Continued from page 1

Mr. Cameron described the economy as being stuck in a rut and said, “It’s no policy to borrow from the Chinese and buy goods made in China.”

Another heated moment in the debate came when the debaters clashed on the question of bonuses at banks.

Mr. Cameron described the “appalling bonuses” as “completely unacceptable,” suggested a need to regulate banks and said he agreed with President Obama’s plan to deal with the matter.

Mr. Clegg opposed bonuses to directors of banks, saying banks making losses should not be handing out such perks.

The prime minister defended his government’s decision to bail out banks, saying that not acting would have resulted in a collapse of the institutions.

“We will never allow them to behave in an irresponsible way again,” Mr. Brown said of the bankers.

Support for the Liberal Democrats has jumped dramatically - to about 30 percent of potential votes in opinion polls - from 18 percent, according to the Associated Press. The latest polls show Mr. Cameron’s party leading with about 33 percent and Mr. Brown’s Labor Party in third place with 28 percent.

Polls also show that the Liberal Democrats will get enough votes to deny both Labor and the Conservatives an overall majority. In this case, Britain could end up with a so-called hung Parliament, an outcome last seen in 1974. That government lasted eight months.