The Full Election Story: 12 April

By Victoria King, Justin Parkinson and Jon Kelly

  • Gordon Brown launches Labour's election manifesto, saying the party will be "restless and relentless reformers" if re-elected
  • Lib Dems call Labour tax policy "outrageously unfair" and pledge a radical overhaul of the system
  • David Cameron tells workers in Reading it would be "nuts" to increase National Insurance contributions
  • Scottish National Party launch election campaign, vowing to protect Scotland from public service cuts
0724Conservative frontbencher William Hague has been on the BBC explaining the party's plans should they win the election. He says Britain cannot be dependent in the long term on the public sector and needs a bigger private sector. It's time for the "big society". He also says programmes in government departments will be looked at for "value for money" to "try to get the most out of the resources available".

0710 Remember yesterday's Labour manifesto launch? It involved a young Labour blogger called Ellie Gellard who spoke before Gordon Brown. Since then some off-message blog comments from 2008 have been found, in which she called on the PM to quit after Labour's Glasgow East by-election defeat. She's been clarifying those comments - saying Mr Brown's handling of the banking crisis persuaded her he was the right man for the job after all: "The PM showed real leadership and courage in the autumn of 2008 and he's built on that since then, he's the best man to continue to steer our country out of recession and beyond."

0628 UKIP are launching their manifesto today and their deputy leader David Campbell Bannerman has been on BBC Breakfast. He says the party is not anti-Europe, they just don't want to be part of a "political super state". It wants a trading agreement with the rest of Europe only. "We're not a single issue party," he says - adding they have policies on issues like animal welfare and pubs too. But he says Europe is central to people's lives. The party also wants a flat tax of 31% on incomes over £11,500 and to get rid of National Insurance altogether.

0620 Good morning - it's the Tories' day to launch their manifesto - which appears to have a minimalist dark blue cover bearing the simple message "Invitation to join the government of Britain" - it's quite a contrast with the rather brighter cover of Labour's manifesto launched yesterday. UKIP and Plaid Cymru are also due to launch their manifestos today.

2356The Times says Cameron wants to put the electorate "in the driving seat". The Tories will publish their manifesto on Tuesday.

2330Former Lib Dem MP Mark Oaten tells BBC Newsnight that Gordon Brown appears to be "dismissing people for being working class". The prime minister said earlier on Monday that he wanted to create a Britain with "a bigger middle class than ever before".

2259The Conservatives project an image onto the towers of Battersea Power Station, in south London, which reads "who is the new member of Cameron's Team? Find out here tomorrow". The answer the Tories hope is the electorate, as the party say it wants voters "to join them in government". David Cameron is due to launch the party's manifesto from Battersea in the morning.

2246The Labour-supporting Mirror echoes the words of Gordon Brown, headlining the party's manifesto as "realistic and radical".

2239 The Daily Telegraph says there is a risk of VAT rising under Labour, after the prime minister did not rule out doing so during the next Parliament.

2234Now, a look at some of Tuesday's papers. The Guardian compares the covers of the Labour and Conservative manifestos, saying they give voters a taste of "Soviet chic" and an "austere hymn book". Meanwhile, The Times says Mr Brown has put out a pauper's manifesto, with no big new spending commitments.

2126Conservative chairman Eric Pickles is encouraging party activists to hold "watch parties" - get-togethers for those keen to see the leaders' TV debates in company. Such occasions needn't cost the earth. Mr Pickles writes: "If you aren't able to provide food and drink for all your guests, why not ask them to bring some themselves?" Well, do you know the price of vol-au-vents these days?

2214It is easy to be cynical about election manifestos, given broken promises in the past, but they give at least some indication of what parties stand for, BBC political editor Nick Robinson.
Nick Robinson graphic

2200The Conservatives will launch their manifesto tomorrow, urging voters to join them in "the government of Britain", the BBC has learned. The 130-page document will promise people the right to sack an MP with a new power of recall and save their local pub or post office through a "community right-to-buy programme".

2157The Sun's political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, says the newspaper has been "nice" to Gordon Brown where he deserves it, but it is finding it "tough" to continue doing so.

2144Richard Schiff, former star of the US political drama The West Wing, says the UK enjoys more political debate, in Parliament, than happens in the US Senate, where politicians simply "watch on TV".

2133 DannyT78 tweets from south London: Surprisingly impressive showing from Clegg in the Paxo interview. Came across better than "Call me Dave" did on ITV.
Read DannyT78's tweets
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2129Harriet Harman is asked, on the BBC News Channel, whether Labour's manifesto is "Blair-plus", as Lord Mandelson has said. It "must be" the case if the business secretary argues so, she replies.

2125Labour's election co-ordinator, Douglas Alexander, says it will be "a word-of-mouth" campaign. Some 37,000 PDFs of the party's manifesto have been downloaded in a few hours, he adds.

