The battle lines are being drawn for the general election which must take place before June. Here are the policy issues likely to dominate the campaign and where the big three parties stand:
LABOUR: Immediate cuts to "low-priority" government programmes. Major decisions on further spending cuts to be made after the election, although more details promised in December's pre-Budget report. No cuts to "frontline" services in health, education and police.
CONSERVATIVES: Immediate cuts likely across the board, with exception of health and international development. End Child Trust Funds for all but the poorest. End MPs' subsidised alcohol and food and reduce ministerial salaries. Slash spending on quangos.
LIB DEMS: Cuts across the board with no areas "ring-fenced". Save £6.7bn through scrapping quangos, IT projects, cutting road building and scrapping plans to raise the school leaving age to 18. Abolish child trust funds.
LABOUR: Will not 'walk away' from mission to build up Afghan forces but wants district-by-district handover to start next year. Urge other Nato countries to send more troops. Warns President Karzai he must end corruption to ensure continued support. Says troops have all the equipment they need.
CONSERVATIVES: More tightly-defined campaign mission. Focus on securing military success to keep public backing for war. Government role for ex-army chief Sir Richard Dannett, who has called for more helicopters and equipment.
LIB DEMS: Believe current UK strategy not working. Refuse to rule out calling for the withdrawal of British troops, depending on next US move.
LABOUR: 50p tax rate for earnings over £150,000. Tax relief on pensions to be reduced for people on more than £150,000 a year from April 2011.
CONSERVATIVES: Keep Labour's 50p tax rate for now. Restore pensions and earnings link. No tax credits for families earning over £50,000. Threat to tax bank bonuses. Aim to reverse Gordon's Brown's 1997 "pensions tax raid". Increase tax on alcopops and high strength ciders and beers.
LIB DEMS: Increase taxes on most wealthy and take low paid workers out of system by raising threshold to £10,000. "Mansion tax" on all properties worth more than £1m. Aim to replace council tax with a local income tax. Charge capital gains tax at the same rate as higher income tax. Higher road tax and taxes on flying.
LABOUR: Back Lisbon Treaty; rejects referendum.
CONSERVATIVES: Ruled out Lisbon Treaty referendum but pledged to repatriate some powers from Brussels, introduce Sovereignty Act to assure primacy of UK law and change law to guarantee referendums on all future treaties or transfers of power to Brussels.
LIB DEMS: Back Lisbon Treaty but want referendum on whether Britain should remain in the EU, with party campaigning for 'yes' vote.
LABOUR: Push ahead with ID cards but not make them compulsory during next Parliament.
CONSERVATIVES: Scrap ID cards and ContactPoint child database, halt growth of "database state". Stop councils using surveillance powers. Restrict storage of DNA records of innocent people.
LIB DEMS: Scrap ID Cards; remove innocent people from DNA database; strengthen data protection laws, reform libel laws to protect free speech, stop fingerprinting of children at school.
LABOUR: E-borders, which tracks all movements in and out of UK, fully operational by 2014. Clear asylum backlog by 2011. Tighten entry restrictions for skilled workers from outside EU.
CONSERVATIVES: Keep Labour's points-based migration system but place an annual limit on numbers admitted to UK. Attract "brightest and best" migrants from around the world to UK. New border force.
LIB DEMS: Earned citizenship for illegal migrants. New border force. Charge firms more for work permits - use money to retrain British workers in sectors affected by immigration. Shared asylum policy with EU.
LABOUR: All under-25s out of work for a year to be offered a job or training place. More funding for job centres and sixth form education. Create more than 250,000 new green jobs, 10,000 skilled internships for young people, 10,000 job placements in green industries.
CONSERVATIVES: Scrap Regional Development Agencies and New Deal for the unemployed. Instead give firms created in first two years of Tory government tax breaks on first 10 staff hired and 20,000 new apprenticeship places for 14-16 year olds. Move 500,000 people off incapacity benefit. Sir James Dyson to head hi-tech export taskforce.
LIB DEMS: Guarantee of work or training for all young people out of work for 90 days. Paid internship scheme.
LABOUR: Break up taxpayer-owned banks and sell them off. Government forced by law to cut budget deficit every year. Bank bonus legislation pledged. Proposed international transactions tax to create a fund for bank bailouts. Strip "reckless" bankers of future bonuses.
CONSERVATIVES: Ban High Street banks from paying out "significant" cash bonuses. FSA's regulatory powers transferred back to the Bank of England. Sell off state-owned banks.
LIB DEMS: Break up the big banks before returning them to private ownership. Ban bonuses in state-owned banks. Long-term reform of bonus system.
LABOUR: End to real-terms increases in funding. Find £15bn to £20bn efficiency savings over next four years. More personalised NHS, targets scrapped, personal health budgets. Abolish GP practice boundaries. Publish data about performance of doctors. New National Care Service for elderly. Phase out of hospital car parking charges for in-patients.
