- Gordon Brown calls the general election for 6 May
- Televised debates confirmed for 15, 22 and 29 April
- Parliament will return after election on 18 May
- David Cameron: "This country deserves a lot better"
- Election "not a two-horse race", Nick Clegg says
- SNP to be "a local champion for Scots" - Alex Salmond
- Plaid Cymru to "secure the best deal for Wales" - Wyn Jones
Also on Newsnight, some details have begun to emerge of legislation being dropped by Labour ahead of the election. We're currently in a period known as the "wash-up" when last-minute policies can be squeezed onto the statute book - or allowed to slide. Our correspondent Michael Crick says the broadband tax on homes with landline telephones and the 10% rise in cider duty will both effectively fall by the wayside. He also says the government is scrapping its plans for reform of the libel laws.
On BBC 2's Newsnight, Michael Crick recounts his day in Kent with Gordon Brown. He says the choice of which seats to visit was key - they were middle class constituencies that Labour held onto in the last general election but only by the skin of their teeth. He says Mr Brown will have learned from his predecessor Tony Blair that Labour can only win an election these days by gaining a significant number of middle class votes.
A few bits of information of tomorrow's agenda. We're expecting David Cameron to campaign in north west England and Wales. We think Nick Clegg is also bound for the north-west, while his Treasury spokesman Vince Cable is expected to head to the East Midlands.
Johneb writes: Haven't heard much about any party making extra efforts to overcome apathy among the electorate and engage the young, the disaffected and disillusioned with the idea of voting at all. Surely this is an area where the major parties should pool their efforts.
The Guardian's front page headline tomorrow will be, "Personal, proud, defiant: Brown takes his case to the country". The paper says Mr Brown "will try to put himself at the helm of the move for political renewal", with new details expected on Wednesday of Labour plans for voting and Lords' reform.
Paul McGovern, in Northern Ireland, tweets: All this election activity makes for great late night TV to get sleepy to...
Read Paul McGovern's tweets
Next to land, the Daily Mail. "Now the class war begins," the front page declares. It claims that within hours of Gordon Brown firing the starting gun for the election, "his Labour attack dogs launched spiteful assaults on David Cameron's privileged upbringing". Picture-wise, the politicians lose out to comedians Dawn French and Lenny Henry...
We've just had a glimpse of the front page of tomorrow's Daily Telegraph. The headline is "The battle between hope and fear" - an echo of shadow chancellor George Osborne's description of the campaign today. Going head-to-head on the front page too are pictures of David and Samantha Cameron, and Gordon and Sarah Brown.
Harry Keane was the lucky Labour supporter who got to have tea with Gordon Brown during his visit to Kent today. Mr Keane tells the BBC the PM was "a nice guy" who asked "sensible questions" and was "a good listener". But much to his disappointment, he says Mr Brown didn't eat any biscuits at all despite a selection being on offer. The leaders' biscuit of choice has been something of a talking point in the past...
Matthew Taylor, former adviser to Tony Blair, thinks the television debates will be crucial and will do much to inform the parties' strategies in the days that follow them. He says the Tories, in particular, are banking on the belief that the more the public gets to know David Cameron, the more they like him. He thinks the truth of that obviously remains to be seen.
Several commentators are talking to the BBC's Campaign Show about the Lib Dem strategy of keeping Vince Cable very close to Nick Clegg throughout the election build-up. Mark Littlewood, former Lib Dem head of media, says Mr Clegg would be "insane" not to use him when he's such an asset. Joanne Nadler, biographer of William Hague, says Mr Cable is so well-liked he isn't always challenged as other figures would be, but one slip could change voters' opinions of him.
The Financial Times also has Gordon Brown on its first edition front page - smiling rather than steely this time, and with wife Sarah in the background. The paper thinks Labour is "facing an uphill battle to retain a swath of marginal seats which have been hardest hit by the economic downturn".
The first of tomorrow's newspaper front pages - the first editions at least - has just landed on the desk. It's the Independent and it carries a big picture of Gordon Brown, alongside the headline: "A step into the political unknown." The paper says Mr Brown has "triggered the most unpredictable election for decades".
Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband tells the Campaign Show that Gordon Brown's reference to being "from an ordinary middle-class family" was not a thinly veiled dig at David Cameron's upbringing. He also says Labour's manifesto is almost ready to be published and will give more detail on how the party plans to do more for public services while spending less.
