The Full Election Story: 23 April

By Kevin Young, Will Smale and Andy McFarlane

  • The Conservatives and Labour row over accusations of "fears and smears" in election leaflets
  • The main parties argue over disappointing UK economic growth figures
  • BNP launches its manifesto


2355While Saturday's newspaper polls make for happy reading for the Conservatives, the Financial Times offers some good news for the Lib Dems, saying they are attracting the votes of "abashed bankers". Meanwhile, the Times suggests Gordon Brown is bidding to revamp Labour's campaign by adopting a more high-profile role and taking the fight to his opponents. So, while Nick Clegg stays at home with the kids and Samantha Cameron digs out her best hat to accompany husband David to his sister's wedding, the furious campaigning continues. We'll be bringing you all the election developments on Saturday, starting with the BBC's breakfast interviews.

2311At least one paper is taking a break from all this election malarkey. Perhaps fed up with using mugshots of the three main party leaders on its front page, the Independent's editors opt for an impressive image it describes as "the universe: as imagined by Galileo, as seen by Hubble". It's still managed to achieve some political balance, though. The photograph of star-birth region Carina Nebula - taken by the giant space telescope - features shades of red, yellow and blue.

2252A second poll suggests the Conservatives have a five-point lead over the Lib Dems. The Harris poll for the Daily Mail puts the Tories up three points since Monday on 34%, compared with 29% for the Lib Dems - down one - while Labour remain third on 26%.

2241The row over claims in campaign leaflets continues on the front page of the Sun, which says Gordon Brown has given the "green light to election Labour lies". The PM said during Thursday's TV debate that he had never authorised material implying the Tories would scrap benefits for the elderly.

2225The Daily Telegraph leads with the headline: "Tories plan for a coalition." It reports shadow business secretary Kenneth Clarke as saying the starting point for a Conservative minority government dealing with other parties would be to tell them "you have got to control the deficit and debt" and refuse to compromise.

2213The Guardian reports that at one point Mr Miliband said: "Look, you've punished us enough about Iraq." Whether the anti-war protesters are ready to bury the hatchet may be another matter altogether.

2207A peek at tomorrow's front pages shows it's Labour's turn to take aim at the Lib Dems, with the foreign secretary accusing Nick Clegg of peddling a form of "anti-politics". David Miliband tells the Guardian that Clegg's core argument "that we have had 65 years of failure in this country" is a myth and claims a Labour vote is the "only way to keep progressive politics governing this country".

2152Labour and the Tories are rowing about negative campaign material again. Nick Herbert has produced a handful of Labour leaflets and is challenging Tessa Jowell over her party's claims about cuts they say the Conservatives will make. Vince Cable says the argument is "pathetic" - but can't resist a dig about the negative coverage of his party leader Nick Clegg in the press.

2144Shadow environment minister Nick Herbert says David Cameron "looked like a prime minister" during the second TV debate, adding that the Tories have won the argument on reversing the planned National Insurance rise.

2141Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell tells the BBC's Campaign Show that people "engage" with Gordon Brown's admission that he's not the best communicator but that he is all about substance. She says she was struck by the number of people who told her on the campaign trail today that he did well in last night's debate.

2130Mr Cable comes under pressure about why his party has not paid back a £2m donation from convicted fraudster Michael Brown, who is currently on the run from the police. He says the money was accepted in "good faith", that the Electoral Commission ruled they did not need to pay it back, that many political donors are of "highly questionable" character and that the Lib Dems want to clean up politics.

2123Asked if he's tired of campaigning or still "brimming with vim and vigour", Lib Dem treasury spokesman Vince Cable tells the BBC's Jon Sopel he's "somewhere between the two". Mind you, he might not be feeling so sprightly after the grilling he's getting from the show's guests about how his party will achieve its aim of recouping billions of pounds from tax dodgers.

2120The Lib Dem's poll bounce is holding up, suggests a YouGov poll for the Sun - the first taken since the second prime ministerial debate. The survey of 1,381 adults, carried out on Friday, has the Conservatives remaining on 34% of the vote, Labour still on 29% and the Lib Dems up 1% on 29%.

2113The length of the prime ministerial debates provokes discussion on the BBC's Campaign Show. Kevin O'Sullivan, of the Sunday Mirror, says: "Ninety minutes is too long. It's not Apocalypse Now. An hour is long enough." However, Anne McElvoy from London's Evening Standard, says Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg tired after an hour and "fluffed an answer" on climate change and so it gave the audience an idea of how the party leaders could cope under pressure.

2058The prospect of a hung parliament has been occupying the guests on Radio 4's Any Questions. Caroline Spelman, the shadow communities secretary, tells the audience a coalition would signal "uncertainty" to the wider world. "It's not a stable solution. The impact of that will be to further weaken the pound," she says. Meanwhile, Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell says his party would back whoever has the policies which are "best designed to help us get out of this most extraordinary and extremely difficult economic situation".

