The Full Election Story: 10 April


By Sarah Bell, Andy McFarlane and Jon Kelly

  • The Conservatives outline plans to give four million married couples tax breaks
  • Labour proposes a "Cadbury's Law" to restrict the takeover of British firms on public interest grounds
  • The Lib Dems unveil plans to help families, including more flexible working and grants to renovate empty homes
  • Janis Sharp, mother of computer hacker Gary McKinnon, challenges Justice Minister Jack Straw for his Blackburn seat

0004And so concludes our election live text for the night. Looking ahead, Sunday's papers include a plethora of opinion polls. Join us from 0730 for the day's coverage.

2334Sarah Brown, the wife of the prime minister, says the election campaign so far has not been "about big P politics, as in people shouting at each other in the House of Commons. It's about the policies that make life better or worse", she writes in her diary for the Sunday Mirror.

2243Conservative leader David Cameron tells the Sunday Telegraph that he will govern on behalf of "everyone in Britain". A poll in the newspaper has the Tories' lead rising to eight points, with the party on 38%, Labour on 30% and the Lib Dems on 21%.
David Cameron

2229The Labour manifesto, which is due to be launched next week, will include "no big new spending commitments", according to party sources - but it will have a promise to double paternity leave from two to four weeks, says BBC political correspondent Gary O'Donoghue.
Gary O'Donoghue

2152In a message to Labour members, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson says that now is "not a time for a business-as-usual manifesto" ahead of the launch of the party's programme on Monday. He predicts that tax and spending will be the "slow burning fuse under the Tory campaign" as it was in 2001 and 2005.

2135 Hasan Afzal from Birmingham tweets: http://twitpic.com/1enexq - Me campaigning in #DudleyN. Turning a Labour voter to Conservative in 12 minutes!
Read Hasan Afzal's tweets
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2126 Graham writes: Yes I support the Conservatives on this issue, and I am amazed at the opposition and backlash to the proposal. In the past generation we have seen an unprecedented decline in the popularity of marriage, alongside a steady increase in family breakdown and disfunctional families.
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2119 Icebloo writes: Same old Tories. They haven't changed at all no matter how much they claim. Getting married for financial advantage is absolutely the wrong reason to get married - this kind of thinking belongs in the 1800s with the rest of Tory party policies.
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2113 Anon_Mind writes: So if I don't declare my love for my partner to 'God' at the expense of thousands of pounds I won't be eligible for a tax break that will buy me a box of cereal per week. Hardly an incentive, doesn't take into account that there are couples out there who would rather spend their money on things other than a wedding and is an insult to every voters intelligence.
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2105Labour MP Gordon Banks has written to Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond to complain after Gordon Brown was heckled by the SNP's Keith Brown, the Scottish schools minister, during a visit to Ochil, Perthshire.

1950The polls are now coming thick and fast - a ComRes poll in the Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror has the Tories up two to 39%, Labour also up two to 32%, the Lib Dems down four to 16% and the others unchanged on 13%. No fewer than 63% of those interviewed agreed that neither Labour nor the Conservatives were being honest about public spending, with 27% disagreeing. The polling firm spoke to 1,001 adults on 9 and 10 April.

1938Shadow chancellor George Osborne has been blogging his thoughts about the first few days of the Tories' campaign, saying his party have "had a strong start" and warning ruefully that "Labour and the Lib Dems have nothing positive to say on the economy". Read The Blue Blog
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1928Meanwhile, the Sunday Times has the Conservatives up one point to 40%, Labour up three to 32% and the Lib Dems down two to 18% since last week. A total of 1,431 voters were asked their opinion by YouGov on 9 and 10 April.

1921A News of the World poll of key marginals has Labour on 37%, the Tories on 36% and the Lib Dems on 19% in 96 Labour-held seats where the Conservatives need a swing of between 4% and 10% to win. The ICM survey of 1,001 adults, conducted on 7 and 8 April, shows Labour unchanged, the Tories down four points and the Lib Dems up five since the exercise was last conducted in January.

1828Last week Labour released a poster with David Cameron's head superimposed onto the body of Ashes to Ashes' Gene Hunt. Now, rather cheekily, the Scottish National Party have produced their own version with Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond posing on the bonnet of Hunt's famous motor, telling Scots voters that the only way to "fire up the Quattro" is by voting SNP for "fair fuel prices".

1814The BBC's Claire Gibson says: The Labour leader's flight back from Scotland to Stansted was delayed for half an hour on the tarmac at Edinburgh after the plane's computer system needed to be re-booted. On the tannoy during the flight, the pilot said: "This is probably the most high-profile flight I have ever done and right now I'm really embarrassed by the delay, but safety must come first." However, Gordon Brown appeared to win over this one voter by sitting patiently in his seat as the pilot added: "Good luck on 6 May!"

