The Full Election Story: 9 April

  • Labour candidate sacked over offensive Twitter comments
  • Conservatives say £6bn in public sector savings is possible and deny large-scale compulsory redundancies will be required
  • Labour's Lord Adonis tries to woo Lib Dem voters in marginal seats
  • Lib Dems promise to end "unfair" bank charges
  • Live text reporters: Victoria King and Justin Parkinson

2400Could the tide be turning in the National Insurance row? Several newspapers lead with attacks on the businessmen who have backed the Conservative stance. Perhaps the Tories hope their married couple's tax break will move the debate on over the weekend before any sort of potential backlash can gather steam. The tax break is certainly going to be a big talking point in the coming days - as is Labour's Cadbury's Law. Sounds tasty… will voters agree?

2248Newsnight's political editor Michael Crick says Cadbury's Law will be a hard policy for the Conservatives to criticise. It's a patriotic issue - protecting UK firms from predatory foreign companies - and is likely to appeal to many traditional Tory voters, he says.

2242"Cadbury's Law" is set to be a feature of the Labour manifesto, BBC Newsnight has learned. The policy has been prompted by the Kraft takeover of British chocolate giant Cadbury - American firm Kraft promised to keep the main factory open before the deal was agreed, but then changed its mind afterwards. Under Cadbury's Law, it would be harder for overseas takeovers of UK companies to happen - requiring two thirds of shareholders to agree, not 50% as it is now. Newsnight's economic editor Paul Mason says it's the main concession to the Unite union in the Labour manifesto.

2230"Migrant city's cry for help," is the Daily Mail's front page. The city in question is Peterborough, the plea comes from two independent councillors to the main party leaders. It lays bare "the devastating impact of uncontrolled, mass immigration on the fabric of English life", the paper claims.

2223The Daily Telegraph leads with the Tories' tax break for married couples and civil partners. The Financial Times takes a different view of the same story, focusing on the £1billion levy that would be slapped on UK banks in order to pay for it. The paper is sure that, unsurprisingly, the move will cause great anger in the City, especially if the Tories go ahead with it without a commitment to a similar levy from other competitor countries.

2218A second paper apparently unhappy at those Tory-supporting captains of industry is the Independent - its front page on Saturday reads, "Mind your own business!"

2213The first editions of Saturday's newspapers are starting to arrive. The Guardian's slightly startling headline is, "Cable attacks 'nauseating' businessmen". Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable has told the paper he finds it "utterly nauseating all these chairmen and chief executives of FTSE companies being paid 100 times the pay of their average employees lecturing us on how we should run the country".

2208"Patronising drivel that belongs in the Edwardian age" - that's the Liberal Democrat verdict on the Tories' marriage tax break. "David Cameron clearly has no idea about modern life," they say, and is trying to create "rigid rules or special policies that help some families but not others".

2204A bit more on the married couples' tax break. We understand it would work by allowing people who are married or in a civil partnership to transfer part of their tax free personal allowance to their spouse or partner. It would apply only to basic rate taxpayers earning less than £44,000 where one couple doesn't use their full personal allowance.

2200Four million married couples and civil partners on low and middle incomes would get an annual £150 tax break under Conservative plans to support marriage in the tax system, the BBC's James Landale reports. It would cost in the region of £550million a year and would be funded by the Tories' planned banking levy. They say they hope to introduce it next year in the Budget of 2011.
James Landale

2144Ms Lucas acknowledges that the Greens would take the UK in "a very different direction of travel" - not necessarily popular with all - but she says that's something to be proud of, not something to hide.

2140Green Party leader Caroline Lucas says she wants to increase the minimum wage to a "living wage" of about £8.10 an hour. She says she'd fund this by extending the 50% rate of income tax to those earning £100,000 or more, and by removing the cap on National Insurance contributions. When former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie rubbishes this as "mad", she says Green parties are doing well elsewhere in Europe and the thing holding them back in the UK is the first-past-the-post voting system.

2131"It's not exactly Obama politics" - that's the view of the New Statesman's Mehdi Hasan. He tells the BBC's Campaign Show that what we've seen so far will have been a turn-off for voters - quibbling over efficiency savings and so on - and is not going to do anything to change the minds of those disillusioned with politics.

2120"I believe in a close election that there is a good case for saying that people should vote tactically," Health Secretary Andy Burnham has told BBC Radio 4. Liberal Democrats should be very flattered - it seems like most of the Labour front bench is looking to cosy up to them.

2115For Gordon Brown to raise the possibility of tactical voting - as he did today in a web interview - as early as week one of the campaign is very significant, the BBC's chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg says. It raises the inevitable feeling that he doesn't think Labour can win this thing on their own.
Laura Kuenssberg

2110Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie says anyone running a company knows you can get rid of 5-10% of your staff without making a difference to operations - the public sector could stand to do the same. He also says the National Insurance row has been "massively damaging" for Labour, and reveals that a YouGov poll in Saturday's Sun will give Cameron "a massive smile".