2120Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman says only "unprecedented" circumstances led the government to raise the rate of income tax for those earning more than £150,000 a year.

2116On the BBC News Channel, Spectator editor Fraser Nelson says the election campaign is turning "presidential", focusing on the party leaders, particularly with the TV debates scheduled for the next three Thursdays.

2110Two opinion polls suggest voters' support for the Conservatives is remaining steady, while giving different pictures for Labour. An ICM survey for the Guardian puts the Tories on 37%, unchanged from a week ago, while Opinium, for the Daily Express, places them on 39% - also unchanged. However, while ICM shows support for Labour falling two points to 31%, Opinium puts them two points up on 31%. ICM shows the Liberal Democrats down one point on 20% while Opinium has them unchanged on 17%.

2101Jeremy Paxman has a frog in his throat as he asks Mr Clegg about a possible hung Parliament. The Lib Dem leader says his party's priorities are key to any discussions. And that ends his interview.

2057The Lib Dems would give extra help to schools in all areas which suffer from high levels of poverty, Nick Clegg says. On hunting with dogs, he would not vote to repeal the ban.

2046The Lib Dem policy of stopping people paying income tax on the first £10,000 of earnings will give them a "serious break", Mr Clegg says.

2040Areas of the UK which could use more immigrants to help their local economies include Inverness and parts of Lincolnshire, Mr Clegg says.

2034Mr Clegg says he wants to be PM, but can't predict what voters will do. Things are changing fast and he won't be unambitious, he adds.

2031Nick Clegg's turn now. The Lib Dem leader is getting Paxman-ed on BBC One. Will he hold up against the ferocity of the Newsnight presenter?
Nick Clegg

2026David Cameron tells ITV that the party leaders' TV debates, which start this week, are making him nervous. Asked if he lies awake at night worrying about them, he replies: "You bet."

2017Samantha Cameron says her colleagues and family are being "very accommodating", allowing her to go on the campaign trail with her husband.

2011The Tory leader says his parents made him know he had "obligations" in life. They had warmth, which was more important than wealth, he adds. ITV is showing pictures of his old school, Eton. Then Etonian contemporary Dominic West, star of The Wire - a show much loved by shadow home secretary Chris Grayling - pays tribute to Mr Cameron.

2006ITV1 begins its profile/interview with the lyrics "I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier". They are from All These That I've Done by The Killers. Eh? Mr Cameron reveals that he's a morning person with a "thick skin".

1958 In an interview with ITV1, Conservative leader David Cameron says he briefly considered giving up politics following the death of his son, Ivan. He also says the six-year-old, who had epilepsy and cerebral palsy, gave him an "enormous emotional connection" to the NHS, which he argues should always be free at the point of use.

1928More on the row about Labour using a hospital for its manifesto launch. Newsnight political editor Michael Crick, who has spoken to its owner, says: I asked Balfour Beatty - did Labour pay them to use their building? From their statement, I assume not. A Balfour Beatty spokeswoman did tell me tonight, however: "We did give the NHS permission for something which the NHS had arranged." A source in the corporate events industry estimates that hiring such a venue in Birmingham could cost about £7,500. So if Labour didn't pay Balfour Beatty, it must have been a gift in kind, in which case Labour will have to declare it to the Electoral Commission. Read Michael Crick's blog

1925Mr Brown won't say whether he could work with Vince Cable as his Chancellor in the event of a coalition. But he says Labour and Lib Dem plans to reform the political system "are not dissimilar".

1915 Dave, UK writes: The problem with manifestos is that the party issuing them has no intention of working to them.
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1913In an interview with Channel 4 News' Jon Snow, Gordon Brown denies that he is ignoring the issue of immigration. He insists that net immigration is falling and that the rules have been tightened. When pressed about his promise of "British jobs for British workers", the prime minister says: "I want British people to be skilled and trained and educated."

1905The Welsh Conservatives have hit back after Hillary Benn's visit to an open air rally in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire urging voters to "Back the Ban" on fox hunting. A spokesman says: "Our view is that Hilary Benn is partly responsible for the decline of rural Wales. He should be focusing on the future of farming and post offices."

1903Newsnight political editor Michael Crick says: The Conservatives' campaign seems amazingly flush with funds. My colleagues tell me that at their press conference this afternoon to rebut Labour's manifesto, their cakes had gold leaf on them. Not real gold leaf, surely? Though I am told the tea was "a bit weak". Read Michael Crick's blog

1853Tory blogger Iain Dale has had an exclusive preview of Ukip's new poster, which expresses its disdain for the three main parties in customarily forthright terms.

1848BBC political correspondent Paul Rowley has been totting up the figures in Gordon Brown's speech at Labour's manifesto launch. It seems Mr Brown used the word "future" no fewer than 17 times. He also used the phrase "New Labour" seven times, with a further five Labours (without the New). There were 22 references to "Britain" and five more uses of "British". He made one reference to "middle class", and said the word "conservative" once.

