Last night, Labour leader Ed Miliband, Ukip’s Nigel Farage, the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood debated for an hour and a half on BBC1 – but many viewers were distracted by a notable absentee.
“Why is David Cameron not at the debate?” was the second most Googled question during the five-party challenger debate (“What is austerity?” was the most-searched query).
The Prime Minister said before the debate “I’m a polite individual and if I’m not invited, I’m not going to try and gatecrash it”. Afterwards, in the spin room, William Hague toed the line, saying Cameron had been deliberately excluded. In fact, the PM had originally been asked by broadcasters to take part in the three televised debates but agreed to only one, the seven-way party debate broadcast two weeks ago on ITV.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was also absent from the debate, but didn’t feature either in the most searched-for questions. He tweeted after the programme to say he had not been invited:
As I said earlier, I was not invited to #BBCDebate. I would have happily taken part and proudly defended our strong record in government.
Some people are declaring Green Party leader Natalie Bennett the winner of the debate given that she received a higher percentage of positive Twitter posts – 67% – than the other leaders (according to data from social media monitoring company TheySay). But with a total of 15,711 tweets, she was also considerably less talked about than some of the other leaders and only slightly ahead of Ed Miliband in the positivity stakes.
Miliband was the most tweeted about, generating over 51,000 posts, 64% of which were positive. He was closely followed by Ukip leader Nigel Farage who garnered over 44,000 but also the highest number of negative tweets: 54%.
There were just over 145,000 tweets sent over the course of the debate, considerably fewer than during the seven-party debate on ITV.
There were also fewer viewers. 4.3 million Brits tuned into the debate, whereas 5.6m watched the first debate with Cameron and Clegg.
Most Googled questions during the debate:
1. What is austerity? 2. Why is David Cameron not at the debate? 3. Who should I vote for? 4. Where is Natalie Bennett from? 5. What is a brownfield site? 6. How old is Ed Miliband? 7. How old is Nicola Sturgeon? 8. Who is Caroline Lucas? 9. What is the deficit? 10. What does Plaid Cymru mean?