2059We're going to be dipping into the BBC News Channel's Campaign Show from 2100BST. Among the guests is Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.

2054 Huw Jones tweets from Portsmouth: National Insurance, National Insurance, National Insurance. Very interesting but let's hear about some other policies.
Read Huw Jones' tweets
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2044After all of Friday's talk about public sector cuts and potential job losses, we hear a rally is going to be held in central London on Saturday in support of the welfare state and public services. Among those taking part will be the British Medical Association, the National Pensioners' Convention, the Carers' Poverty Alliance and more than 20 trade unions.

2036David Bell writes: It was the taxpayer not business leaders that ended pumping billions into the economy to keep people like them afloat. We should not be looking at tax cuts but reducing the deficit; it strikes me that this highlights a distinct lack of leadership.
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2024"The Tories must be feeling smug if they released George Osborne, the Shadowy Chancellor, giving a quick TV interview before scurrying back into the safety of Con Towers," writes Kevin Maguire, of the Daily Mirror. He claims it's "part of a strategy to show a bit - but not too much - of Boy George". "David Cameron doesn't want his team to frighten voters which presumably explains why most Tory front benchers have vanished," he adds.

2014The speech featured a lot of personal references, but in an election campaign, even the personal is political, says the BBC's Iain Watson. Gordon Brown said, "I'm not slick, but I don't want to be" - a clear sideswipe at David Cameron. He also "plead guilty to a number of offences" - being impatient, too serious - but really he wants voters to think these things are actually strengths, not weaknesses.
Iain Watson

2003"The Treasury Mandarins, I am told, are weeping into their (Earl Grey) tea. Whatever happened to the age of austerity?" Philip Stevens, of the Financial Times, says that when David Cameron made austerity his priority at the Tory conference last autumn "the applause in the Treasury was deafening - at least when Alistair Darling was safely out of earshot". But he claims that now, with all the talk of "efficiencies" not cuts - and even tax giveaways - well, "no wonder the mandarins wince".

1949David Cheshire writes: The other insult to intelligence of course is the notion of painlessly and effortlessly pulling 6 billion "savings" out of the hat to finance a pre-election tax bung. Also - do business leaders like paying extra tax? Do they historically tend to back one party? Is the sea wet?
Have Your Say
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1942Roy, from London, writes: Brown is trying to game the system with calls for tactical voting - but it demonstrates that the system is broken. We should be breaking out of the two-party tug-of-war, not perpetuating it.
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1938As he finishes his speech, Mr Brown gets a rapturous round of applause and is now greeting party activists. In the background, the song your "love lifts me higher and higher" is playing in the hall.

1935Mr Brown is addressing the electoral challenge facing Labour. He says the party has the same "ideals" that it had when it won power in 1997. Urging the party to fight for every vote it can, he says Labour is the "people's party" and the "party of Britain".

1933Mr Brown is contrasting his willingness to intervene in the economy to drive growth with his claim the Tories would leave people to fend for themselves. He says he has an ambitious plan for "national renewal".

1929Referring to Friday's row over efficiency savings and job losses, Mr Brown says the Tories' plans would endanger public services and suggests the opposition has not changed.

1924Mr Brown accuses the Tories of offering "something for nothing" in their tax promises, saying they have been "caught out". He says the Tories are at "odds with themselves" and at "odds with the facts".

1919Acknowledging some of the criticism of his personality, Mr Brown says he "pleads guilty" to being too serious, impatient and focused on policy. He stresses he is not interested in "small talk" but is focused on the big issues.

1916The prime minister jokes about the reception he gets when he is in his home town. He says when he is called Gordon, he knows everything is fine but when he is addressed as Mr Brown, he knows "there's a problem".

1913Gordon Brown walks to the stage, followed by his wife Sarah, to a hearty round of applause. He tells his audience "it is great to be home".

1907This from our political correspondent Iain Watson, who is in Kirkcaldy. Mr Brown is expected to use his speech to attack the Conservatives' economic policy, suggesting that David Cameron and George Osborne are split over whether services have to be cut to pay for their policy on National Insurance.

1902The crowd assembled at the Adam Smith College in Kirkcaldy is awaiting the prime minister's appearance. He is expected on stage shortly.

1847Gordon Brown is seeking some home comforts this evening. He is about to address supporters in his home town of Kirkcaldy in Fife, where he ought to be guaranteed a warm reception.

1843Some thoughts from two newspaper pundits. The Spectator's Fraser Nelson thinks Gordon Brown should move on from the National Insurance issue as he is "doing David Cameron's work for him" by highlighting the differences between the parties on tax. The Daily Mail's Andrew Pierce believes the Tories' poll lead will hold firm after the first week of the campaign.

1828Nick Clegg has been getting a bit of exercise on the campaign trail, taking part in a game of touch rugby with some youngsters in Leeds. But his skills did not impress everyone, 10-year-old Ryan Bateman saying the Lib Dem leader could "improve on his running".