1836Labour "are still the underdogs", Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper admits. But she says the party has "everything to fight for".

1828Viewers hungry for a late-night politics fix will be pleased to know there's an extra edition of This Week tonight, with Nick Robinson and historian David Starkey joining Andrew Neil, Michael Portillo and Diane Abbott. That's at 2330 BST on BBC One, except for viewers in Wales who can tune in at 0015 BST and those in Northern Ireland who can switch on at 0030 BST.

1815The Lib Dem housing spokeswoman Sarah Teather is dismissive of Labour's pledge to build more homes. She says the promise is a "drop in the ocean".

1752The BBC's Toby Mason says: Hilary Benn has been visiting Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire this evening, where he led an open air rally to "Back the Ban" on fox hunting. The local Conservative candidate, Simon Hart, is a strong advocate of repealing the ban, and Labour have been keen to emphasise this as a clear dividing line between the parties. Despite some concerns about potential public order issues, BBC Wales' Aled Scourfield at the rally said none materialised.

1745 David Guiel, Worthing, writes: Why are the Tories so up in arms about where the Labour manifesto was launched? Surely there are much more important things to discuss.
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1734"People will be dismayed that on the last day of this rotten and corrupt Parliament, these MPs are using taxpayers money to try to get themselves out of these allegations," says Nick Clegg, on the issue of ex-Labour MPs getting legal aid to fight their expenses court case. "If these people had a shred of decency they would not claim any taxpayers money."

1723National debt grew by £14.4m during Gordon Brown's manifesto launch, the Taxpayers' Alliance claims. The campaign group is touring the UK with a giant "debt clock".

1717There were a few new promises on law and order in Labour's manifesto, the BBC's home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw says. They include a trebling of alcohol treatment places, a plan to claw back money for prisons from wealthy offenders, and a move to allow failing police forces to be taken over by a neighbouring force.

1708As he was leaving the Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port, Gordon Brown was repeatedly asked whether ex-Labour MPs who were facing expenses charges should get legal aid. He ignored the questions and got into his car, the BBC's Matthew Sydney reports.

1702"Rather than making people fill out complex forms to get benefits only to tax them through the nose, Liberal Democrats believe people on low and middle incomes should simply be allowed to keep more of their own money." That's the Lib Dem response to criticism by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The IFS said their claims on tax ignored the effect of the benefits system in helping the UK's poorest, but the party said the think tank's analysis only "serves to further highlight the absurd tax and benefits system created by Gordon Brown".

1654"There were a few good ideas in the Labour manifesto - they were taken from us", says shadow education secretary Michael Gove. He also says some of the pledges that "rang out" from Gordon Brown at Labour's conference last year are missing. There is no mention of hostels for teenage mothers and no policies to achieve "British jobs for British workers", he adds.

1644The Lib Dem leader has missed a classic political opportunity - the chance to kiss a baby. Nick Clegg was talking to parents in Northampton, but grandmother Sarah McGuiness expressed mock outrage that he didn't plant the customary kiss on her four-month-old grandson Archie Holmes. "I think it's terrible," she joked. "They always kiss babies."

1635The Lib Dems said earlier that "the tax system is less fair than when Labour came to power" and that the poor lose more of their income in tax now, while the rich lose less. But independent think tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, says that claim is "meaningless at best and misleading at worst" because it fails to take into account the benefits system, which has served to "dampen down what would otherwise have been a large rise in inequality under Labour". The IFS says the poorest 20% receive on average £2,151 a year more in benefits than they pay in taxes. The richest 20% pay £24,000 more in tax than they receive in benefits.

1627Mr Cameron says it's "an outrage" - and the crowd certainly agree, judging by the jeers - that three ex-Labour MPs have been granted legal aid to fight charges over their expenses.

1623"Changing our country together" - that's what the Conservative manifesto is going to be about, Mr Cameron says. "We have all got to recognise our responsibilities" and work together to make things better, he adds.

1619David Cameron says Labour's campaign is based around fear - he claims Gordon Brown is trying to frighten mothers, the elderly and people with cancer by "telling lies" about what the Tories would do.

1616The BBC's Chris Buckler, who is in Loughborough with the Tory leader, says that before David Cameron's arrival, a street cleaner told him he didn't know who was coming, but he'd been told to give everything an extra sweep.

1613David Cameron's battle bus has pulled into Loughborough, with a crowd of well-wishers waiting to greet him. The Conservative leader jumps straight out, jacket off, and bursts into a speech. He says Labour's manifesto "isn't going to change anything".

1610 Mr S Poulter from Basingstoke writes: Did I hear that right? Is the minimum wage to go up in the Labour manifesto? That's two National Insurance increases then. No wonder company owners like me cannot employ anyone, in fact, I am thinking of letting staff go. Which is crazy because I own a very small courier company. And although costs are going up, customers want cheaper rates.
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1602Away from election matters, three ex-Labour MPs - David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine - have been granted legal aid to fund their defence against allegations of theft over their Parliamentary expenses claims.

