Protestors gathered outside Senate House, where the debate is taking placePatrick Wernham

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  • Join Varsity this evening for coverage of the BBC's televised debate
  • Watching from the office we have Patrick Wernham and Elizabeth Howcroft, while inside the spin room we've got Matt Gutteridge and Danny Wittenberg
  • The candidates facing off this evening are Amber Rudd (Home Secretary, Conservatives), Jeremy Corbyn (Leader of the Opposition, Labour), Tim Farron (Leader, Lib Dem), Caroline Lucas (co-Leader, Greens), Paul Nuttall (Leader, UKIP), Leanne Wood (Leader, Plaid Cymru), Angus Robertson (Deputy Leader, SNP)

9:24pm As the spin room descends into madness, we're going to wrap our live coverage up. What journalists generally expected to be a non-event turned into a lively affair with Jeremy Corbyn's last minute appearance. Will Theresa May's absence prove to be a costly own-goal? Only time will tell. For now, goodbye!

9:17pm Meanwhile, UKIP Deputy Leader Peter Whittle fields questions on whether his party remains relevant in the wake of last year's referendum. Whittle insists UKIP are still a force to be reckoned with in British politics, but their local election results suggest they will not fare nearly as well as they did in 2015.

9:15pm Work and Pensions secretary Damian Green tells LBC that "the entire Conservative Party is united behind Theresa May". That's may be, but her absence today was noticed, and could prove a costly mistake following Corbyn's strong showing

9:10pm Corbyn has emerged from the Senate House to address the waiting crowds. Plenty of people walking on the grass - those King's porters won't be happy with that!

9:09pm While I try and eavesdrop in on the interviews as they unfold, Danny has been dispatched to try and grab some of the many political BNOCs floating around. Plenty of rumours flying around about exactly who is hiding in the dark recesses of the union. We'll keep you posted!

9:08pm Squabbling continues over on the BBC news channel, in which Emily Thornberry is currently being interviewed in the Union Chamber, tonight's spin room. Varsity news editors visible in the background.

9:07pm Thornberry is talking up the Labour Party's fully costed manifesto, and accuses the Conservatives of wanting "another ten, another fifteen years of more austerity, and no ideas"

9:05pm Coverage now moves to the spin room as the press descend on the assembled politicians. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry is in a bullish mood after a strong performance from Jeremy Corbyn in the debate

9:02pm And it's done! Weird closing music, but cute shots of Senate House.

9:01pm Amber Rudd's closing statement refers to the "coalition of chaos in action" saying that "in the quiet of the polling booth, you have a clear choice."

9:00pm Tim Farron's closes with a joke. A bold choice.

9:00pm Tim Farron's suggestion that viewers should switch over to Bake Off rather than watching the spin room coverage to come generates some offended snorts from the spin room. Everyone should keep on watching, there's a prize if you spot a Varsity team member!

8:59pm Leanne Wood's closing statement tells the people of Wales: "don't let our country be invisible in Westminster."

8:59pm Angus Robertson says we need a strong position to hold the Tories to account now more than ever.

8:58pm Jeremy Corbyn's closing statement refers again to "the many not the few".

8:58pm Caroline Lucas says more Green MPs will make more of a difference than more MPs from other parties.

8:57pm Paul Nuttall's closing statement says UKIP will always be the outsider.

8:56pm Leanne Wood says Plaid Cymru will stick to their manifesto promises.

8:54pm Angus Robertson on Theresa May: "not so much the Iron Lady as the U-turn queen."

8:54pm And some laughter as Caroline Lucas calls out Theresa May about her absence from the debate.

8:53pm Tim Farron says "doubt of shadow" rather than "shadow of doubt." Interesting.

8:53pm Audible groans from around the media desks as Tim Farron opens the latest chapter of his oral autobiography.

8:52pm Caroline Lucas on Theresa May's absence: "The first rule of leadership is to show up."

8:51pm "Jeremy Corbyn had only decided to come late this morning. I'd rather hoped Diane Abbott would come." - Amber Rudd gets personal as she refers to the vote of no confidence against Corbyn.

8:50pm "You want a free divorce? It doesn't work that way" says Leanne Wood to Paul Nuttall.

8:49pm The Lib Dem squad are huddled over iPads at the back of the Union Bar. Prepare for more spinning than your college laundry room.

8:48pm Paul Nuttall: "I don't flip-flop."

8:48pm The BBC's Clive Myrie is suiting up, and wiring in. Not long now before the debating will stop, and the spinning will begin.

8:48pm Whooping and cheering for Corbyn, there.

