All eyes on Salford as first election debate sees seven leaders head to MediaCityUK

Millions will be watching Salford tonight as the leaders of the UK’s biggest political parties take part in the first televised debate of the election season.

Preparations are currently underway for the ITV Leader’s Debate at Salford’s MediaCityUK which will be broadcast live tonight at 8pm.

Party leaders began arriving at hotels in Salford yesterday for the debate, which is set to last for two hours and will be chaired by ITV News’ Julie Etchingham.

The seven party heads will be debating four questions posed by the audience and ITV viewers to fight for the public’s votes in preparation for the upcoming General Election on Thursday May 7.

ITV’s Director of News and Current Affairs, Michael Jermey, commented: “The programme will provide a fair forum for a proper debate between the party leaders. 

“Our viewers greatly valued the debates in 2010 and we know many are looking forward to this programme.”

He added: “It’ll be an opportunity to hear the leaders directly challenge each other and discuss face-to-face some of the big election issues facing the country.”

Lots were chosen to determine the order of speakers and results have put the Greens’ Natalie Bennett speaking first with Prime Minister David Cameron closing the debate.

Between them, Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats), Nigel Farage (UKIP), Ed Miliband (Labour), Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) and Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) will appear in this order from left to right after lots were also drawn to determine podium positions.

Each politician will make an opening and closing statement at the beginning and end of the debate, while the discussion surrounding the issues highlighted by the four questions – which the party leaders will not have seen before the debate – will take place in between.

Each leader will be given one minute to provide an answer for the questions, after which the debate will be opened for an 18-minute discussion between the politicians.

There will be a live audience of around 200 people who have been chosen to accurately represent the UK demographic while also remaining politically balanced, with 80% already supporting a party and 20% interested in politics but undecided about their vote.

Average viewing figures for 2010’s various debates reached around 9.3million, with the first debate held at the Granada Studios seeing 9.4million tune in.

The debate will be broadcast live on ITV and will also be available to view on their website, smartphone and tablet and the broadcaster’s YouTube channel.

Image courtesy of Number 10, Liberal Democrats and Cabinet Office, with thanks

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