1555"A flagrant breach of general election guidance" - those are the words of Conservative Francis Maude, who has written to Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell to complain at Labour's use of a hospital building to launch their manifesto. Mr Maude says rules stipulate that election meetings should not be held on NHS premises and is demanding Mr O'Donnell investigate "how this was allowed to happen".

1548Conservative tweeters have pointed out that the blogger used by Labour to launch their manifesto hasn't always been a loyal supporter of Gordon Brown. Ellie Gellard said on a Labour blog back in 2008: "In short, Brown (although I had high hopes and don't burden you with total responsibility) get your coat, time's up."
Twitter graphic

1541"Surprise, surprise, there's a bit of bank bashing" in the Labour manifesto, writes Joseph Cotterill in the Financial Times, claiming there's "a whiff of (Northern) Crock" about some of the plans. But he isn't a fan of the Tory alternative of a domestic banking levy either. "The £1bn from banks will fund a tax break for getting married, apparently. Yes. We don't understand either," he adds.

1535Labour would not rule out the possibility that profit-making companies might run state schools, according to a party official. A key adviser has told the BBC's home editor Mark Easton that when it comes to reform of state education "we are not going to set down artificial limits". Asked if that might mean a profit-making company running a state school, the adviser said that "the onus is on the non-profit sector", but "we would not outlaw such an idea".

1523Whoever forms the next government, they will outline their legislative programme on 25 May. That's the date that's just been announced for the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen's Speech.

1516 One initiative which does seem to have plenty of welly behind it is the Digital Debate launched by Facebook and YouTube. They've invited voters to send in questions - preferably by video. Users can then vote on which questions should be put to Messrs Brown, Cameron and Clegg. Already 500 questions have been submitted, with more than 20,000 people voting on them.
Read Rory Cellan-Jones's blog
Rory Cellan-Jones

1509The UK Independence Party will launch their manifesto tomorrow as well. Leader Lord Pearson is expected to make a speech in London to formally kick off the campaign.

1500 The Daily Mirror is looking ahead to the Tory manifesto launch tomorrow. It wonders whether all of David Cameron's team will be there. "So many of the Conservative frontbench have gone missing that I am beginning to wonder if they are being kept in some sort of safe room," writes the paper's Jason Beattie.

1455So how did Gordon Brown's manifesto go down with the newspapers? The Times says it "took aim at the voters of Middle Britain". "The manifesto has a New Labour tone, but only up to a point," thinks the Guardian, adding that "the rich didn't seem to get a mention". The Independent, meanwhile, says Mr Brown "set out a package which includes few new spending commitments but offers a shake-up of public services to give patients and parents a greater voice".

1441Labour is under fire from a GP who is angry at being contacted by the party. In a statement circulated by the Tories, Dr Jonathan Steel, who was once a government adviser, says: "The Labour Party are targeting GPs by sending unsolicited emails pressurising them to sign a press release in support of a set of vague promises. This is an appalling tactic. The best hope for the NHS is to liberate it from managerial interference and let the clinicians drive the innovative changes it requires - only the Conservative Party promises this."

1433Labour's election co-ordinator Douglas Alexander is claiming that the digital strategy around the party's manifesto launch is a world first, the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones reports. Mr Alexander said the animated cartoon linked to the manifesto was the first ever interactive election film. He also claimed that no party had unveiled its manifesto with a blogger before, as they did today with student Ellie Gellard.
Rory Cellan-Jones

1423Pleasing reading for David Cameron in today's London Evening Standard. "Conservatives set to seize 12 seats in London," the paper reports. It analyses a YouGov poll of Londoners, which it says suggests "Labour would be wiped out in eight seats - Battersea, Ealing Central and Acton, Westminster North, Harrow East, Eltham, Hendon, Brentford and Isleworth, and Hammersmith - in a uniform swing across London".

1412Forward-planning note. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg will be speaking to Jeremy Paxman tonight at 8.30pm on BBC1.

1406Labour's manifesto represents a significant shift away from the party's belief in a market-based economy and a shift towards much more government intervention, the BBC's business editor Robert Peston says. The divide isn't yet as sharp as between the free-market Convervatives of the 1980s and the interventionist Labour of yore; but some would see striking parallels.
Read Robert Peston's blog
Robert Peston

1357Tiewatch: The BBC's Liz Shaw with Labour says: The PM launched the manifesto in a fetching pink tie. He began the day in Rugby wearing a lilac one, but Labour sources tell me he dunked it in his tea between events so a substitute had to be found. By the way, I'm reliably informed he ties it in a "four by one" style. A number of cabinet ministers opted for purple ties this morning.