2033"How do you save £1,000m - that's a billion pounds - from a budget of £74m? That's the question raised by one of Gordon Brown's answers at his news conference this morning. The short answer is - you can't." Read Nick Robinson's blog
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2025Former Liberal leader Lord Steel tells David Frost on the Al-Jazeera news channel that a hung parliament - or, as he put it, balanced parliament - "would be a great challenge for all the party leaders - they're going to have to live with a new regime". However, he says it works in well Scotland and could do for the UK as a whole.

1950The Green Party's Darren Johnson says last night's TV debate proves the three main parties haven't got the "bold, ambitious plans" needed to tackle climate change, which he says is "the real threat" facing the world at present. The Greens in England and Wales would create a million jobs and a more eco-friendly society. He adds that "87% of the population would actually be better off under our manifesto pledges".

1946"No responsible party who aspires to government can rule out tax rises in the current environment," says Sir Malcolm Rifkind, when asked whether the Tories might raise VAT - something leader David Cameron fails to rule out in his interview with Jeremy Paxman. The ex-foreign secretary says Nick Clegg's party have been out of power since 1922 because "virtually none of the public wanted to vote for them in the past 100 years".

1937 wisegrey0wl tweets: Just vote. People have died for the right for us to vote. Imagine someone at the time of Henry VIII! He would be astounded that we can remove those in power with an X on a piece of paper.
Read wisegrey0wl's tweets
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1932 Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg tweets: Thanks for all your online support, taking Saturday off from campaigning to be with the kids who are finally back home.
Read Nick Clegg's tweets
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1920We've published a story containing a few more quotes from David Cameron's interview with Jeremy Paxman for you - and don't forget the interview is on BBC One at 2030.

1858The Straight Choice, a website in which people can upload election leaflets, tweets: Leaflets are *so* the new expenses.
Read The Straight Choice's tweets
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1850Want to know what happened when BNP leader Nick Griffin met St George this afternoon? Read what the BBC's Brian Wheeler has to say about the party's manifesto launch in Stoke-on-Trent.

1825The Lib Dems are criticised for dressing up a party employee as a nurse on an election leaflet to highlight their commitment to the NHS, the BBC's Toby Mason says. It promotes their candidate in Cardiff North, John Dixon, and shows him talking to a nurse - who is in fact a researcher. The Conservative AM for Cardiff North, Jonathan Morgan says it's "appalling" and an attempt to mislead the public. It's "designed to be illustrative", the Lib Dems say.

1815A little more from the David Cameron interview... Asked twice if he'd have Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg in his cabinet under a hung parliament, the Tory leader says: "I'm hoping to form a cabinet based on my shadow cabinet... I think we've got a very good team." He says he doesn't agree with Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable. "He thinks we shouldn't get on with cutting waste this year... I don't see him as some economic soothsayer, honestly - his numbers and his policies are beginning to unravel."

1808David Cameron says the Tories "can't avoid all Labour's tax rises" if they come to power. Can he can guarantee that VAT won't go up if he is prime minister? "We have absolutely no plans to raise VAT," he tells Jeremy Paxman. "We're about trying to get spending under control, rather than putting up taxes."

1800Tonight on BBC One, the BBC's Jeremy Paxman interviews Tory leader David Cameron. We'll be revealing a few snippets here, before the programme is broadcast at 2030. Mr Cameron is asked whether he and shadow chancellor George Osborne are merely "two young men who have a glint in their eye", rather than lots of experience. "I didn't come into politics to make the kind of reductions we're going to have to do," Mr Cameron replies, saying the economy is in "a complete mess".

1758Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has been reunited with his three sons, who were stranded in Spain because of the trouble with the planes. He's taking Saturday off to be with his family.

1752Patrizia writes: "Thought David Cameron was brilliant, exposing the leaflets put out by Labour full of lies about the Tories. Brown looked stupid with his hair flattened by hair lacquer, he is just desperate. Clegg did well again but a few of his policies are unworkable but then again nothing can be worse than the last 13 years!!"
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1732A Financial Times blogger has attacked some of the planned efficiency savings Gordon Brown highlighted earlier today. Chris Giles said his "jaw fell to the floor" when the prime minister said he wanted to cut £1bn from the administration of child benefit. Mr Giles says it only costs £74m a year to administer in the first place.

1720Top Shop boss Sir Philip Green has repeated his opinion that millionaire pensioners should not get winter fuel payments. He instead said it should be "easy" to work out who exactly needed the help. Earlier on Friday his comments had caused a little bit of embarrassment to a visiting David Cameron, as the Tories oppose means testing the benefit. Sir Philip stressed he was not party political. Mr Cameron joked that it was "not for the want of trying" to get Sir Philip to come out for the Tories.

1705 PompeyOops writes: I felt it was a three way split last night. This is the problem for David Cameron, he needed to seal the deal but has failed to do this on two occasions now. Maybe he is the Conservative Kinnock?
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1650 The team behind the BBC comedy sketch Leaders' Wives tells the Comedy Blog that it has been approached about the possibility of making a party election broadcast for the Conservatives. On Twitter, comedian Charlie Brooker says that he has received a similar call. Read the BBC Comedy Blog and Read Charlie Brooker's tweets

1647Nick Clegg has had the backing of Spanish newspaper El Mundo, which says he is "here to stay". In an article on its website, the paper says the Lib Dem leader "gave another solid performance" in the second prime ministerial TV debate. Spain's media is taking a close interest in Mr Clegg, perhaps because his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez is Spanish. Or maybe they just like his pro-European policies.