1800 Neil Drewitt tweets: Where I live I have the power of 0.044 votes. See your result at http://voterpower.org.uk
Read Neil Drewitt's tweets
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1757In an interview with the Pink News, David Cameron announces a Conservative government would change the law so historic convictions for consensual gay sex would not need to be disclosed when applying for jobs or on criminal record checks. Read the interview here.

1735The Lib Dem "town hall debate" in Gateshead has wrapped up after some strong questioning from the audience.

1729The BBC's Raymond Buchanan, just back from reporting on Gordon Brown's walkabout, says the PM chanced upon the wrong man during his visit to Dollar, in the Ochil and south Perthshire constituency. He visited the street where the SNP's Scottish schools minister Keith Brown lives. The former Royal Marine shouted: "Are you going to apologise for Iraq, Gordon?"

1702Back at the Lib Dem event, the BBC's Fiona Trott says: "Some people tell us they've been asked to come here by the event organisers. Nick Clegg's people say they have used an outside company to get the numbers up but nobody has been vetted and the audience does include non-Lib Dem voters."

1658Plaid Cymru's Elfyn Llwyd says of the protests about public sector cuts in Glasgow and London: "The London parties cannot ignore the voice of a whole range of workers in the public sector. The savage cuts proposed by all three risk sending us into another recession and [damaging] Wales - which has an economy especially dependent on the public sector - even further."

1650Nick Clegg has just been put on the spot as to whether he is a "true democrat" and wants to replace the monarchy. He replies that fixing the problems of Parliament is his "top priority", rather than "laying into the Royal Family".

1640Update on TIEWATCH: After adopting a casual open-necked approach while dabbling in the art of dry-stone walling earlier, Nick Clegg's collar is firmly secured by a bright Lib Dem yellow tie for his appearance in Gateshead.

1639Summing up the demo against public sector cuts in central London, the BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell says: "The blue sky and the brass band brought a holiday feel to Trafalgar Square but gradually the tourists found themselves sharing the steps and the benches with people fearful of job losses."

1634Back in north-eastern England, it's Mr Clegg's turn to be interrupted with some Paxman-esque questioning about immigration from the floor. Who says these politicians have an easy life?

1631While Mr Clegg's meeting in Gateshead seems very civilised, Labour's John Prescott is bellowing into a microphone in Openshaw, Manchester, where he is being taken to task over pensions by an equally vociferous 82-year-old lady.

1628It's questions from the floor in Gateshead and Mr Clegg is asked about joining a coalition. He says politicians from all parties will have to work together, regardless of the election's outcome, because of the tough economic decisions required.

1622Mr Clegg derides his rivals for baulking at finalising a deal to reform party funding and blocking other reforms through a "cosy stitch-up".

1619"Wrong, wrong, wrong" is how Mr Clegg describes bright eight year olds from poor families being overtaken in class by less intelligent youngsters from wealthier families. He promises big changes in education.
Nick Clegg

1616The BBC's Claire Gibson, on board Gordon Brown's flight back to London, says they've removed copies of the in-flight magazine, the Spectator, backing David Cameron to be the next PM.

1614Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has taken to the floor at his debate in Gateshead. "The 'Newcastle' banner was removed before the public spotted the mistake," reports the BBC's Fiona Trott.

1610So, we're nearly ready for the off in the Grand National at Aintree but poor jockey Ruby Walsh won't be riding the favourite after breaking his arm. Fingers crossed the party leaders make it safely to the first hurdle of the election campaign with Thursday's TV debate.

1555Ed Balls has been tweeting that he is at the Morley Redhead Festival handing out prizes. Was he inspired by that young fellow with the incredible ginger "afro" hairdo who was sitting next to Michael Caine at the Tory event the other day? Read Ed Balls's tweets

1513Sean Morton tweets: For the first time in the election everyone at work is talking about it. And they're all ripping the Tory married tax plan.
Read Sean Morton's tweets
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1501Another update from the BBC's Fiona Trott: "The Lib Dems are busy putting out chairs for Nick Clegg's 'town hall debate'. The banners say 'Newcastle' - we're actually in Gateshead. Bad news for the leader, who's about to say that Labour has let down the North."

1449In Gateshead, the BBC's Fiona Trott has learned that the theme of Nick Clegg's speech this afternoon will be that Labour "has betrayed people in the north of England".

1447Senior Labour sources on the campaign trail in Kirkcaldy tell the BBC's Claire Gibson that Gordon Brown is not a betting man. So much for our hunch about the prime minister's Grand National pick then.

1426Comment from Gordon Brown talking to the BBC's Iain Watson: "It is about substance at the end. The British people are very discerning and at the end of the day will look at who's giving them the answers to the big questions they are asking. It's not personal, it's about substance."