1352The leader of the cross-community Alliance Party, David Ford, has been elected justice minister in Northern Ireland. He is the first local politician to hold the post since 1972, following the devolution of policing and justice powers at midnight.

1350Conservative leader David Cameron says the Trident nuclear missile system is "our ultimate insurance policy". In an "unsafe and dangerous world", he says, he would never give it up.

1348The BBC's Brian Wheeler in Birmingham says: Ellie, who introduced the film at Labour's manifesto launch, told me it was the first time she had spoken in public. She is a 21-year-old student from Bristol University. The animated film she introduced was from Ridley Scott Associates - the company owned by the director of Alien and other Hollywood classics.

1341Tony Butler, the former chief constable of Gloucestershire, says Labour's plan to allow under-performing police forces to be taken over is a "non-starter". He says that when the amalgamation of forces was discussed two years ago, the "sheer cost" was judged to be prohibitive.

1333 Labour's innovation is to provide the manifesto in a multitude of different formats to suit a wide variety of needs. The most innovative is the film produced by Ridley Scott Associates and Saatchi & Saatchi which is ideal for sharing with friends and family.
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1331The BBC's Toby Mason in Cardiff says: Welsh Assembly Government ministers deny using announcement of £17.5m of tourism funding to try and influence voters in the General Election. Opposition parties call it "blatant electioneering".

1328Asked on BBC Radio 4's The World At One whether Labour's manifesto - with its emphasis on public sector reform - is "Blairite", Business Secretary Lord Mandelson drawls: "I would describe it as Blair-plus."

1322The BBC's Liz Shaw with Labour says: The PM has just left the manifesto launch event - supporters chanted "five more years" as he left.

1321 A debate on the BBC Have Your Say website asks: What would be your manifesto? Frenske responds that they would lower taxes, including duty and fuel taxes, while Gingerchris90 would like "to scrap or at least dramatically scale back Trident". Korat102 wants to see a new line added to every manifesto: "If we are unable to achieve at least 75% of the aims listed above, we will admit to the electorate that we are incompetent and will resign."
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1320Labour sources are suggesting there is no change in the position on Royal Mail and they may still seek private investment in future, the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg reports.
Laura Kuenssberg

1306The BBC's Liz Shaw with Labour says: Celeb-spotting - the high jumper Dalton Grant's here. He tells me he's a long-time Labour supporter and thinks now would be the wrong time to change political direction.

1301The government is determined to show it has not run out of steam, says the BBC's political correspondent Iain Watson. But for all the optimistic tone of the manifesto - whose cover seems to hark back to a gentler, pre-globalisation age - during the campaign expect the rather less upbeat mantra "Don't allow the Conservatives to wreck the recovery" to be repeated.
Iain Watson

1257"It had a distinct lack of ambition and imagination" - that's Conservative Liam Fox's opinion of Gordon Brown's manifesto. On the VAT issue, he told the BBC that "as close as we can rule anything out", he can assure voters that the Tories will not raise the level. Mr Fox did add, however, that "we can never know what's coming around the corner".

1253More headline manifesto points. The minimum wage would go up at least in line with average earnings, all fathers would be guaranteed a month's paternity leave and a million new skilled jobs would be created.

1248To round things up, key points in the manifesto include a commitment not to raise income tax, a pledge that all NHS Trusts will become self-governing Foundation Trusts by 2015, or face being taken over, and a promise to give parents more power to step in where schools are failing. Labour would also introduce right of recall for MPs, create a National Care Service, and bring in new measures to tackle anti-social behaviour, including a guaranteed 24-hour response to complaints.

1240It's notable that the first speaker at Labour's manifesto launch was Ellie Gellard, a Tweeter who goes under the name @bevaniteelllie. She has been a vigorous promoter of the Labour cause on Twitter over recent weeks. She said the party would now be seeking to spread the message of its manifesto through social media and the web.
Read Rory Cellan-Jones's blog
Rory Cellan-Jones

1235Parliamentary dissolution has come earlier than we predicted. We had expected it at 5pm, but the word from Westminster is that the Queen's Proclamation dissolving Parliament was issued at 11.41am. That means MPs are MPs no more and are just ordinary citizens like you and me.

1231Looks to me from the manifesto as if Labour has completely dropped its commitment to privatise Royal Mail in whole or in part, the BBC's business editor Robert Peston says. Royal Mail would stay in the public sector under Labour. The CWU union - big donors to Labour - have won that battle.
Robert Peston

1228"I don't think I can improve on your perfect answer, prime minister," says Home Secretary Alan Johnson. Raising a genuine laugh from the audience, he was called forward to give his thoughts on policing policies, but didn't seem sure he could add much more.

1223"Every Labour manifesto since 1997 has been full of promises they have broken" - that is the Liberal Democrats' response to Mr Brown's words. "They simply can't be trusted to do a single thing they say," the Lib Dems add.

