Prime Minister Gordon Brown calls the general election for 6 May. The party leaders launch their campaigns, heading off to different parts of the country to begin canvassing. Televised prime ministerial debates confirmed for 15, 22 and 29 April. For all the day's twists and turns
here's the day as it happened.
QUOTES OF THE DAY
"Get the big decisions right - as we did in the last 18 months since the world recession - and jobs, prosperity and better standards of living will result. Get the big decisions wrong and the lives of hundreds of thousands of people are diminished as a result." Labour leader Gordon Brown
"It's the most important general election for a generation. It comes down to this. You don't have to put up with another five years of Gordon Brown, there is today a modern Conservative alternative." Conservative leader David Cameron
"People have got a real choice this time and I think that's why this election is wide open. All bets are off." Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg
Labour will be hoping voters scared by David Cameron's question "do you really want five more years of Gordon Brown?" will have been reassured by the sight of Mr Brown flanked by his entire cabinet, with his trusted chancellor, Alistair Darling, at his side. Mr Cameron, by contrast, went it alone at his campaign launch. Pointing to Parliament, on the opposite bank of the Thames, as he promised to shake British politics up, he clearly wanted to be seen as a radical outsider untainted by the status quo. He seems determined not to let Labour get away with portraying themselves as the underdogs at this election. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg stressed it was not a two-horse race - a message he will need to get across to make real progress on election day.
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