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Labour’s four leadership contenders have clashed over welfare, immigration and the party’s economic record in their first TV debate.

Tetchy exchanges between the candidates escalated over Tony Blair’s legacy in front of a 100-strong audience at a parish church in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

Odds shortened on Jeremy Corbyn after he trashed the party’s past – calling for a ‘national crusade’ and ramped-up spending to solve Britain’s housing crisis.

Andy Burnham claimed he could take Labour out of the ‘Westminster bubble’ and move it on from his time in office, which allowed too much NHS privatisation.

But Liz Kendall interrupted her boss when he said the ‘party comes first’ – she replied “the country comes first” and said she’d be the candidate the Tories fear.

Yvette Cooper was the only candidate to refuse point-blank to resign if her approval ratings tumbled, saying: “It’s for the Labour party for choose but not for us.”

Recap the debate as it happened here.

6:44 pm
Contenders clash in first TV battle

All four candidates for Labour leader are going head-to-head tonight in their first national TV hustings.

The BBC Newsnight special is the first big chance for Jeremy Corbyn, Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper to make their mark on voters.

It’s not just some internal party wrangle – more than 250,000 people are already signed up to vote for the new man or woman to take on David Cameron.

And with a fee of just £3, many are putting their names forward just to have their say.

That includes Tories who are trying to rig the election for radical Jeremy Corbyn, who they claim would consign Labour to electoral oblivion.

Follow all the updates here as the show kicks off at 7pm.

6:50 pm
How they fared among MPs

Andy Burnham is out in front on the nominations front, followed by Liz Kendall.

In last place is Jeremy Corbyn, who scraped onto the ballot with just seconds to spare.

Of course, this doesn’t matter now – because it’s up to individual voters to decide who they want they want to win.

But it does indicate how much support they have among fellow MPs.

Andy Burnham 68

Yvette Cooper 59

Liz Kendall 41

Jeremy Corbyn 36

Labour leadership nominations

Labour Party

6:52 pm
Yvette’s husband has a new job

Ed Balls has followed the lead of David Miliband and landed a job in America just weeks after his election defeat.

The ex-shadow chancellor will be a senior fellow at the Harvard University business school where he graduated 25 years ago, he has revealed.

It’s not immediately clear if he’ll move to the United States for the job, which includes working with students and ‘analysing economic growth’.

Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper (Pic: Getty)
Power couple: Ex-shadow chancellor Ed Balls and hopeful Yvette Cooper

But the circumstances of his departure are bound to draw parallels with Mr Miliband, who quit as an MP and moved to New York to work for a charity in 2013.

Five years after David Miliband’s brother Ed beat him to the leadership, Mr Balls’ wife Yvette Cooper is running for the same job.

The big difference is that Mr Balls’ job will only last a year – leaving him free to contest the 2020 election if he wants to.

Click here for the full story.

6:58 pm
How is the audience picked?

A big question after the pre-election debates (below) were marred by claims of audience bias from Nigel Farage.

The audience comprises 80 to 100 people who’ve all told producers they’re open-minded about voting Labour in the future.

That doesn’t mean people who’ve voted Tory before are excluded, but it means die-hard voters for other parties won’t take part.

BBCLive Election Debate
6:59 pm
Debate being held in parish church

The show is being held at St Nicholas Parish Church in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

The 80,000-strong Midlands town may seem like an odd choice to pick Labour’s next leader, considering it voted Tory last month.

But the seat was one of Ed Miliband’s key targets at the election, meaning it’s key to the debate on how to win back floating voters.

7:01 pm
Debate begins

The debate is starting over on the BBC. Tune in here for all the latest updates.

7:04 pm
Opening statement from Yvette Cooper

Yvette Cooper kicks off the debate.

“This is about who can be Labour Prime Minister,” she says.

“That’s a tough job. It needs experience and new ideas, someone who recognises there aren’t always easy answers.

“We didn’t convince enough of you in Nuneaton. We need to change and reach out. We were too narrow.”

7:05 pm
Burnham: No more Westminster bubble

The general election has left us ‘more divided than ever before’, says Andy Burnham.

He adds the PM spent the election ‘stoking separation for his own political interest’.

“I will take Labour out of the Westminster bubble,” he says.

“I will work hard to get that trust back.”

He’s overrun his 45 seconds and has to be interrupted.

7:06 pm
‘I’ve been lucky’ says Liz Kendall

She adds: “I believe anyone should have the chance to realise their potential no matter where they were born or what their parents did.”

She offers a ‘fresh start’ to win in 2020.

7:08 pm
Jeremy Corbyn: Let me change the world

Jeremy Corbyn says he’s spent 32 years in Parliament “standing up for rights and justice in Britain and right around the world.”