Danny Finklestein, from the Times, thinks the decision by Gordon Brown to announce the election flanked by his entire cabinet could backfire. Not only will some people not relish five more years of Mr Brown, they also might not jump at the chance to see some of those other faces sticking around, he says.
We're going to dip in now to the BBC News channel's Campaign Show. Today was about each leader setting out the big themes they want to stick to for the next few weeks, our chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg says.
Jumping across to Northern Ireland for a moment, the
says the election there is one of the most difficult in recent years to predict. "The DUP will struggle to avoid losses, Sinn Fein will have difficulty making gains, and the SDLP face a battle holding their South Belfast seat," it says. The paper also thinks the Ulster Unionist pact with the Conservatives - potentially crucial in a hung Parliament situation - "has got off to a rocky start... but they have unveiled a list of candidates that present the possibility of breaking new ground".
Conservative Party chairman Eric Pickles bats away a question about why George Osborne wasn't alongside David Cameron today, as Vince Cable was alongside Nick Clegg. Mr Pickles insists George Osborne is central to Tory plans and has "won the argument" on the National Insurance issue. He also claims that most Lib Dem voters actually prefer David Cameron to their own leader, and calls Mr Cable "a prop".
A little heads-up for tomorrow... we hear that Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is going to give a press conference in the morning. It will focus on political reform - or what he says would be the lack of it under a Labour or Tory government. We already expect Labour to give some details tomorrow about their constitutional reform plans, but Mr Clegg will say that such words are merely "a smokescreen". "If Labour and the Conservatives get their way, only the faces will change. All the corruption and all the sleaze. All the big money and all the backroom dealings will remain," Mr Clegg will say.
One man who's as firmly behind Gordon Brown as ever is John Prescott. The former Labour deputy leader tells the BBC that the PM had the "courage and conviction" to get the UK out of recession - and he should be allowed to carry on doing so. He also hints that he might not be averse to sticking around in politics, despite stepping down as an MP - could we get a Lord Prescott?
The British National Party's Nick Griffin says he is preparing for his "biggest election push ever" and is going to get "a huge vote". His key policy, he says, is a call for an immediate pull-out of UK troops from Afghanistan. He also says that suggestions he is costing the public £200,000 in Brussels' expenses are "a lie" and that the money goes to paying staff.
Paul Waugh, in
his blog for the London Evening Standard
reports on an interesting idea by Kit Malthouse, deputy to Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson. Mr Malthouse has suggested a novel revenue-raising strategy for government - "lump everything together, phase out all taxes and just charge higher VAT". Paul Waugh says VAT would have to rise to 120% if that was the case. "Kit Malthouse is, as Sir Humphrey would say, very brave," he adds. Labour MP Tessa Jowell says the remark "shows that beneath all the rhetoric, the Tories haven't changed".
Political blogger Guido Fawkes
claims he has spotted an early gaffe by Labour. He says that an apparent show of spontaneous public support for Gordon Brown at St Pancras Station earlier was actually an organised group of activists from Young Labour and Labour Students.
Well, we're telling you a lot about what politicians, journalists and pollsters think, but what about you? What would you do if you were prime minister?
You can tell us your priorities by making a short video
- then we can see how they compare to those the parties think matter.
Plaid Cymru's Elfyn Llwyd says he isn't hoping for a hung Parliament, but if there is one, he'll make the best of it for the people of Wales. He dismisses the idea that people would see a vote for his party as wasted - to the contrary he thinks they will get more seats than ever before because they offer a "real radical alternative".
Former MP Martin Bell is telling the BBC his thoughts on the expenses issue. He stood and won as an independent candidate in 1997 on an anti-sleaze platform following the cash-for-questions scandal, but he thinks the public's trust in politics is in an even worse state now than then. Former Conservative Home Secretary Lord Fowler thinks there is as much desire for change now as there was when Margaret Thatcher won in 1979.
Another person keen on a hung Parliament is Adrian Ramsay, deputy leader of the Green Party. He tells the BBC that such an outcome would mean "a more mature form of politics, parties forced to debate issues with each other, and Greens having a real impact".
Leader of the UK Independence Party Lord Pearson tells the BBC he wants to see a hung Parliament. He says the election is "phoney" anyway because so many of our laws are now made in Brussels. And he believes that a victory for any of the main parties would lead to "five more years of integration" in Europe and leave us "in the bowels of the corrupt octopus, not just in its tentacles as we are now".