CONSERVATIVES: Sticking with Labour's spending plan for 2010/2011 and have pledged to "increase spending" in following years. Scrap targets, reduce bureaucracy and hand more control to doctors and nurses. Performance tables on every medic. Personal health budgets. Residential care costs for the over-65s in England to be paid in return for a one-off £8,000 fee. Cut cost of NHS quangos and management by a third in England. Reform dentistry, starting with the re-introduction of school check-ups.
LIB DEMS: Scrap strategic health authorities and downsize Department of Health, axe health quangos to save £500m. Ward sisters in hospitals to get powers over budgets; 3,000 new midwives. Tax breaks for living healthy lifestyles.
LABOUR: Save £2bn by axing thousands of senior staff and having "discipline" over teachers' pay. Protect teaching and teaching assistant jobs. Improve school discipline drive. More Trust schools and academies. More sixth form places and apprenticeships.
CONSERVATIVES: Allow parents, charities and private firms to set up publicly-funded schools. "Pupil premium" for poorer children. Failing schools to be taken over by academy providers and re-launched. New technical schools in England's 12 largest cities; 10,000 new university places, boost to apprenticeship schemes.
LIB DEMS: Scrap Labour's target of 50% in higher education and divert funds to boost schools in poorer areas. Independent Educational Standards Authority to replace Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. End selection in academies, specialist schools, trust and foundation schools. Scrap England's national curriculum.
LABOUR: Cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Cash for low-carbon industries, offshore wind projects, energy efficiency schemes for homes, firms and public buildings and "green jobs". Build new nuclear plants, raise "billions" to invest in clean coal technology. 'Cycle Hubs' at 10 major rail stations. Invest in electric car technology.
CONSERVATIVES: Cut carbon emissions by 60% from 1990 levels by 2050. Scrap Heathrow third runway. Speed up new nuclear plants. Immediately authorise 5 GW of clean coal capacity; build marine energy parks; communities that choose to host onshore wind farms to keep all business rates they generate for six years, replace electricity and gas meters with smart meters; more transparency in energy prices.
LIB DEMS: 100% carbon-free, non-nuclear electricity by 2050. Zero-carbon emission for all new cars by 2040. Green taxes. European "smart" electricity grid. Push for tougher international targets. Speed up the growth of renewable energy and micro-generation using guaranteed minimum prices. Promote renewable heat and home insulation.
PUBLIC SECTOR PAY
LABOUR: Pay freeze on 40,000 senior public servants in 2010/11. Further 700,000 public sector workers to get rises of between 0 and 1%. Possible £200,000 cap on top public servant salaries.
CONSERVATIVES: One year pay freeze on all public sector workers earning more than £18,000 in 2011, except frontline military. No newly appointed public servant to be paid more than the prime minister without Treasury approval. Proposed £50,000 annual cap on newly accrued public sector pensions.
LIB DEMS: Freeze public sector pay - and cut 25% from the total salary bill of staff earning more than £100,000 a year.
LABOUR: State pension age for men to rise from 65 to 68 between 2024 to 2046. For women it will gradually rise from 60 to 65 over ten years from 2010.
CONSERVATIVES: Raise state pension age for men from 65 to 66 from 2016. Pension age for women to rise to 66 by 2022.
LIB DEMS: Review retirement age and public sector pensions.
TRIDENT AND DEFENCE SPENDING
LABOUR: Replace Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system, but scale number of submarines back from four to three.
CONSERVATIVES: Cut 25% from MoD running costs without reducing frontline troops. Launch immediate strategic defence review, including possible scrapping of £20bn Eurofighter/Typhoon project, £4bn project to build two aircraft carriers and the £2.7bn order for 25 A400 transport aircraft. Would replace Trident.
LIB DEMS: Scrap "like-for-like" replacement for Trident. Axe other big defence projects, like the next stage of the Eurofighter aircraft.
LABOUR: Referendum on whether to replace first-past-the-post for Westminster elections with Alternative Vote system. Voters given power to recall bad MPs. Complete process of Lords reform. Bill of Rights and possible written constitution.
CONSERVATIVES: Cut the number of MPs by 10%. Public to have a say on proposed bills and to nominate unpopular regulations to be axed. Boost MPs' scrutiny of legislation. Twelve more English cities to be offered referendums on having elected mayors. Hand power back to local authorities. "Sunset clause" to all regulators and regulatory quangos; Publish detailed data on national and local government spending online.
LIB DEMS: Proportional representation for Westminster elections using single transferable vote or AV plus system. Cut the number of MPs, ministers and government departments. Powers for voters to recall their MP; £50,000 cap on party donations; total spending limit of £100m over course of Parliament. Immediate introduction of elected House of Lords.