1815Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems are engaged in "a phoney war" over Britain's public finances, Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths says. Unveiling a "Make the fat cats pay" poster on Friday, he said the National Insurance rise and public sector squeeze could both be cancelled by hitting the "superwealthy". His plans include a 20% windfall tax on gas, electricity, oil, banking and retail monopoly profits.

1806"What are you trying to hide? Why do you not want the public to know the truth about the jobs losses that your own Treasury officials believe will follow from the National Insurance rise?" Those are the words of shadow chancellor George Osborne in a letter to Alistair Darling. He wants the chancellor to publish an internal document which he says reveals the real impact of an NI hike.

1800"I've always supported gay rights," shadow home secretary Chris Grayling has insisted. He has spoken to BBC Radio 5 Live after being heavily criticised for suggesting - on tape - that bed and breakfast owners should have the right to turn away gay couples. He said issues like this were "difficult and sensitive" and he had "thought long and hard" before voting in favour of banning that right. He said that rather than endorsing it, in the recording in question he had been trying to say what a "dilemma" the issue had presented.

1744Another Dragon has defended Labour's National Insurance increase. Duncan Bannatyne tweeted: "The 1% rise in NI will not cost a single job in my company. The Tories will increase VAT and that will cost jobs." The entrepreneur and Dragons' Den star is a declared Labour supporter and has also been a party donor in the past. Fellow Dragon James Caan backed Labour over NI yesterday.
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1736The BBC's Claire Gibson has been on a plane up to Scotland with Gordon Brown. She says the air stewards kindly provided political material for the PM and journalists to read. Unfortunately for the Labour team it was a copy of the Spectator magazine with the front page headline, "Give Cameron the keys".

1729It's tit for economic tat here... George Osborne now says he's writing a letter back to Alistair Darling, demanding that he publish an internal government estimate of the number of jobs that could be lost if the planned National Insurance rise goes ahead. Have they never heard of email?

1723Chancellor Alastair Darling has sent a letter to his opposite number George Osborne, demanding that he explain how the Tories plan to save £30bn from the public purse, the BBC's political correspondent Peter Hunt reports. "Your entire economic strategy is now clearly in disarray and confusion," Mr Darling writes, "If your plan is real, it's time to show people the details." The chancellor says he has released the letter to the media "because of the importance of this issue".
Peter Hunt

1715Breaking sartorial news... In Leeds, Nick Clegg has taken his tie off for the first time in the campaign, says the BBC's Mike Sergeant.
Mike Sergeant

1710The Conservatives would be "much, much tougher" than Labour on benefit cheats, the shadow work and pensions secretary Theresa May tells the BBC. Three strikes - three proven "cheats" - and they could have state support withdrawn for three years. But she says the most vulnerable, such as those with young children, could see "a percentage withdrawn rather than all of it".

1704"At the end of the first week of campaigning... Labour has outperformed and outmanoeuvred the Tories and Lib Dems on health." That is the view of Richard Horton, editor of journal The Lancet. Writing on his Facebook blog, he attacks the Lib Dems in particular, saying their policies "are so obviously designed to pander to public prejudice that they are literally incredible". Give power back to doctors, cut health quangos, put local people in charge - "nothing faintly original or eye-catching", he adds.

1654The SNP's Angus Robertson demands "candour and honesty" from Labour about the situation surrounding candidate for Moray Stuart MacLennan, who has been sacked for making offensive remarks on Twitter. Mr Robertson said "scores, if not hundreds, of members of the party" were following Mr MacLennan on Twitter, yet none intervened to stop his "diatribe". He says the claim by Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy not to have known about the comments until very recently "just doesn't stack up".

1646Gordon Brown tells the BBC that today will be seen as the day when the Tories' plans "unravelled". He says the holes in their savings proposals have been "exposed... by their failure to answer direct questions" on the details.

1642Plaid Cymru has hit back after Nick Clegg urged voters in Wales to pick the Lib Dems. Candidate Penri James says Plaid "has already shown that, in a hung Parliament situation, we can make a real difference". "But we all know the Liberal Democrats' history - when they're facing the prospect of influence in government, they bottle it," he adds.

1635[Lord Adonis] is assuming that it is still the case the Lib Dem voters are more likely to regard a Conservative victory as the outcome they most wish to avoid. In the Tories' dark decade after the '97 election this was probably true, but I wonder if it is still the case. Tactical voting seems a force of hell at least as likely to be unleashed on Labour as on any other party.
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1627It would be "wrong" and "immoral" to slash further education provision to save money when so many young people rely on it to give them a start in life. So says Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison. He tells the BBC he wants a cast-iron guarantee from all political parties that none of them would force through compulsory redundancies in the sector if they won the election.