Just as Mr Cameron was finishing his speech, some news came to us from Labour sources. We understand that a new Labour government would offer referenda on reforming the voting system at general elections and reform of the House of Lords within 18 months of being re-elected. We'll hear more about that tomorrow apparently. But we also understand the government dropped proposals to bring in such reforms within six months of a re-election after the Conservatives blocked the move.
And a flourish to finish - perfectly lined up for him by his political opponents. Following on from the Labour poster depicting Mr Cameron as 1980s' cop Gene Hunt, how else could the Tory leader end his speech but with a call to arms for his party and the line, "Fire up the Quattro".
Mr Cameron's speech might be very similar to this morning's, but there was one notable difference. This time he did say "gay" and "straight" when listing those he considered the "great ignored". Those words were in the embargoed copy of this morning's speech given to the media, but were not uttered by the Tory leader. The omission raised a few virtual eyebrows on Twitter.
The very diverse audience behind Mr Cameron - young and old, ethnically mixed - claps appreciatively after he talks again about the "great ignored". That's been his buzz phrase of the day - those people he thinks have been left out of Labour's political project. In fact, the speech is very similar to the one he gave this morning in London, complete with JFK-esque moment - "Ask not what your government can do for you... ask what we can do to make our country better."
A bit of news just in from our political correspondent Carole Walker. Three more businessmen have pledged their support for the Conservative policy to scrap Labour's planned National Insurance rise. They are Nick Robertson, chief executive of online fashion store Asos, Bob Wigley, of property company Sovereign Reversions, and Tim Steiner, chief executive of food firm Ocado.
He begins by attacking Labour's record in power. Gordon Brown might try to rely on his party's experience as a selling point - but Mr Cameron says "the problem is, we all experienced their experience" and didn't all enjoy it much. The Tory leader then returns to the themes of "hope, optimism and real choice" that he started his day with on the banks of the Thames.
And here he is. A relaxed looking Mr Cameron, no tie, no jacket, sleeves rolled up. He says Leeds will be one of the cities where the election is decided. He also pays tribute to Baroness Warsi as the first Muslim woman to reach such political echelons in the UK.
Tory peer Baroness Warsi says David Cameron "truly gets it" and understands perfectly the issues facing the country. The shadow minister for community cohesion and social action is introducing Mr Cameron to the audience in Leeds and he will begin his speech in a few moments.
About 200 people are in the audience at the City Museum in Leeds to hear David Cameron, who has arrived at the venue but has not yet appeared for his speech.
Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw says that now the election has been called, he's "pleased to be getting on with it". He says he is "not one of those people" who thinks a hung Parliament would be a "disaster", as this method has worked in other countries, but his preference - unexpectedly - is that Labour gains "a working majority".
The BBC's Carole Walker says: At an election rally in Leeds tonight, Conservative leader David Cameron will attack the Labour plan to raise National Insurance contributions. He'll warn of the effect on jobs and the wider economy, and criticise the values that lie behind Labour's plans.
political sketch-writer Quentin Letts tells the BBC that David Cameron and Nick Clegg were surrounded by "youngsters" when they launched their campaigns this morning. He also thinks Gordon Brown, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg will be "terribly worried about goofing" during the forthcoming televised debates. He predicts two of the three will "gang up" on the third, without naming which politician will take which role.
The Conservatives have been outlining some of their new media strategy, stressing that a huge e-mail database is their most valuable tool, says the BBC's Rory Cellan Jones. A party spokesman said: "We're now able to e-mail just short of half a million people. I doubt there's an e-mail database in European politics to rival that."
Speaking outside Parliament, shadow foreign secretary William Hague says the election is a "straight choice" between David Cameron and Gordon Brown as prime minister. He adds that Mr Cameron is a "dramatically better" Tory leader than he was. Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable argues that tax policy will be a key element in voting. For Labour, Energy Secretary Ed Miliband decries Mr Cameron as a "salesman".
David Cameron seemed buoyed up by the first day on the campaign trail, chatting to journalists on the train to Leeds, the BBC's Carole Walker says. When she interviewed him, he rejected Gordon Brown's claim that the Conservatives would put the economy at risk. Mr Cameron said: "The argument that you've got to stick with what you know is the one failed politicians always make." Asked about his seeming untried and untested in the eyes of many voters, he said: "The problem with Gordon Brown's experience is that we've all experienced it."