8:47pm Corbyn says it's someone who's not too high and mighty to ignore advice, nor is it someone who walks on by when there are people on the street.

8:47pm Last question of the evening: in what was does your leadership have the character and talent to take the country forward?

8:45pm "I'm more than disappointed, I'm appalled" says Angus Robertson – paternalistic vibes. 

8:43pm The Guardian's social media team choose to omit the "hair-shirt" part of the Farron quote:

8:42pm The laptops are coming down and the lights going up as national broadcasters prepare for coverage to switch to the spin room back at the Cambridge Union in 20 minutes' time. Media advisors revving up their cliché machines as we speak.

8:41pm Caroline Lucas says that we need to ignore Trump. More applause.

8:40pm "Hair-shirt, muesli-eating Guardian readers" makes a strong contender for Quote of the Night. Thanks Tim Farron. 

8:39pm Audience question: How will candidates respond to Trump's pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement?

8:39pm Paul Nuttall is angry and shouting at Corbyn: "you invited Hamas to the House of Commons!"

8:37pm Asked whether he'd lock up terrorists without trial, Paul Nuttall says "nothing should be off the table." Not quite a no, then.

8:37pm Leanne Wood says we need funding for youth workers, probation officers and other social services in order to tackle the ideologies behind terrorism.

8:36pm  ... Matt, Danny and their chicken and mushroom pizzas are also grateful.

8:34pm Caroline Lucas brings up the topic of the UK's arm sales to Saudi Arabia.

8:34pm "There does need to be some reviewing going on" - the most useless line of the night from Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood brings some laughter to an otherwise pretty sombre spin room

8:32pm He does get his first round of applause, though, for saying that people who go abroad on jihad should never be allowed back in the country.

8:32pm Paul Nuttall – nobody has the courage to say what Islamic extremism is, apparently. 

8:31pm Tim Farron says that, just as we stood together in Manchester, we should stand together with our neighbours across the world to fight terrorism.

8:29pm Amber Rudd attacks Corbyn for bragging in 2014 that he had opposed every piece of anti-terror legislation. 

8:27pm You can catch up on today's earlier CUSU hustings at ARU here.

8:25pm Jeremy Corbyn makes a similar point about the dangers of intervention, but is careful to place the blame for the Manchester terrorist attack firmly on the shoulders of the bomber.

8:24pm Daniel isn't the only one who thinks the Union is an odd choice for the spin room. One ex-Cantab, now with Sky News, was overheard earlier saying "Three years in this place as an undergraduate, and I never once set foot in this building. Sky News has made me come here!"

8:23pm Angus Robertson urges caution when it comes to foreign intervention. 

8:22pm Fourth audience question: What are you priorities for making Britain a safer place?

8:20pm Paul Nuttalls of the UKIPs brings up the foreign aid budget, saying the money should go to the NHS instead. Extra money for the NHS, instead of sending it somewhere else – sounds familiar. 

8:22pm The wooden panelling of Senate House's interiors looks sort red and glowing in the studio lights. Sort of like a grotto, or a circle of hell. 

8:18pm Groans from the Mail on Sunday presence in the spin room, as Tim Farron returns to his line on the NHS being "personal"

8:17pm Amber Rudd to Corbyn: "Have you not read my manifesto? I'm happy to give you a copy."

8:17pm Gesturing towards Amber Rudd while shaking his head and grimacing is Angus Robertson's new techinque.

8:16pm Angus Robertson gets the slightly camp finger wag out.

8:13pm Corbyn wants to restore maintenance grants. Cue applause.

8:13pm First mention of students! Jeremy Corbyn says we're in debt. Thank you Captain Obvious.

8:12pm "The sure way to bust our economy is to have false negotiations with the EU", says Amber Rudd.

8:11pm The Union executive have told us that the UKIP representatives are in the bar. We might have guessed...

8:11pm Amber Rudd: judge us on our record. Audience laughs.

8:10pm Caroline Lucas refers to those with more money as those 'with the broadest shoulders.' An interesting suggestion.

8:09pm Third question: where is all the money coming from?

8:09pm Approximately five politicians speaking at once, as it gets heated over the suggestion of a coalition.

8:07pm Angus Robertson accuses Jeremy Corbyn of aping UKIP rhetoric when it comes to immigration.

8:07pm Corbyn looks bored. Ease your boredom by filling in our election poll here - totally anonymous and has an option for if you're voting at home. 

8:06pm The glamorous life of an ex-Varsity Editor for you there.

8:04pm Fun fact for you all which I learnt in my supervision earlier today: Angus Robertson was born in Wimbledon.

8:04pm This debate (on immigration) "shames and demeans us all" says SNP's Angus Robertson, going down well with the audience.