1221"We're having to cut back on things that we would prefer to keep," Mr Brown says, but he doesn't give detail of what those things are. He says he "didn't want to increase the top rate of tax" to 50p in the pound, but says the measure was unavoidable in the face of the financial crisis.

1214"We are prepared to learn from past mistakes," says Mr Brown, as he begins taking questions from journalists. He's asked whether he can categorically rule out a VAT rise - he doesn't do that, but says "our deficit reduction plans add up without having to put up VAT". The same can't be said of the Tories' plans, he adds.

1210"At the heart of this manifesto is the great and common purpose of national renewal," Mr Brown says, wrapping up his launch speech.

1206"There should be no limit to what the best in the public services can do," Mr Brown says in his party's manifesto launch. Then he mentions plans to allow failing schools, hospitals and police forces to be taken over and run by ones that are doing things better.

1202Mr Brown is outlining his hopes and plans for the economy of the future. "A Britain where banks serve the people and not the other way around" and where "everyone has a chance to get on".

1159"We are in the future business," Mr Brown says. He says he wants to answer three key questions in the manifesto - how do we rebuild our economy, how do we protect and reform our public services, and how do you we reform our political system?

1156"We didn't just fix the roof, we built the entire hospital," Mr Brown says. He's referring in part to his surroundings, but also to those Conservative claims that Labour presided over "boom and bust" and "failed to fix the roof when the sun was shining".

1154Gordon Brown is now outlining Labour's election manifesto.

1153"The election will be won by people not posters," young supporter Ellie Gellard adds. Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman then takes to the stage to introduce her boss, the prime minister.

1150Young blogger Ellie Gellard is on stage. She says the way Labour shares its message has to change and so today the party is doing something "completely new". She calls on supporters to share an "animated manifesto film" with their friends online. She says it will allow viewers to "paddle, swim or dive" into Labour's message.

1145And here comes Gordon Brown, walking up to the hospital. Alongside him is his wife Sarah, wearing a purple dress to match her husband's tie, and a host of young folk, presumably some up and coming Labour supporters. Like a rock star, Mr Brown signs a few copies of the manifesto.

1142The BBC's Jane Hill has got her hands on a hard copy of the manifesto. On the front is a bucolic image of a field lit up by the sun. Labour's election slogan, A Future Fair for All, is written across the top.

1136Members of the cabinet are filing in ahead of the manifesto launch. As they do, we've just had a response from Labour on that Tory complaint. The party says the building is still owned by a commercial company, so it is not breaking the rules by hosting the event there.

1131The Conservatives claim Labour are breaking Cabinet Office rules by holding their manifesto launch at a hospital site, the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg reports. No response yet from Labour on the allegation. The hospital in Birmingham is actually not open yet and won't be until later in the year.
Laura Kuenssberg

1124Tiewatch update: Fashion insider Claire Williams says Gordon Brown is continuing his purple tie bonanza on Monday. He's wearing a pale lavender coloured neck-piece today - quite a feminine colour, so perhaps he's looking to woo the female vote with this selection? David Cameron is sticking with blue as his colour of choice this morning - he's sporting a teal-coloured number today - rather unsurprisingly as blue is the party colour, and it also matches his eyes. Bad news for our tie-of-the-week winner last week - at a party press conference Nick Clegg made a fundamental error. Although his bright fuchsia tie is very fashion-forward, he forgot to co-ordinate it with the bright yellow back-drop at the presser. Not a sight for sore eyes so early in the morning! Meanwhile, north of the border, Alex Salmond was sporting a geometrically patterned blue number at the SNP campaign launch - a dated and uninspiring design. Verdict: Could do better!

1117Mr Cameron says he was "accosted in the men's room" of a motorway service station by a man desperate to see Labour's planned 10% rise in cider duty scrapped. He says the Conservatives did secure a victory on that issue, getting the measure dropped last week. The Tory leader does say, however, that he would take steps to crack down on super-strength lagers and ciders whose only purpose seems to be to help people "get off their heads".

1112David Cameron is at Fuller's Brewery in Chiswick, west London, talking again about the importance of reversing Labour's planned National Insurance rise. There's another stellar piece of product placement going on as he speaks in front of a wall of images of London Pride beer. Last week, it was Warbuton's bread. Mr Cameron even says he was given a pint of Pride, but only had a sip because any more might "wipe out" the rest of the day. He goes on to reel off a host of favourite drinks, then decides he'd better stop, adding: "I'm sounding a bit like an alcoholic."

1106Gordon Brown will be the only member of the cabinet on the platform at the launch of the Labour manifesto, the BBC's Brian Wheeler reports. Instead of political colleagues, he'll be joined on stage by a young blogger, Ellie Gellard. Mr Brown will call on people to pass the manifesto around online to try to increase its reach - the last one only sold 8,000 hard copies around the UK in 2005.