Veteran pollster Sir Robert Worcester tells the BBC that David Cameron "stands on the edge of, with one huge proviso, of going to Number 10 after going to the palace on 7 May - but not with an overall majority, possibly even a very small majority".
Gordon Brown will now not attend the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC next week. Foreign Secretary David Miliband will now go to the summit instead, reports BBC political correspondent Reeta Chakrabarti.
Lance Price, a former Downing Street spokesman, says Labour wants to "shake up" the electorate with a few surprises. At previous elections, where the party was the clear favourite, its aim was not to upset things but simply to protect its advantage, he adds.
David from Tamworth, UK, writes: Can we have the real news, as before? Then, on a separate channel like BBC3, we can have the election stuff. We will be "electioned out" by the time we get to the actual date. In addition it severely limits our news as the programmes are swamped with politics.
The BBC's Iain Watson says Mr Brown's visit to a house in Rainham, Kent, did not seem as choreographed as his trip to a supermarket earlier. The prime minister is determined to show he is not part of "glitzy" London life, our correspondent adds.
Gordon Brown is leaving a house in Rainham, Kent, where he has been meeting voters.
The BBC's Mike Sergeant says Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was given an "early campaign workout" in front of a live audience in Watford, in preparation for the televised debates.
The SNP's Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, says there has been a "carve up" between the London political parties and broadcasters to exclude his party and Plaid Cymru from the forthcoming televised debates between the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders.
The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says the pressure on David Cameron is "huge", adding that the election is "his to lose" having been ahead in the opinion polls for many months. But the arithmetic is stacked against the Conservatives, as they have to gain more than 100 seats to win a parliamentary majority, she adds.
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Philip Hammond says the Conservatives will put forward their plans to recognise marriage through the tax system in the "coming days". Pressed on whether there were disagreements within the shadow cabinet over how best to do that, Mr Hammond says they are "constantly evaluating a range of options".
More from Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg in Watford. Taking questions from his audience, he pledges to abolish university tuition fees in England, but admits it will take "six years" to do that.
From Carole Walker in Birmingham: David Cameron's first visit on the first day of this campaign was to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham. He told me the NHS was his number one priority and spoke of the "amazing" help his family had received from the health service. This is where Tony Blair was confronted by Sharon Storer in 2001. But the Tory leader had a much friendlier chat with doctors and nurses today. He asked them what they'd do if they had a magic wand and could be health secretary for the day. There were no instant solutions on offer but staff said they were looking forward to moving to new premises. One nurse said David Cameron was "very charismatic".
Nick Clegg arrives in Watford, to cheers from Liberal Democrat supporters. It's the first stop on the Lib Dem leader's campaign trail. He tells his audience that people "have been let down for 13 years by Labour". He says voters are faced with a choice of "more of the same from Labour and the Conservatives, or something different from the Liberal Democrats."
Head of polling organisation YouGov, Peter Kellner, says this has all the making of a very exciting contest. "Election night, for those who like the fun and the drama, will be extraordinary," he says.
More from former Home Office Minister Ann Widdecombe. Asked by the BBC's Jon Sopel whether she will miss such encounters with the media on College Green, she answers with a resounding "no".
Dafydd Ladd tweets from Cardigan, Wales: Whoever you vote for, the grey men in grey suits will get in.
Read Dafydd Ladd's tweets
Veteran Tory MP Ann Widdecombe says she is "sad" that she feels "so glad" to be leaving Parliament at the election. She tells the BBC that politics has been damaged by the MPs' expenses crisis and its coverage in the media.
From the BBC's Matthew Sydney: In the Aylesford Newsprint canteen, near Maidstone, Mr Brown is meeting tables of the company's staff and apprentices. He's been talking to them about investment in the company, the recycling process here, their apprenticeships, how impressed he was by the machinery, how they like working here, their working hours, how pleasant their canteen is and how long it takes them to get to work. There are around 40 staff in the room; Mr Brown's entourage of staff, security and limited pool press is around 20.
Labour veteran Tony Benn says a hung parliament would "paralyse" the country and he hopes that won't be the outcome. He says the people of the country "want to be given some hope" by politicians.
A light-hearted snippet has come to us from that supermarket Gordon Brown was touring. After he praised the "very nice atmosphere" and "lovely people", one worker asked the PM if he fancied a job there. Mr Brown replied: "It'd be a nice place to work, friendly yeah? Better than the House of Commons..."