‘Over the years we’ve lost our way,’ he says.

“I want a world at peace, not at war. I want a Labour party at the heart of the community that’s demanding those things.”

7:09 pm
How can we get away from Tony Blair?

Andy Burnham, unsurprisingly giving his Blairite record, doesn’t think Labour should.

“Tony did some good things,” he says.

Liz Kendall denies being ‘Blairite’ or ‘New Labour’ – but she wants those values.

“We had leaders who understood how the world had changed, what they wanted and needed from their lives, and applied our values to the future,” she says.

“The world has moved on and the party has to move on.”

7:12 pm
‘I don’t have the baggage of the past’

Liz Kendall says she’s not weighed down by the past – unlike candidates like Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham.

Yvette Cooper replies she makes ‘no apology’ for having experience and launching Labour’s Sure Start programme.

But she adds: “Anybody who thinks there’s some playbook from 1997 that’s going to work in 2020 is wrong.”

Audience member Tony: Labour should be more left wing

Tony in the audience is not happy. We shouldn’t stick to the centre ground, he says.

“I don’t think we’re making ourselves distinctive enough and we’re leaving behind the underprivileged, people without jobs,” he says.

7:14 pm
NHS privatisation and Iraq war

Andy Burnham admits New Labour allowed too much of the market into the NHS.

He adds Labour didn’t build enough council houses in its time in office.

Jeremy Corbyn is much more damning.

“The elephant that’s in this room and everywhere else – why oh why oh why did Blair have to get so close to Bush that we ended up in an illegal war in Iraq?” he asks.

7:17 pm
Ukip firefighter has his say

A fireman of 20 years who voted Ukip says he just didn’t hear anything he wanted from Labour – despite steep cuts to the fire service.

“Before the election Conservatives were going to continue with these cuts,” Glenn says.

“How are Labour going to address this issue, particularly in the public service?

“I chose Ukip because I didn’t hear any sign of support from the Labour party.

“I saw Ukip as another option vote, a protest vote, if you like.”

7:18 pm
Immigration up next

Yvette Cooper says “immigration’s important for Britain but it has to be controlled and managed to ensure the system is fair”.

There need to be fair benefit rules and fair employment rules, she says.

People shouldn’t be ‘exploited in order to undercut local wages and jobs so people lose out’.

But she warns against an ‘arms race of rhetoric because that causes all kinds of problems and divisions’ – a clear riposte to Tories and Ukip.

7:20 pm
Kendall: No tax credits for immigrants

Liz Kendall says she’d take tax credits away from immigrants.

“People are worried about people scrambling onto lorries from Calais,” she says.

“You should respect our community and our culture when they come from.”

Liz is from Leicester – a multicultural city.

So she says she won’t try to ‘out-Ukip Ukip’, and she has to recognise that a lot more people live and work around the world than they do now.

7:22 pm
Burnham: I won’t be hypocrite on immigration

“We wouldn’t have an NHS if we didn’t have a health service that employs people from around the world,” says Andy Burnham.

“My dad worked around the world so how hypocritical would it be of me to say I don’t support free movement?”

But again, he warns Labour has to get out of the Westminster bubble and see how British opinions and communities have changed.

7:25 pm
‘I’m not racist – just worried’

The first big audience outburst of the night from a man in a checked shirt.

“You live in a different world to me,” he declares.

“I see it. It’s on my doorstep. You’ve gotta convince me how you’re going to put this country right and so far I’ve heard nothing.

“You must have an infrastructure to these 3-400,000 people a year you’re bringing in, allowing in, and that’s just the ones you know about.

“When you drop your borders, the police go down, the health is rock bottom, the fire brigade is at rock bottom.

“I’m not racist, I’m being sensible, and I fear for England. I fear we’re going down a slippery slope that we won’t recover from.”

Jeremy Corbyn hits back at the apparent scapegoating – and urges him to remember the Jamaican nurses who’ve staffed the NHS since the 1960s.

7:27 pm
Are candidates copying right-wing policies?

One audience member accuses the candidates of copying Ukip on immigration points and the Tories on apprenticeships.

But the answer is interrupted for timing reasons before it can come across.

7:30 pm
Time for a woman in charge?

What qualities do the leader hopefuls share with Nicola Sturgeon, asks an audience member.

Yvette Cooper: “She’s been consistent in her views. I can’t manage in her heels [though]!

“It would be fantastic for us to smash that final glass ceiling and elect a Labour woman party leader.”

Will she back Liz Kendall if she doesn’t win then?

“I’m putting myself forward because I think it’d be a good thing to shake up the Old Boys’ Network in Westminster and do things differently,” she says.

Liz Kendall agrees.

“I think it is time for us to have a woman as leader of the party and our first Labour woman Prime Minister.”

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