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Ed Miliband has secured what could be a crucial pre-general election victory after he came out of top of the so called "challengers" TV leaders' debate.

The Labour leader faced tough competition in the shape of Nigel Farage, Nicola Sturgeon, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood at the Methodist Central Hall in London.

But a snap poll from Survation found that 35% of respondents who watched the event thought Miliband had won, giving the Labour leader a four point lead over second place Sturgeon (35% vs 31%).

The research also revealed that Miliband came out on top when the voters were asked "who would make the best prime minister?" as 43% picked the Labour man.

The TV duel was fairly uneventful until Ukip leader Farage turned on the audience and accused them of being "left-wing".

The allegation prompted veteran BBC host David Dimbleby to intervene and explain that those in attendance had been independently selected.

"Let me just say one thing: This is an audience that has been carefully chosen, not by the BBC, by an independent polling organisation to represent the balance between all parties," he said.

But Farage, who is standing in South Thanet, hit back and claimed "the real audience are sitting at home".

Tory leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, however, did not take part in the event, leaving Labour, the SNP, Ukip, Plaid Cymru and the Greens to battle it out.

Pollsters Survation have called it for Miliband. A boost for the Labour leader with just weeks to go before the general election.

Social media analysts TheySay have crunched the data on Twitter and found that Bennett got the most positive reaction of the night on the platform.

BBC debate

In her closing statement, Sturgeon argued that Labour alone would "not be enough" to offer progressive change in government. She called on voters in Scotland to pick her party to give them "a real voice" in Westminster.

Wood, meanwhile, said Plaid would push for a Living Wage and a NHS "fit for the 21st century". Bennett stressed that the Greens would offer "real change". "it's a time to be bold, vote Green," she said.

Elsewhere, Miliband called for a one-on-one debate with David Cameron. Farage, however, said the other parties were not tough enough to take on the difficult issues. "We would be so much better if we governed ourselves," he argued.

BBC debate

Sturgeon and Miliband have clashed over a potential post-election deal to keep the Tories out of Number 10. The Labour leader argued that Sturgeon wanted to "break up the UK".

The final question is about what deal the leaders would accept in the event of a hung parliament. Miliband asked for the electorate to decide the outcome on 7 May and Farage said he was "astonished" that Labour would no offer a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU. Sturgeon, Wood and Bennett also stressed that would not "prop-up" a Tory government.

The debate somehow ended up on the NHS. Miliband claimed that Farage doesn't want a national health service and wants a private insurance system. The Ukip leader hit back and called on the Labour leader to "stop lying".

BBC TV debate

The leaders have clashed over immigration. Bennett argued that Farage wants to "demonise" migrants to the UK, while Sturgeon claimed the debate in Westminster has been "driven too much" by Ukip. Elsewhere, Miliband said he has changed Labour's approach on the issue. Farage, however, argued that there has been a "massive increase" in the population, putting pressure on public services.

Wood and Sturgeon teamed up to argue that Trident would not defend the UK from terrorist group Isis. Bennett said we should "stop being the world's police" with the US and give up "pumping arms" into the Middle East.

Farage pressed Miliband over the prospect of an European army. The Labour leader repeatedly said he would involve the UK in such an organisation if he was prime minister.

An audience member asked if the UK can give the Trident nuclear defence system and allow more than 2% of defence spending. There is a lot of clear water between Farage and Wood on the issue.

Miliband has admitted that the last Labour government did not build enough homes and claimed the large developers have a "stranglehold on the market". Bennett, meanwhile, said we have had a market-led housing policy that "has not delivered homes".

The leaders debated the issue of affordable housing in the UK. Miliband argued that it was "time to stand up to large developers", with "use it or lose it" powers. Farage, meanwhile, blamed a "rapid rise in immigration" on the lack of affordable housing and explained his party would push for a brown field housing boom. Elsewhere, Wood argued for rent caps to help solve the problem.

Miliband hit back after Sturgeon argued "we need to replace the Tories with something better". In response, Wood called for the Labour leader to work with Plaid in Westminster after the election.

Bennett and Wood have found common ground on public spending.

Miliband and Farage clashed over tax. After the Labour leader claimed Farage would fallow David Cameron's "extreme plan to double the cuts" and lower tax for the rich, the Ukip man hit back and denied the allegation, arguing it is "now time to help the squeezed middle".

An audience member asked the leaders if it was fair to increase government spending for young people to pay off their debt.

The leaders have given their opening statements. Wood said Plaid has a vision for a "post-austerity" society, Farage claimed he would "take Britain back", Miliband promised to "put working families first", Sturgeon said the SNP would work "constructively to bring progressive change" and Bennett said the Greens would "fund proper education" and free health and social care for the elderly.

Comedian and actor David Schneider has discovered the real reason why Clegg and Cameron aren't taking part in tonight's debate.

Looks like the BBC have gone low-key.