Plaid's leader Ieuan Wyn Jones says his priority is securing the Welsh economy. His campaign director Helen Mary Jones says the party is only one really standing up for the vulnerable in Wales - she says you won't find Plaid members swanning about on yachts in the Mediterranean.
Plaid Cymru are giving a press conference in Cardiff. They call on the people of Wales to join them "to secure the best deal" for the country.
A bit more from the papers now...
The Daily Mail
thinks Mr Cameron's speech on the banks of the Thames earlier was "an electrifying off-the-cuff address". But
thinks Gordon Brown - all smiles this morning - "could still be laughing all the way back to Downing Street".
Just before walking into Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston, Mr Cameron says of the NHS: "It's my number one priority, it did amazing things for my family."
David Cameron has arrived at a hospital in Birmingham, his first stop on the trail. The Conservative leader has talked many times of his heartfelt commitment to the NHS - and of the care given to his own son Ivan, who died last year.
Adam Price, from Plaid Cymru, says there's "a gaping hole" in Westminster which could be filled at this election by the smaller parties, from the smaller nations. Who could he mean? He says Plaid Cymru's mission is to "shield Wales" from the decisions made in London, particularly when it comes to public sector cuts.
Conservative blogger Iain Dale says potential gaffes during the campaign could come from "idiot candidates" of all parties, particularly saying something stupid on their blog or Twitter account. Andrew Grice, from the Independent, says even little faux pas could become big blunders if they make it into the mainstream media.
The BBC's Iain Watson, in Kent, says: A polite and friendly reception overall for Gordon Brown at the supermarket canteen, but complaints from some that they didn't get to ask their questions about immigration and bankers' bonuses.
Shadow chancellor George Osborne hits the campaign trail with a visit to the headquarters of the EasyJet airline in Luton. The election will be a battle "between hope and fear", he says. The hope that the Tories "can get our economy off its back" is countered by the fear of a Labour government which "will throw all sorts of scare stories at us", he adds.
Lord Mandelson says David Cameron "stands for very little". The Tory leader has "too much PR about him and too little PM", he adds.
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson admits Labour would have a "huge job" on its hands to continue rebuilding the economy if re-elected, but tells the BBC his party has "a team the public can have confidence in".
Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat MP for Brent East in north-west London, says "lots of people are still undecided" about how to vote on 6 May, and tells the BBC this is "a great opportunity" for her party.
The BBC's Iain Watson says: Gordon Brown is overrun by media as he arrives to meet shoppers at a supermarket, accompanied by wife Sarah, who maintains as a smile throughout. There is no hostile reception from the voters but quite a scrum as he gets enveloped by camera crews.
Gordon and Sarah Brown have arrived at a supermarket in Rochester, Kent, on their first stop on the campaign trail. They talk to some of the shoppers at the tills and Mrs Brown is given a bouquet of flowers.
David Cameron "stole a march" on Gordon Brown when he began campaigning "even before the prime minister got a chance to name the date", says
Gordon Brown launched his campaign "by calling for a 'mandate' to restore the trust between voters and politicians",
the Daily Telegraph
said Mr Brown "made a personal appeal to the public, citing the 'middle-class' values of his background".
The BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson, says "it is the images - not the words - that stick in the mind after this morning's election announcement" in
the latest entry on his Newslog.
More from SNP leader Alex Salmond: "The Labour chancellor says he's planning cuts which are deeper and tougher than those of Margaret Thatcher. The Tories would match these and they're planning an extra cut on Scotland; they'd take our resources and cut public expenditure even more. So in these circumstances the need for Scotland to have national champions in the SNP is greater than ever before."
All three party leaders seem to be buoyant, confident and raring to go, according to Matthew Parris, a columnist for The Times.
The BBC's Iain Watson says: Much to the bafflement of shoppers at a large supermarket, the massed ranks of the media have arrived to cover the prime minister's first campaign visit. We are in a seat which Labour won so narrowly at the last election that the sitting MP conceded defeat on the election night programme - only to recant when the official result was declared. Boundary changes should gift the seat to the Conservatives, but Gordon Brown wants to demonstrate that he is willing to defend seats his predecessor won in 1997, and won't give an inch to the official opposition. But as Labour trails in the polls, some in his party will say he should concentrate on more winnable prospects.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband says the first challenge for all parties will be to judge whether they can "nurture" the economic recovery or "wreck it". "We want to fight on the economy, and we want to fight on a Labour record that we are proud of and we can build on," he tells the BBC.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg describes this election as "a really exciting opportunity to do something different". He is keen to stress that his party offers "a real alternative" with, he says, a chance to "clean up" politics. He denies this is "a two-horse race".