1619Mixed feelings from BBC News website users at the joint operation by Facebook and the Electoral Commission to try to encourage those who use the social networking site to vote. Glenn, in Blackburn, says it's "more intrusion by the state into areas it should not be going". But John Logan, in Hemsworth, thinks it's "a fantastic idea to cast the electoral net over a potentially huge number of non-registered voters who spend most of their time online with friends".

1614I sat through a slanging match between George Osborne and Alistair Darling and I'm afraid I had to turn the sound off and watch them mouthing away at each other. Perhaps we would be better served by the views of the person who holds up the placard behind these truculent men. If this is what it is going to be like right through to election day, heaven help us, Pat Rhodes from Windsor, Berkshire, writes.
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1606The Lib Dems say it is "deeply disappointing that Gordon Brown is using Sally Anne Bowman's terrible murder to mislead people about the DNA database". Mr Brown has criticised Tory plans to remove profiles of people who have not been convicted of a crime. But Lib Dem Chris Huhne said it was "completely wrong to hoard innocent people's DNA for years on end".

1600Swansea has one of the highest proportions of the workforce in public sector employment of any UK city, so the issue of jobs cuts is felt particularly keenly. Roger Langley, from the Public and Commercial Services Union, tells the BBC he fears for the thousands in Swansea who work for the DVLA, the Department of Work and Pensions, Revenue and Customs, and the Land Registry.

1554I agree with Nick Clegg regarding the excessive bank charges, but a far larger problem is the extortionate 'arrangement fees' charged by lenders when setting up a mortgage. They are stifling the housing market for first-time buyers and people wishing to re-mortgage for a better deal. What is going to be done to curb this? It's dead money and cannot be justified, Derek from Stroud, Gloucestershire, writes.
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1546"It's hard not to conclude that all the various parties are using the word 'efficiencies' to cover what they really mean, which is 'cuts'," says Tony Travers, from the London School of Economics.

1539UK Independence Party leader Lord Pearson has told the BBC his party will not stand in up to a dozen constituencies where rival parties are fielding Eurosceptic candidates. He said his party would be "mad" to compete against the Conservative MPs Philip Davies, Douglas Carswell and Philip Hollobone, because a UKIP challenge could stop them winning. He said UKIP activists in those seats would be ask to support the Tory candidates. But Lord Pearson added that a working majority for David Cameron in the Commons would spell the "end of this country" because the Tories had backed down on a pledge to hold a referendum on the EU's Lisbon Treaty.

1531Henry Macrory, head of press for the Conservatives, tweets on behalf of David Cameron: People who followed Stuart MacLennan on Twitter and did nothing have some explaining to do.
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1523News just in from the BBC team travelling with David Cameron - 54 Scottish business leaders have signed a letter backing the Conservative stance on National Insurance. For Mr Cameron, just about to launch his Scottish campaign in Aberdeen, that will be very welcome news.

1517"One quirk of this election is that for the first time there will be no party political broadcasts on radio in England," writes Sam Coates in the Times. This is because, he says, of the Conservative pact with the Ulster Unionists, and the argument that a broadcast by the Tories would give them an advantage in Northern Ireland that the DUP, Sinn Fein and other parties there wouldn't get. Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish-specific broadcasts will still go out on radio in those nations.

1505"No-one can say I didn't warn about the dangers of politicians twittering," David Cameron has said. Arriving in Aberdeen for a campaign event, he told the BBC he believed Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy "showed bad judgment by saying it was OK" for offensive Twitterer Stuart MacLennan to stay as a Labour candidate until a row blew up today. The Conservative leader infamously told a radio station that he was wary of Twitter, adding that "too many Tweets might make a twat".

1459Is Gordon Brown now trying to woo Lib Dem supporters too? "I want everyone to vote Labour," he told the website politics.co.uk, adding: "But if people don't want a Conservative government then they must make sure they don't let the Conservatives in."

1450Labour MP for Stockton North Frank Cook has announced that he will fight the general election as an independent candidate. He has been a Labour party member for 60 years, but failed to win the Labour selection for the seat two years ago. He says he's now ended his Labour subscription and left the party with "great sadness".

1445"Whichever party wins the election, we're probably going to see the best part of half a million jobs being lost from the public sector." That was the startling view of John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, when he spoke to the BBC a short time ago.

1440Stuart MacLennan's Twitter antics are currently the most talked about topic on the social media site. TerryLucy is sympathetic, saying that the Labour candidate "was just tweeting normal things" and Patrickgribbons feels "sorry" for him, although he adds that MacLennan was "silly to make such comments". Aalia had a "chuckle" at his "outrageous Twitter gaffes", while kate_brennan is "flabbergasted" and asks: "How did he think it was OK to tweet that stuff?" Finally julessevans77 writes: "MacLennan. The first Twitter martyr. You will be remembered Stuart."
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1434Lord Adonis pops up on the BBC now. The transport secretary tells our chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg categorically that Labour hasn't had any conversations with the Lib Dems about a potential pact in the event of a hung Parliament.