1103 The intimate medium was Facebook, not Twitter, and now neither of them is the place to say anything you'd rather the world didn't hear. If politicians want to whisper or bellow obscenities, they'll find it safer to do it in the pub - or in the pseudonymous privacy of the blogosphere. Read Rory Cellan-Jones's blog
Rory Cellan-Jones

1059Alex Salmond has wrapped up his speech now to warm applause, on what is his last day as an MP. The BBC's Lorna Gordon, in Edinburgh, says that going forward he will be concentrating on the Scottish Parliament, but inevitably, as head of the nationalists he will still take a lead role in the Westminster campaign.

1055Renewing the Trident nuclear missile system would be a "total obscenity", Mr Salmond says. It is a "vanity project" that Labour and the Tories are "putting before the education, health and safety of the people of Scotland", he adds. Trident is based at the Faslane base on the River Clyde.

1049"A decade of despair" - that's what Mr Salmond thinks would be in store for Scotland if Labour or the Conservatives got their way. The Tories, in particular, are a threat, he says, referring repeatedly to a "Cameron Cut" specifically aimed at slashing Scotland's budget.

1046Mr Salmond begins by talking about the cuts that the other main parties have committed too, but which he believes could seriously damage Scotland. Employing his election slogan, he says Scotland "needs champions" and outlines the key principles the SNP will stick to - including fielding local candidates with local understanding, and protecting public services from the "real and present danger" of cuts.

1041Up to Edinburgh now for the SNP's campaign launch. Leader Alex Salmond is centre-stage.

1039Spotted. Cabinet members, including Lord Mandelson, Lord Adonis, Ed Miliband and Alistair Darling, all on a train up to Birmingham for the manifesto launch. And just so you know, they were all sitting in second class, reports the BBC's Brian Wheeler.

1034The Conservatives have set up a website - www.stopthescaremongering.com - which they are encouraging voters to visit. They want people to demand an apology for what they call a "sick" Labour leaflet warning that the Tories would damage provision for cancer sufferers. The website allows voters to add their signature to a pre-written letter to Health Secretary Andy Burnham which says it is "completely unacceptable" to scare the public with "false claims".

1018A bit more on Labour's toddler tax credit idea - it would see families with a one or two-year-old getting an extra £4 a week. The BBC's Iain Watson says the plan is part of a host of policies designed to win over the so-called "squeezed middle" - what we might know better as traditional Middle England.
Iain Watson

1013Toddler tax credits and a commitment to increase the minimum wage at least in line with average earnings will both feature in the Labour manifesto, our correspondent Iain Watson reveals. All civil servants will also get more than the minimum wage of £7.60 an hour if Labour win, because the party plans to commit to a so-called "living wage" for them. Labour will say it would also create a "growth fund" to help business and set an annual target for economic growth.
Iain Watson

1005Michele Jones in Keighley, West Yorkshire, writes: When will the three main electoral candidates realise that it is not just young people who don't have jobs? I am a 38-year-old marketing manager and have been out of work for one year. I am sick of hearing about the help for young people in getting a job when I can get no help whatsoever.
Envelope graphic

0959Labour's party political broadcast will get its first formal airing at the manifesto launch in a couple of hours. The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says she expects the event to have a bit more glitz - if not quite glamour - than the party has shown so far. The addition of a couple of celebrity endorsements will certainly up the razzmatazz factor, she adds.
Laura Kuenssberg

0952The Tories may have got Michael Caine, but Labour have got the Doctor. Well, the former Doctor Who that is. Actor David Tennant is backing their campaign and provides the voiceover for their first party political broadcast. The ad also features another actor - Sean Pertwee - staring down "the road to economic recovery" and warning of the dangers of a wrong-turn under the Tories.

0944Parliament will be formally dissolved at 5pm today. From that moment, MPs cease to be MPs and revert to being ordinary citizens. All facilities and services for them at Westminster are closed and they are allowed access to Parliament for just a few more days to clear their offices. Ministers, however, do remain in position at the head of their departments as essential business must carry on.

0937Quick cartoon round-up for you. "Teed off," is the caption in the Times today, the picture is of a red-faced Gordon Brown and David Cameron firing golf balls at each other. The Daily Telegraph's offering shows Gordon Brown thrusting forward a shield with his wife's face on it. The Guardian, meanwhile, has all three party leaders under the heading, "It's ma-a-aa-anifesto time!" Gordon Brown is shown holding a bottle of "Dr Broon's Trusted Balm", David Cameron wields "Posh Dave's Snake Oil", while Nick Clegg hangs on for the ride, shouting "Wheeeee!"

0930As part of Cameron's Reading jaunt he bought some of the Jewson staff teas from a mobile burger van, the BBC's Tony Dolce says.