The BBC's Matthew Sydney says: Gordon Brown was cheered by several enthusiastic groups of Labour supporters on the platforms of St Pancras. He stopped to meet members of the public on the walk through the station. As far as I saw, all greeted him warmly except one, who heckled him loudly about the war; Mr Brown didn't appear to acknowledge him.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell believes the three televised pre-election debates will be "a great chance for Nick Clegg" to prove his credentials. "I'm certain he'll rise to the occasion," he adds.
1220The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones says:
Several people on the micro-blogging service Twitter have noted that David Cameron left out the words "gay or straight" from his election speech. The embargoed copy released before his speech said: "We're fighting this election for the Great Ignored. Young, old, rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight." But when he gave the speech, the words "gay, straight" were omitted. A Conservative Party spokesman said the reference to the great ignored including the gay and straight phrase will be used throughout the day, and that no-one should read anything into this.
The SNP's leader and Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, says he "believes in setting ambitious targets" and is confident his party can gain 20 seats on 6 May. He offers a "real alternative" to the "dismal choice" in England between Labour and the Conservatives. He has been meeting supporters on a beach in the east of Edinburgh.
The Browns are flanked by supporters as they head through the station to catch their train. Anyone who has ever caught a commuter train from St Pancras will know it's a long walk from the entrance to the platforms, and it's taking them several minutes.
Gordon and Sarah Brown arrive at St Pancras station, with Mr Brown shaking the hands of a few passers-by on his way in.
David Cameron is heading to Yorkshire and Birmingham today, areas where the Conservatives believe they "really can push through" and take seats from Labour, Laura Kuenssberg adds.
The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says Mr Brown will catch a high-speed train to Kent from St Pancras station in central London, partly as a way of highlighting Labour's investment in the railways.
Gordon Brown leaves Downing Street, holding hands with wife Sarah, as they are driven off for some campaigning in Kent. A couple of hundred people are gathered on Whitehall as the couple pass by.
Conservative Jeremy Hunt says the government is not "getting it right" in its efforts to protect the economy.
For the Conservatives, shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt says Labour has a "pessimistic vision", based on a "class-war strategy".
The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says Gordon Brown's central message is: "Things aren't quite as bad as they might have been, so stick with me."
Alan Johnson says that "no-one wants a tax increase" but the issue is "where else are you going to find that money" to cut the deficit without hitting public services.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson says the prime minister emphasised his "middle-class" background to show that he understands the problems faced by many people. He adds that David Cameron is waging a "very personal campaign" against Mr Brown.
The dates for the televised prime ministerial debates have been announced. They will take place on 15, 22 and 29 April.
1111The BBC's Ben Wright says:
Hope, optimism and change. David Cameron promises to repaint Britain, not just give it a lick of paint. His speech is meant to cut through the post-expenses, post-recession wariness that many voters have about politics. He promises real political and economic change and an end to big government is the cornerstone his claim to change. The Conservatives' National Insurance cut gets a big mention. It will be a key policy dividing line of the campaign.
After the election, Parliament will not return until 18 May, a full 12 days after polling. This gap has been left to deal with the possibility of a hung Parliament, where no party gains an overall Commons majority. It is normally closer to a week.
Spectator magazine editor Fraser Nelson says the prime minister wants to stress that Labour's campaign is "collective". The Daily Mirror's Kevin Maguire says David Cameron's approach will be more "presidential", focusing on the leader.
BBC political editor Nick Robinson says things are "different" with the election campaign proper under way. Ministers and advisers will leave their offices and the action will "move into the country".
Mr Brown says he will not allow 13 years of investment in public services to be put at risk. He promises to improve public trust in politics, following the MPs' expenses saga. Democracy has been "scarred" by recent events, Mr Brown says. He is "not a team of one" but "one of a team", he says, as his ministerial colleagues look on. "Let's go to it," the prime minister says in conclusion. He spoke for six minutes.
Mr Brown says Britain is on the road to recovery and that it is important to get the "big decisions right". There are some very poor acoustics - the microphones seem to be picking up passing air traffic. The prime minister asks voters for a clear mandate to build industries for the future and to create jobs. The microphones are sorted now.
The prime minister, flanked by the cabinet, appears in Downing Street. He says the Queen has agreed to the dissolution of Parliament and the election will take place on 6 May.