Who won the first (kind of) debate? Cameron, Miliband, or Paxman?

Would David Cameron have fought so hard to avoid a head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband, if he'd known the alternative was a monstering from Jeremy Paxman?

Both leaders took a bit of a beating, with Paxman the one who was undoubtedly on form.

But Ed Miliband's people will probably be pretty happy with his performance, even though the snap polls gave David Cameron a slim victory.

The Prime Minister has spent years dismissing the Labour leader, insisting he's not up to the top job.

But that meant all Mr Miliband had to do was perform reasonably well, and he would be out-performing those low expectations. 

The audience questions highlighted Labour's big problem -- many people still just can't see Ed Miliband as Prime Minister. He was asked why he was so gloomy, and whether his brother wouldn't have done a better job.

Paxman hammered him on Labour's past failings on immigration, on borrowing, and what deals he'd be willing to do with the SNP.

David Cameron was roasted over poverty -- the surge in the number of food banks and zero hours contracts.

He admitted he'd missed his target to cut net migration to the tens of thousands, and seemed uncomfortable when Paxman asked what he "had in common with all these rich people" like Jeremy Clarkson and Andy Coulson.

Both sets of questions played on problems the two leaders must confront in this campaign: the perception the David Cameron doesn't understand the lives of ordinary people, and the feeling that Ed Miliband lacks the gravitas needed to lead the country.

Five years ago, Gordon Brown agreed to TV debates because he had nothing to lose. David Cameron backed out of all-but one debate because he has everything to lose.

He'll be happy to have emerged relatively unscathed from Paxman's grilling -- and Ed Miliband will be happy too -- feeling he's made a start in turning around his public image.