Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg clash over immigration during live debate, but neither can land the killer blow

Lib Dems and Ukip inevitably split over who won, but agree that the Tories and Labour were the losers

Political Editor

Nick Clegg tried to match the UK Independence Party's trump card of immigration as he went head-to-head with Nigel Farage on whether Britain should remain in the European Union.

In the first of two live broadcast debates, the Liberal Democrat leader said the British people deserved "the facts" on immigration as he accused Ukip of trying to "scare people." He brandished a Ukip leaflet claiming that 29m people could come to Britain from Romania and Bulgaria, more than the total number of people living in those two countries.

A post-match YouGov survey of 1,003 people found that 57 per cent believed that Mr Farage had performed best, while 36 per cent thought Mr Clegg had won. Among Conservative supporters, the Ukip leader was judged the winner by a margin of 3-1. Mr Farage also came top among Labour voters, by 51 to 42 per cent. Surprisingly, one in five (20 per cent) of Lib Dem supporters thought Mr Farage had won, while 77 per cent named  Mr Clegg the winner.

Neither leader landed a killer punch in the hour-long debate, staged by the LBC radio station and screened by Sky News. Mr Farage won louder applause from the audience but Mr Clegg, using his experience of Britain's first TV leaders' debates at the 2010 general election, looked more relaxed.

Inevitably, both the Lib Dems and Ukip claimed victory. The Lib Dems said their man had won "hands down" the battle of the facts and figures, while Ukip hailed a "great breakthrough", claiming it  had taken  over the leadership of Britain's Eurosceptic majority.

The two leaders clashed over immigration, as the Deputy Prime Minister took head-on the issue which is believed to have boosted Ukip's appeal much more than its desire to leave the EU.  Mr Clegg argued that migrants made a net contribution of £22bn  between 2001 and 2011 to the country through taxes, saying the NHS would collapse overnight if the UK "pulled up the drawbridge." He insisted that nine out of 10 new jobs being created in the UK went to British people.

But Mr Farage accused him of evading the crucial question: that EU membership meant Britain having an "open door" to 480m people.

Mr Clegg repeatedly warned that leaving the EU would cost jobs, with more than 3m linked to trade with the EU. "I am not prepared to see anyone lose their job on the altar of Nigel Farage's anti-EU dogma," he declared. The Ukip leader retorted that the only "dogma" he believed in was the British people deciding their own fate. He claimed that 75 per cent of the UK's laws were now made in Brussels, while Mr Clegg put the figure at 7 per cent. The Lib Dem leader disputed Mr Farage's claim that the UK paid a £55m-a-day bill for its EU membership, which did not take account of the rebate won by Margaret Thatcher.

Although some exchanges were heated, the debate did not descend into personal insults. Mr Farage did say that Mr Clegg had never had a "real job," in contrast to his own 20 years in the private sector. Mr Clegg retorted that the two men became MEPs on the same day, that he had left the European Parliament after five years while Mr Farage was still a member 15 years on.

The Ukip leader confirmed he still opposed gay marriage, even though his party recently he had changed his mind, saying he might think again if the  power of the European Court of Human Rights was diluted.

Although aides to David Cameron and Ed Miliband claimed the two leaders were not watching,  Conservative and Labour strategists will wonder whether they might be punished for opting out of the first big debate on Europe since the UK's 1975 referendum.

Lib Dem and Ukip officials believe both parties believe both could emerge as winners, as they both have the capacity to prise some voters away from Labour and the Tories. Although the Lib Dems and Ukip were never going to agree on who won, they did agree that the Tories and Labour were the losers.

Who won on social media

Independent.co.uk Political Correspondent Felicity Morse weighs up the contenders after appearing on Sky News' coverage of the debate

Nigel Farage won the debate on Twitter, especially as no one seemed to pick up his pro-Kremlin line towards the end of the speech. He was a bit sweaty and frothy, which Twitter did pick up on, but he also came across as believing in what he was saying and I think that showed.

Overall in the debate, however, it was an even draw, with lots of people backing Clegg over gay marriage and there was a spike in social activity around that time.

It will be interesting to see how the parties max out their social media policies next time...This time the Lib Dems definitely came off worse!

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links