1429The BBC's Matthew Sydney has been with Gordon Brown on a visit to the Watford home of Isabella Jordan and her son Danny. Isabella is 81 - she joined the Labour Party when she was 18 and Danny is also a member. Our correspondent says: "When I arrived at 10.30am, two men were putting up two six feet by four feet 'Vote Labour' signs in the front garden. Despite their efforts with drill and saw, the legs are slightly wonky."

1422Transport Secretary Lord Adonis is flirting with Lib Dem supporters again. He tells Sky News that Labour and the Lib Dems are "at one" on a host of policies. On the Stuart MacLennan issue, he says the language used was "totally unacceptable", but refuses to say why he was chosen as a candidate at all given the Tweets in question were sent months ago. I think he's been asked the question about eight times now, but isn't giving an inch...

1409Mr Clegg is asked about Labour candidate Stuart MacLennan who has been sacked over a series of offensive Tweets. The Lib Dem leader was actually a target of one choice missive. With what could be interpreted as barely disguised pleasure at another party's bad headlines, Mr Clegg said he might Tweet back to Mr MacLennan, but whatever he chose to say would at least be printable.

1405Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is giving a quick speech in Solihull, near Birmingham. He's talking about his consumer manifesto. Plans include ending "unfair water rates", making airline ticket prices easier to understand and bringing in new legislation to stop banks charging high overdraft fees.

1400What are your favourite political insults of the campaign so far? The Daily Telegraph has come up with some. It likes William Hague's claim that the British people under Labour are like "lions led by donkeys". Another favourite is John Prescott's view of David Cameron - "The baby face doesn't worry me, it's the baby mind that does." And Nick Clegg finds favour for his quip that believing Labour over reform plans is "like accepting a consumer service guarantee from Del Boy".

1351The Child Poverty Action Group has responded with concern to Conservative plans to remove state support for three years from persistent benefit cheats. It says benefit fraud is at an "all-time low" - tax fraud is a much bigger issue - and it fears that stopping benefits "could plunge children into poverty". It calls on all parties to do more to help those entitled to support to get it.

1339The BNP themselves have picked up on a report by the think tank Civitas, which they say claims that electricity bills in the UK are set to rise because of the government's green energy policies. The BNP says it is the only party "committed to restoring control of electricity, as well as gas, water, railways and other essential utilities and infrastructure to the British people and halting the 'man-made global warming' conspiracy".

1333Campaigning singer Billy Bragg has told the London Evening Standard he is going to work to help Labour defeat the British National Party in his home town of Barking, east London. "It's going to be a fight for the soul of the English people," he said.

1326Some news from Southwark Crown Court that's come to us - the former housekeeper of Attorney General Baroness Scotland has been found guilty of fraud.

1321Mr Osborne and Mr Darling also clashed over the potential impact of a National Insurance rise on jobs. The shadow chancellor accused his opponent of "hiding" a report which puts a figure on the number of jobs that could be lost if it goes ahead. In a fairly heated exchange, Mr Darling strenuously denied doing anything of the sort.

1313Alistair Darling and George Osborne head-to-head on the BBC's One o'clock news. The chancellor says the Tories have backtracked on their promise to rely on efficiency savings alone to fund the cancellation of the National Insurance rise. He insists there will be other swingeing cuts that the Tories aren't being honest about. But the shadow chancellor is asked point blank whether they can do enough with efficiency savings alone, and he answers, "Yes we can."

1259A Nick-name. Nick Clegg's campaign plane has been dubbed "Sput-Nick" by the travelling press corps. The BBC's Phil Herd says: "We're waiting on the tarmac for the Lib Dem leader to board. He's now arrived - after a quick diversion to stock up with some ties for the next few days. He's bought two - a yellow one (of course) and a purple one - which he thinks his wife Miriam will like."

1257Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy says he was not a follower of Stuart MacLennan's Twitter feeds. When he became aware of their "sickening" contents, he acted quickly to remove him, he tells the BBC. Mr Murphy also apologises to the people of Moray for the former candidate's "breach of trust".

1250Peter from London writes: Could we please have a rule that the BBC will only broadcast comments from politicians who talk about their own policies. So far every time I hear Nick Clegg he is criticising the Tories and does not tell us what the Lib Dems would do, and that goes for Gordon Brown and Labour. This way, in the future we could find out what each party would do.
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1245Gordon Brown speaks out on the sacking of Stuart MacLennan. On his visit to Stevenage, the PM says: "A candidate has made a mistake. It's unacceptable... We cannot have people standing as candidates for the Labour Party who express these views."
Gordon Brown

1240Sacked Labour candidate Stuart MacLennan says it was right for him to go, adding that he has been "very stupid". The Labour Party in Moray will begin looking for a new candidate immediately, the BBC learns.