0921On our leader's tour briefing this morning there is now over two hours of "unscheduled time" - for the reporters anyway, says the BBC's Mike Sergeant. Through a glass door I can see Nick Clegg in animated discussion with his inner circle. He has set aside big chunks of time every day to prepare for the TV debates - a sign of how important they will be for the Lib Dems.
Mike Sergeant

0914Welsh Assembly Government ministers are being accused of an "abuse of position" by announcing £17.5m in tourism grants during the election campaign. The Conservatives and Lib Dems have said they are trying to "influence voters" at a crucial time with "blatant electioneering".

0909Spoke too soon - Mr Brown has now donned a fluorescent jacket after all, although his commitment to his hard hat seems rather half-hearted. It's on one minute then off the next. Wife Sarah is fully kitted up though.

0905Gordon Brown is also surrounded by fluorescent jackets and hard hats on his first visit of the day. He's talking to factory workers in Rugby ahead of his manifesto launch later. No health and safety gear for the PM himself though.

0858"Top bloke", "a genuine man". Those were the verdicts of some Jewson workers after meeting David Cameron on a campaign visit. "I'm not normally a Tory voter," says one, "But sometimes it takes the man to make you change."

0846David Cameron has popped up on his first campaign visit of the day - to a building merchant in the Tory target constituency of Reading West. The boss of the firm - Jewson - has publicly back Mr Cameron over National Insurance.

0842Away from party activity, one of our team has just spotted a giant "UK Debt Clock" truck - featuring an LCD screen ticking up an eye-watering sum - outside the Houses of Parliament. Its accompanying campaigners - from the Taxpayers' Alliance - frolicked nearby in Parliament Square.

0837The Scottish National Party will formally launch their election campaign later today, with a target of 20 Westminster seats - a considerable increase from their current seven. Leader Alex Salmond will argue that only a strong SNP presence at Westminster can protect Scotland from the potentially devastating impact of spending cuts.

0833The Lib Dems have suffered their first candidate casualty of the campaign. David Murray was due to contest the Shropshire seat of Wrekin, but has now withdrawn. The party confirmed that a police investigation was under way, but said they were not allowed to give any more details.

0829"It would be like a cricket captain complaining about having the best batsman." That was Mr Clegg's response when asked whether he was concerned that Mr Cable could arguably be said to be more popular and better known than him.
Nick Clegg

0825"A vote for the Lib Dems isn't a vote for any other party," Mr Clegg has insisted. He was asked whether, in the event of a hung Parliament, he would support the party with the biggest share of the vote or the one with the greatest number of seats. He refused to answer the question, returning again to his position that he is "not the kingmaker" in this election, the voters are.

0820The BBC's Andrew Neil accused Mr Clegg of using "exaggeration and hyperbole" to scare voters when he suggested there could be social unrest under a Tory government. The Lib Dem leader denied this, but argued that "any politician would have to tread carefully" if they won "without a proper mandate" - if they "squeaked home" with a tiny majority - and hadn't been honest in advance about the tough measures to come. He says ordinary people wouldn't "just shrug their shoulders" in that situation and would be "quite angry".

0746Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable now takes centre stage. The BBC's chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg says that his policies would inevitably hit some people who aren't particularly wealthy - flying would probably become more expensive, for example. She asks Mr Cable to put a figure on how many people would lose out under their proposals. He says it's not possible to come up with a number - although about four million people would benefit under the Lib Dems. He says the mansion tax specifically - the new tax on homes worth more than £2million - would hit 80,000 people.
Laura Kuenssberg

0741Mr Clegg also turns his ire on Labour. "It's incredibly hard to believe anything in a Labour manifesto when they have so manifestly failed to deliver anything in any of their previous manifestos," he says. "If they haven't managed to do it in 13 years, why on earth would anyone believe them this time?"

0736Mr Clegg says his tax policy will be fair, encourage work and give a boost to the economy by putting money back in people's pockets that they can then spend. He attacks the Tory manifesto motto - "we're all in this together" - saying that exactly the opposite is true - with the Tories, "it's one rule for the rich and another for everyone else".

0733Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg says his party are the only ones offering a fair tax break which puts money back into the pocket of ordinary tax payers, as the first early morning press conference gets under way.

0728 Not long to go now until the first of the traditional early morning election press conferences. The Lib Dems are kicking things off any minute now.

0717 Cabinet minister Ed Miliband has been on the BBC - he's in charge of Labour's manifesto - he says it will include "very very clear promises" on public services and if the party's guarantees are not met, people will get the money to go private instead.

0701 BBC political correspondent Norman Smith says Labour's manifesto is relatively "frugal" and will focus on driving up standards in public services - including plans which could see entire police forces merged with more successful ones. Also more immigrants working in the public sector would have to pass English language tests.

0615 Hello at this early hour and welcome back to our live text coverage. The Lib Dems will start events off early with a press conference at half past seven. Labour are launching their manifesto in a bid to convince voters they've got what it takes for a fourth term in government - the Conservatives say they've run out of ideas.



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