1420Spectator editor Fraser Nelson tweets his top 10 reasons for voting for Cameron. At No 1? School reform. Here's his list

1414A less-than-favourable view of Gordon Brown from across the Atlantic. The New York Times describes him as "a man who can seem dour, distracted and dysfunctional". That is why, it says, Sarah Brown is trailing around the country with him, to function as his "designated humaniser".

1407Public sector workers have taken part in a protest against potential public sector cuts after the general election. Pensioners, trade unionists, students and other campaigners marched to Trafalgar Square in central London.

1400From the BBC's Chris Buckler - David Cameron the Cheam hairdresser's opinion after meeting David Cameron the politician during today's walkabout: "Pretty cool but the hair needs to be a bit funkier".

1345More leaders' Grand National tips: We reckon Gordon Brown is taking a punt on Beat the Boys, while hoping his experience in office helps him to pip his younger rivals to the job of leading the next government.

1340BBC News website UK editor Pat Heery tweets: "Just seen Susan Kramer brushing her hair before canvassing in Elm Road, New Malden." Read Pat Heery's tweets
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1329It's gone a bit quiet on the campaigning front. The leaders are no doubt tucking in to a splendid lunch. Meanwhile, your dedicated live text team is being fuelled by the hearty contents of an old-fashioned pack-up.

1316Efforts go on to coax people into the polling booths on 6 May, with the Muslim Council of Britain asking mosques to tell congregations at Friday prayers it is "imperative" to make their vote count.

1306Foreign Secretary David Miliband says he is "deeply upset" by the death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and several senior figures in a plane crash. "Britain and Poland have stood together many times in the past and we stand together in solidarity and sorrow today," he says.

1256More speculation about the leaders' Grand National bets: David Cameron will no doubt be backing The Package to secure victory - and hoping his Conservatives have the right bundle of tax measures to do the same.

1249Sam from Darwen, UK, writes: While dear leader Brown is busy explaining how the tax break for married couples will make families with kids worse off, he could explain how abolishing the 10p tax band made millions of people worse off.
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1245The chief executive of the Childcare Trust charity joins the debate over tax breaks for married couples, saying families with children face more expense than married couples without. "We would be very concerned if tax breaks for married couples were introduced at the same time as tax credits were reduced," Alison Garnham says.

1237DouglasGE2010 tweets: Andrew Adonis pledges an enforceable right to the cheapest rail fare....A Future Fare for All!
Read DouglasGE2010's tweets
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1214John Prescott's Ford Transit battle-bus, the Prescott Express, has arrived in Aintree, where he is checking out the fillies and campaigning to keep the Grand National on terrestrial television.

1205Gordon Brown says the Tories' marriage tax break proposals will leave families with children worse off. "What this is about is giving a little with one hand and taking away a lot with another," he says. The Tories are planning to cut child tax credits for middle-class families, Sure Start children's centres and Child Trust Funds, he adds.

1152The Unite union responds to Labour's proposed "Cadbury Law" saying there's a need to introduce a new law to safeguard industries in the national interest. But the union said it does not want to prevent foreign takeovers. Rather it is "keen to prevent short term investors such as hedge funds making a quick buck from a takeover".

1140David Cameron is now set to do some canvassing in Cheam High Street. Perhaps he will pop into one appropriately-named shop - a hairdressers called "David Cameron".

1137torybear tweets: Twitter Exclusive: Stuart MacLennan has picked his horse for the Grand National. Backing "Character Building"
Read torybear's tweets
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1135The Lib Dems have been proposing a public interest test when it comes to takeovers of UK firms for some time, treasury spokesman Vince Cable says, commenting on Labour's proposed "Cadbury Law". Firms need protecting from takeovers forced by hedge funds, which are not in the long-term interest of the economy, he adds.

1120Gordon Brown says the whole world will be "saddened and in sorrow" at the death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski in a plane crash in Russia.

1117A first TIEWATCH update for the day and it's a shocker. There are controversial choices from both Nick Clegg and David Cameron who are tieless and wearing open-necked shirts. Well, I suppose it is the weekend.

1113The mother of computer hacker Gary McKinnon confirms to BBC London that she intends to stand as an independent candidate in Jack Straw's Blackburn constituency. Janis Sharp blames him for pushing through the extradition treaty with the US, under which her son could be sent to face trial.

1110Tory leader David Cameron expresses his sadness at the death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski in a plane crash in Russia, saying it's a "very black day for Poland".

1105The talk of the town in Kirkcaldy is Raith Rovers Football Club's Scottish Cup semi-final clash tomorrow. The prime minister is a supporter and shareholder in the team and will be keeping tabs on the game from London. "I will be shouting," he tells one constituent. "You will hear my screams".

1101One woman approaches Gordon Brown on his walkabout and tells him "get in there and nail them". Her pep talk continues with, "and smile a bit more!" - from BBC staff in Kirkcaldy.