1237Labour will hope they have closed down the row over Stuart MacLennan relatively quickly. It would have been "extremely difficult" for him to fight a campaign with his Twitter messages - including comments about Tory leader David Cameron and the use of strong swear words - in the open, the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says.
Laura Kuenssberg

1224More on the sacking of Labour candidate Stuart MacLennan. A party spokesman says he was dropped because of "the totally unacceptable language which he has expressed online". Mr MacLennan has also been suspended by Labour.

1217Many other parliamentary candidates around the country might be nervously trying to recall what they have done previously on the web, following the sacking of Labour's Stuart MacLennan, the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says.
Laura Kuenssberg

1213 The steady rise in petrol prices is prompting people to ask why the level of duty is not a more prominent election issue. Gary Walker in Hertfordshire tweets to say that he can "barely afford" to get to work and James from Belfast tells the BBC that the silence of politicians on the matter "speaks volumes for their concern". Lyzzle from Portsmouth suggests that it is time "that the duty charge within products like petrol are itemised on each bill, like VAT. If a party is willing to introduce this they will have my vote. I am sick of being blindly taxed."
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1210Henry Macrory, the head of the Conservatives' press office, asks on Twitter why the Labour Party did not sack Stuart MacLennan earlier.

1203Labour candidate Stuart MacLennan has been sacked by the party for making offensive comments on his Twitter page. The Conservatives and SNP had called on him to quit. Mr MacLennan, who apologised earlier today for his actions, had been competing to become MP for the seat of Moray.

1149Seal of approval? Beryl Seal, an 81-year-old resident of a care home in Cardiff, was pleased to meet Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg. "He's better looking in the flesh than on TV" is her opinion. But she's less excited about the campaign. "So far its not up to much," Beryl tells the BBC's Mike Sergeant.
Mike Sergeant

1141Conservative leader David Cameron's call for a national youth volunteer scheme has stirred up quite a debate in the media, with questions about the cost, its attractiveness to young people and even the use of veteran actor Sir Michael Caine to promote it. The BBC has rounded up the pick of the commentary.

1134London Mayor Boris Johnson has clarified his earlier comment, in which he said the National Citizen Service for teenagers should be compulsory - at odds with his party's plan for a voluntary scheme. He told me he believes the National Citizen Service should be as compulsory as you can possibly make it without "cheesing people off", the BBC's Carole Walker says.
Carole Walker

1128The prime minister continues the "policy-lite" approach when talking to the audience on a one-to-one basis after his crime speech in Stevenage. He reveals that his children are lobbying him to buy a dog and he shows his knowledge of Stevenage Borough football team's fortunes, says the BBC's Iain Watson.
Iain Watson

1123It's time for Tiewatch, our daily look at the sartorial efforts of the party leaders. The BBC's Claire "Catty" Williams is off tending to her allotment, so Rebecca "The Ego-Wrecker" Keating takes over for the day. She says: "The prime minister donned a powerful purple as he talked tough on crime. David Cameron's gone for sky blue. It says soft, yet visionary. Perhaps it's meant to indicate blue sky thinking." Ms Keating goes on: "Nick Clegg's sporting a red tie - is this a subtle sign he's warming to Labour's attempts to woo Liberal Democrats in case there's a hung Parliament?"

1115 Bryan Preston in Windsor, Berkshire, writes: The Labour government are saying they are the party to run our public finances. Let's get the facts right, this government was borrowing billions of pounds before the toxic money arrived on the scene and are just using this reason for their current financial problems.
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1109Nick Clegg describes Lord Adonis's call for Lib Dems to back Labour candidates in marginal seats as a "wonderfully naked" attempt to garner votes. Coincidentally, a quick Google search suggests that a firm called Naked Adonis Butlers offers "gorgeous men" to serve food and drink to excitable ladies at hen-dos and other such events. Might it be a thought if this transport secretary lark doesn't last?
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1103 Lee Griffin in Bristol tweets: I'm finding it slightly funny that Cameron is spinning "not filling job vacancies as they arise" as somehow not being job cuts. Read Lee Griffin's tweets
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1100Gordon Brown, standing next to wife Sarah on a visit to Stevenage, says he is "very proud" of the town's efforts to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.

1054London Mayor Boris Johnson has once again strayed from Tory policy. Chatting to Chelsea pensioners with David Cameron, Mr Johnson said the flagship policy of a National Citizen Service should be compulsory, rather than voluntary, the BBC's Carole Walker says.
Carole Walker

1050Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy tells the BBC that Stuart MacLennan, the Labour parliamentary candidate who has apologised for using offensive language on Twitter, will not be deselected.