8:03pm UKIP's Nuttall has taken to aggressive gesticulation which is strangely limited to his left hand, sort of like a regal wave.

8:02pm Leanne Wood accusing UKIP of wanting to whip up "hatred and division and fear". Cue applause.

7:58pm Disappointed to realise that the candidates have not matched their wardrobe to their party colours. What's Tim Farron doing wearing a red tie?

7:57pm Sterling observation from our Deputy Editor: Tim Farron looks like an emoji.

7:57pm With all eyes on the Senate House, it's calm before the storm in the spin room. Lots of looking into iPhones, not much interest in the debate. That will all change when the party figures appear out of their green rooms at the end of the debate.

7:56pm Second question from the audience: How will we get the workers and skills we need post-Brexit?

7:55pm Money tree again! Do we think Rudd was told that get that line in a few times?

7:55pm Farron going all earnest and anxious again. Is the about-to-cry look that strong?

7:55pm Tim Farron says that the elephant in the room is the fact that we need to stay in the single market.

7:53pm Looks like Paul Nuttall will be coming under heavy attack this evening, as Corbyn and Amber Rudd argue against him.

7:53pm "Have you been to a food bank? Have you seen people sleeping around a station?" rages Corbyn.

7:51pm Paul Nuttall, UKIP, says we've had an "over-supply of labour."

7:51pm Former Varsity Editor Amol Rajan gives his take

7:49pm Lucas has a somewhat sinister grin as she tells us that we are the fifth largest economy in the world.

7:49pm Lucas seems to be going down as well with the spin doctors as she is with the live audience. The Green representative is positively beaming, and the others give some grudging nods

7:49pm Caroline Lucas getting a round of applause for saying the government isn't recognising the pain it's inflicting on people through it's politically motivated cuts. 

7:47pm Tim Farron tells us "economics is not about figures, it's about people."

7:46pm Getting feisty now. Amber Rudd going back to the "money tree" line with Jeremy Corbyn, saying there is nothing he won't tax. 

7:45pm "The time has come to end punishing disabled people." - Angus Robertson, SNP.

7:43pm First question is about how working people can be helped. Amber Rudd says that the Tories are taking low-earners out of the first tax brackets, and that what's needed above all else is a sound economy. 

7:41pm Tim Farron for the Lib Dems asks where Theresa May is. Going for that folksy charm, all casual, and the content is standard Lib Dem fare. 

7:40pm Laughs from the spin room, as Tim Farron begins with an opening speech that is perhaps best described as enigmatic. Some confused mutters from the spin doctors

7:40pm SNP's Angus Robertson says that the Tories have got to be held to account, saying that the Scottish voice in Westminster is 'needed now more than ever.'

7:39pm Paul Nuttall(s) of the UKIP(s) now. Gets the mention of "unskilled mass immigration" in nice and early. Oh, and there's "our way of life" too, and "British values". Bingo!

7:38pm  Labour's Jeremy Corbyn opening statement contains two iterations of 'the many not the few' while he argues that Theresa May's Britain is not 'strong and stable.'

7:37pm Amber Rudd for the Tories, there, saying that they have a plan, building on the success they've already delivered – "a country that works for everyone" is the promise. Also attacks Jeremy Corbyn's "money tree", setting it up in Presidential/personal terms already. 

7:36pm The Green Party's Caroline Lucas's opening statement touches on green energy, hospitals, refugees and diversity. 'You don't need the keys to Number 10 to open the doors to change.'

7:34pm Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood opens up, arguing that Labour have failed Wales, and that change is needed. That change being Plaid Cymru, presumably. 

7:33pm The spin doctors have gathered in the Union debate chamber, huddled around the numerous television screens, as the opening speeches get underway.

7:31pm And we're off!

7:27pm  Watching the end of The One Show in anticipation of the debate which starts in 10 minutes. Some sort of musical act is taking place, with lyrics 'I wanna see the sunshine after the rain'. Subliminal messaging on the BBC's part, no doubt. 

7:22pm Excitement inside the spin room is growing as we move towards debate time. Journalists and politicians have descended on the Cambridge Union to process, react, and spin the evening's events. While attention will focus on the main stage at the Senate House for the next ninety minutes, we will be bringing you live reaction from the spin room during and after the debate

7:16pm With the Cambridge hustings over, all attention now turns to the live TV debate, being held at the Senate House.

Meanwhile, major political figures such as Brexit Secretary David Davis, and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry have been arriving at the spin room to watch the debate, and face the press, including Varsity’s own Matt Gutteridge and Danny Wittenberg.