1056SNP leader Alex Salmond has hit out at the "London parties" for failing to tackle the problem of rising fuel prices. He says the "rocketing prices" are "disastrous" for rural communities in Scotland.

1045Plaid Cymru weighs into the debate on the Tories' plans for marriage tax breaks, with the party's director of elections, Helen Mary Jones, saying support must be given to the most vulnerable children in society "regardless of their parents' marital status".

1039During his visit to the matenity unit at Kingston Hospital, David Cameron is asking nurses what causes pregnancy cravings, saying "suddenly it's tomatoes, then it's pizza". But he adds Samantha has not been asking for pickled onions yet.

1034So, which horses will the party leaders be backing in Aintree's Grand National later? Will Nick Clegg, perhaps anticipating a key role in a coalition government, fancy a flutter on Dream Alliance?

1032Richmond Park's MP is Susan Kramer, who has a majority of 3,701. To see where the fights will be closest in this election, have a look at our guide to the key battlegrounds.

1017Meanwhile, David Cameron has arrived for a visit at Kingston Hospital in Surrey. It serves residents of the leafy constituencies of Lib Dem-held Richmond Park, and Kingston and Surbiton, both key target seats for the Tories.

1014Gordon Brown is receiving a very warm welcome from locals on the high street in Kirkcaldy. He and Sarah are being greeted with handshakes, smiles and even the odd thumbs-up.

1010Labour might have bad news for bookies at today's Grand National - the Guardian is reporting the party is to announce a manifesto pledge to make overseas bookmakers pay a horse race betting levy.

0955The Cleggs are admiring some work on dry-stone walls. However, Mrs Clegg's mind was on matters other than politics as they arrived - being Spanish she said she was looking forward to tonight's big football match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

0951Nick Clegg's wife Miriam is his secret weapon - according to the Times - because she's carrying on with her job as a lawyer. She's downing tools and hitting the campaign trail with him today, however, in sunny Sheffield.

0934Gordon Brown is staying on home turf today, with some canvassing in his Scottish constituency. He'll be knocking on doors in Kirkcaldy, Fife, before heading to Cowdenbeath to take part in a pensioners' forum.

0929Henry Clarke Price from Oxford writes: Oxford University's Student Union has just emailed all students to tell them to vote in Oxford rather than their home constituencies: "The student vote will be VERY significant in both Oxford constituencies and as a voter in Oxford you will be able to influence the election more than in many other places", SU president Stefan Baskerville wrote in his email. In Oxford East in 2005, there was just 0.7% difference between Lib Dems and Labour.
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0923Shadow universities and skills secretary David Willetts denies the Tories are making "moral judgments" with their tax plans in an interview for BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

0918Sarah Brown's favourite sight on the campaign so far? "The sign outside a pub in Kent that said 'Midweek Roast £4.95. OAP £5.99'." In her diary for the Daily Mirror she adds: "Mirror readers might prefer the brilliant slogan painted on the walls of Innocent Smoothies in London: 'Tough times don't last, but tough people do.' Gordon's eyes lit up when he saw it - that's his sort of motto."

0913Liam Byrne wraps up Labour's press conference by telling reporters they will have to wait for full details of the party's plans to restrict the takeover of British firms. However, you can read what the BBC has learned about this Cadbury's law here.

0908Lib Dem treasury spokesman Vince Cable tells BBC Radio 4's Today programme the proposed tax break is equivalent to the price of a pint of beer each week.

0902Clare Short tells BBC Radio 4's Today programme Parliament is in a "very bad shape" and a hung Parliament would be "good for us". The former international development secretary is stepping down as an MP after the election.

0859Whoops! The Tweet attributed to melcastle was actually from AhmNoHere. Apologies. Read AhmNoHere's tweets
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0856Labour's daily press conference has started, featuring Liam Byrne, Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper with a focus on tearing the Tory marriage tax breaks apart. Mrs Cooper says Labour will support all children, "not tell some they are second class".

0848Talking about marriage, David Cameron tells the Daily Mail his wife is "not flashy". He says: "Sometimes I'll get back from meeting President Sarkozy, or someone, and Sam will say 'Yeah yeah, that's all very well, but it's your turn to cook dinner and put the kids to bed'.''

0845But Schools Secretary Ed Balls says the money would not go to those who really need it. He says the Tories are saying "if you don't fit a certain type of family - a one earner family - then you're second class".

0840Quick recap on today's big story - the Tories are proposing to give about four million couples on low or middle incomes a tax break of up to £150. This would cost £550m and be funded by a new levy on banks.

0830melcastle69 tweets: Anyone want to get married? I want to devalue marriage by cynically taking advantage of the Tory marriage tax break. Read melcastle69's tweets
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0827Good morning, and welcome to our coverage of day five of the general election campaign. It looks like people will have plenty to say about the Tories' plans to give four million married couples tax breaks.

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



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