1042Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is visiting Stevenage. The BBC's James Cook asks the first local he meets what the town is famous for. The man pauses for a long time before volunteering: "Well, Robbie Williams came here a couple of years ago." What about BBC Two's Saxondale, a much-loved comedy about a philosophising roadie-turned-pest controller who dwells in the Hertfordshire town?
Gordon Brown

1036Mr Clegg is applying the charm during his visit to a sheltered housing project in Cardiff. Over coffee, he expresses an interest in the bingo scheduled for tomorrow night and wins a bashful laugh from an octogenarian by inquiring whether her latest birthday was her 45th. That's one vote Lord Adonis won't be nicking.
Nick Clegg

1033Nick Clegg will be keen to ensure that Transport Secretary Lord Adonis's call for Lib Dems to vote Labour in Labour-Tory marginals doesn't dent his party's support. The Lib Dems want to present themselves as very different to the other parties, rather than similar to either, the BBC's Mike Sergeant says.
Mike Sergeant

1026Tory leader David Cameron is visiting the Chelsea Pensioners Club in west London. The weather looks splendid.

1023As Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg prepares to meet residents of a care home in Wales, he faces a bit of a problem. His press officer tells the BBC's Clare Santry that most of these would-be voters are unlikely to know who he is.

1016The Lib Dems are launching a "consumer manifesto" later on today. Among the main promises, the party says it will end "unfair" bank charges for customers who exceed their overdraft limits or bounce a cheque.

1005First transport hiccup on the prime minister's tour. A non-BBC journalist failed to get off the train with the rest of us in Hertfordshire. But who knows? They may be first to get to the next venue, the BBC's Iain Watson says.
Iain Watson

0959I had a word with Nick Clegg on the plane to Cardiff about the Lord Adonis piece in the Independent, which suggests Lib Dem voters should back Labour candidates in Tory-Labour marginal seats. Unsurprisingly the Lib Dem leader totally rejects his analysis. If there is a Labour-Lib Dem "identity of interest", Mr Clegg claims he doesn't see it, the BBC's Mike Sergeant says.
Mike Sergeant

0953Chancellor Alistair Darling is asked on the BBC News Channel whether Lib Dem Vince Cable would make a good replacement for him in the event of a hung Parliament. Looking bemused, he says he "wouldn't vote" for either Mr Cable or the Conservatives' George Osborne. A job-share is supposedly out of the question?

0943Alistair Darling says the Conservatives are showing "pretty poor judgement" over taxation, while Labour's policies to deal with the economic crisis "are beginning to bear fruit".

0939Chancellor Alistair Darling ramps up his criticisms of the Tories' plans on National Insurance. He tells Sky News David Cameron has "admitted he can't afford his promise" not to raise contributions.

0936John Prescott is on the warpath once more. The former deputy prime minister, travelling much of the UK in his battlebus, has attacked Sir Peter Gershon, the former government efficiency adviser now working for the Tories. Mr Prescott writes on Twitter that he is "glad we ignored him".

0928Lance Price, who was a Labour communications adviser during the 2001 general election campaign, says the punch thrown by the then deputy PM John Prescott worked to Labour's advantage.

0923Former Lib Dem adviser Olly Grender says Labour should use Deutsche Bank's support for a Conservative government to its own advantage, arguing that banks are still regarded by the public as "pretty toxic".

0920The National Insurance row rumbles on, with Conservative leader David Cameron saying 50 Scottish business leaders have signed a letter backing his plan to halt a rise in payments.

0909Transport Secretary Lord Adonis, who is urging Lib Dem supporters in marginal seats to vote for Labour, says the two parties' policies are "very close" in substance.

0857Labour candidate Stuart MacLennan has apologised for making "silly" and "offensive" comments on Twitter about his rivals to become MP for Moray. But Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie says he should step down if he has a "shred of remorse or decency".

0849At Labour's HQ journalists joining the prime minister's campaign tour are fed bacon butties, pains au chocolat and muffins. No sign of even one of our five a day. Not sure how many of us will survive the election unless they stick cholesterol-lowering statins in the goody bags too, says the BBC's Iain Watson.
Iain Watson

0845All the main parties think the debate over National Insurance is "fertile territory". It allows the Tories to say they can keep taxes down, while Labour and the Lib Dems can claim to be protecting public services, the BBC's Ben Wright says.
Ben Wright

0840The BBC's Claire Gibson, at Labour headquarters, says David Cameron's Today programme interview was pumped out on a loud speaker.

0837Mr Cameron admits his mission to end "Punch and Judy politics" has failed. He describes prime minister's questions as a "bear pit", adding: "There's an element of Christians being fed to the lions and you're either a lion or a Christian." How do the lions and bears get on, one wonders?

0832Asked what newspapers he reads, Mr Cameron says does not want to "make enemies" at this stage of the campaign, but eventually claims, perhaps with tongue firmly in cheek, that he likes the Daily Star. His favourite prime minister is Winston Churchill.

0829David Cameron says the Conservative Party is "changed and modernised" under his leadership. Its manifesto will contain a "powerful" section on the environment, he promises.

0827The Liberal Democrats are "pretending" that top-up tuition fees for higher education students in England can be abolished, Mr Cameron says.

0823Inequality has got worse under Labour, the Conservative leader says. The Tories will address "the causes of poverty", such as family break down and failing schools, he adds.

0820The Conservatives were already warning the budget deficit was too high at the last general election, in 2005, Mr Cameron says.

