation – produced a draw between Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband, both on 22 per cent, followed by Mr Farage on 21 per cent, Ms Sturgeon on 20, Nick Clegg on 9, Natalie Bennett on 4 and Leane Wood on 3.

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