0818As well as efficiency savings, there will be a public sector pay freeze for a year, the Tory leader tells Today. Abolishing national ID cards will also save money, he says.

0815Mr Cameron says 400,000 jobs become available in the public sector every year, as people leave. If these are not all filled, it is a way of saving money "relatively rapidly", he adds.

0812Conservative leader David Cameron is speaking on Radio 4's Today programme. He says many businesses have had to make far greater savings than those he envisages for the public sector.
David Cameron

0805The Conservatives welcome a report from Deutsche Bank saying the "best result" at the election would be an outright victory for the party. Shadow Treasury minister Philip Hammond says this will deliver a "clear message" to voters.

0755Nick Clegg describes his deputy leader and Treasury spokesman Vince Cable as a "close friend and colleague". Asked on GMTV if Mr Cable would serve as chancellor in a coalition government, he says: "I don't think Vince is going to be in the Carlos Tevez [now of Manchester City, formerly of Manchester United] school of transfers from one team to the other, we work as a team." Would Mr Clegg act like Gary Neville if this changed?

0743For the Conservatives, shadow work and pensions secretary Theresa May tells Sky News it is possible to make public sector savings of £6bn this financial year. There is a "huge turnover" of employment, which will help the Tories to remove spare posts, she adds.

0724 Nick Clegg just told GMTV he had not ring-fenced NHS spending because he thought there were too many "bureaucrats" and said he would "get rid" of "pen pushers in the NHS" to protect front line services. He also paid tribute to "my close friend and colleague" Vince Cable but, asked if Mr Cable could be chancellor in a coalition government, he said it did not "work like that" adding: "We work as a team".

0700Nick Clegg is due to do a GMTV interview - wonder what he'll have to say about Labour's Lord Adonis bid to woo Lib Dem voters? The transport secretary used to be a Lib Dem councillor himself and is urging those thinking of backing Mr Clegg's party in marginal seats to vote Labour instead to keep the Tories out. The Conservatives have also attempted to "love bomb" Lib Dems.

0620Good morning, welcome back to our coverage of the general election campaign. Conservative leader David Cameron, Chancellor Alistair Darling and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg are all preparing for early morning interviews. Expect Mr Cameron to be grilled about his plans for the public sector.

0030Crime is expected to be top of Labour's agenda on Friday. The Tories will talk about welfare reform and pay restraint. The Lib Dems will focus on the consumer, with Nick Clegg due to give a speech calling for an end to painful charges levied by banks on customers who exceed their overdraft limits.

2400Conservative plans to cut the public sector wage bill feature on several newspaper front pages on Friday and are likely to set the tone for much of the day's debate. We wait with baited breath...

2255James Caan, entrepreneur and star of the BBC's Dragons' Den, doesn't seem to be backing the Tories as we'd previously thought he was. He says Labour's National Insurance rise would only add £15 to the cost of employing someone, and that wouldn't realistically be enough to put him off filling a vacancy that needed filling.

2250Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne says of Labour's plans for spending cuts: "They're big, they're do-able, but they're not damaging." He won't be drawn though on a commitment on VAT, saying we'll just have to wait until the manifesto next week. You tease, Mr Byrne...

2245BBC Newsnight's economics editor Paul Mason says the financial markets are beginning to get impatient about the cuts and spending row. He says they fear a sort of stalemate, especially in the event of a hung Parliament. He also points out that it suits politicians to squabble about the nitty gritty of specific cuts because it distracts from the bigger issue of just how big a financial hole the country is in.

2228The Daily Mail attacks Labour tomorrow with the headline, "Victim of a broken promise". The paper says a 37-year-old mother, who is dying from cancer, has been forced to sell her home "to buy the drugs Labour pledged it would fund".

2223Shadow universities and skills secretary David Willetts tells BBC Radio 4's World Tonight that he doesn't "recognise" the figure of 40,000 public sector job losses that the Financial Times claims could be looming under a Tory government. He says: "It's not our policy to have compulsory redundancies," but instead the Tories would have a "recruitment freeze" and not fill posts that become vacant.

2203No senior manager in the public sector will be able to earn more than 20 times more than the lowest paid person in their organisation under Conservative plans revealed in tomorrow's Guardian. The Tory leader reveals the policy himself in an article for the paper, which has then calculated that it would see more than 200 executives getting a salary cut.

2157Up to 40,000 public sector jobs could go under Conservative cuts plans, the Financial Times claims. The paper says Mr Cameron's adviser, Sir Peter Gershon, has revealed that he has told the Tory leader to cut £2bn from the public payroll in the first year of office if he is victorious on 6 May.

2147The first of tomorrow's newspaper front pages has just popped into my inbox. The Independent headline is: "Labour begs for Lib Dem votes". Transport Secretary Lord Adonis has written a piece in the paper saying there are so few differences between the two parties that Lib Dem supporters should just vote tactically and keep Labour in Downing Street.



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