1638UKIP leader Lord Pearson didn't think much of last night's prime ministerial TV debate. "It was really terrible," he told the BBC News Channel. "There were no arguments put in favour of leaving the European Union, and millions of people want that now."

1633Gordon Brown confirms that the English flag is flying over 10 Downing Street today instead of the Union Jack. "That is absolutely right, to recognise the importance of St George's Day, what it means to the history of England, what it means for the values that England represents, and what it means for what England has done for the history of the world," he says.

1627Singer Billy Bragg has confronted a senior member of the BNP who was dressed as St George. Lib Dem supporting Mr Bragg bumped into the BNP's London Assembly member Richard Barnbrooke while leafleting in Barking and Dagenham, east London. "I asked him if he knew St George came from the Lebanon," said Mr Bragg. "He didn't like that and just rode off on a horse. It was quite bizarre."

1621Labour's Liam Byrne says the 0.2% growth in the economy between January and March was led by manufacturing, reports the BBC's Katie Townsend. He says it wasn't higher, because of the bad weather and poor retail sales. He also emphasised the Labour position that under Tory plans there would have been 1.7 million more job losses, though how this was calculated has caused some confusion.

1613David Miliband out campaigning tweets: Now in Blaydon meeting Cllr Allison Chatto - defector in Feb from Lib Dem to Lab "because they are rubbish". Read David Miliband's tweets
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1602Confuciousfred writes: If Gordon cannot take responsibility for some dodgy leaflets and apologise, just like he cannot take responsibility for the way he guided this country into recession, how can we leave him with the responsibility of running our country for another five years?
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1553From Carole Walker: Sir Philip Green came close to endorsing David Cameron's economic plans, saying any businessman taking over a failing company on 6 May would have to make savings. But there was some embarrassment when he suggested that millionaires should not receive winter fuel payments. Mr Cameron said he did not accept that winter fuel payments should be means tested. He said they should go to all pensioners.
Carole Walker

1550The Lib Dems' reticence to say whether they would prefer to back Labour or the Tories in the event of a hung Parliament even extends to the party's youth wing. Adam Gillett, chair of Liberal Youth, told the BBC News Channel the party would just like its own policies to come first.

1541Gordon Brown is attending a St George's Day garden party in Bedworth, near Coventry. The event has been organised by the local Labour Party, says the BBC's James Cook, who adds that some journalists are complaining that the prime minister should be spending more time meeting members of the public rather than party supporters. Yet he adds that all the party leaders are doing this.

1530Nick Clegg is to take a break from the general election campaign in order to see his kids. His three sons - Antonio, eight, Alberto, five, and one-year-old Miguel have been on an extended holiday with his wife's family in Spain, delayed because of the transport chaos caused by the volcanic ash cloud. Since he last saw them three weeks ago, he's gone from being the "outsider" in the contest to leading some opinion polls, after strong performances in the televised debates with Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

1525Former Tory party adviser Daniel Finkelstein admits David Cameron failed to deliver a "knock-out blow" against Nick Clegg in last night's TV debate. He adds that the Conservatives have to continue putting themselves across as the party of change, and not let the Lib Dems try to take this label.

1518 John Sparks writes: It shows how far we have sunk in this country when Clegg's popularity can rise on the strength of his TV appearance, even though his policies are absolutely risible.
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1512From Carole Walker: I asked Mr Cameron if he would make a specific commitment to keep free eye tests and prescriptions for all those that get them at the moment, given that this was not included in his manifesto. He accused Labour of telling scare stories and said he hoped the BBC would not "fall for them".
Carole Walker

1509Nick Clegg is due to talk to staff in a supermarket in Norwich. It is unsure whether he'll make the time to do his weekly shop.

1506A student at the Fashion Retail Academy put David Cameron on the spot, asking who he'd support if there was a hung Parliament, says the BBC's Carole Walker. Mr Cameron thanked her for "the Paxman question" and said one thing he would rule out would be propping up Gordon Brown to keep him in power.
Carole Walker

1454David Cameron and Nick Clegg are now neck-and-neck in the odds to win next week's third prime ministerial TV debate. They both have odds of 11/8 with William Hill. Gordon Brown is a wider 5/2.

1444The Lib Dem argument on Labour's planned National Insurance rise is like a "pair of designer flip-flops" that collapse soon after you start wearing them, Mr Cameron tells the fashion retailers. Obviously not those from BHS, Marks and Spencer, Top Shop and others, he adds, being careful not to upset any of those business leaders who back his party on the issue.

1438While Mr Brown answers questions from students in Coventry, David Cameron takes to the stage at the Fashion Retail Academy in central London. It's the audience's chance to help him warm-up for his interview with the BBC's Jeremy Paxman later, the Tory leader says.

1433Another poll gives its verdict on the second prime ministerial debate, with Nick Clegg a clear winner this time. The Democracy UK application on social networking site Facebook records that 48% of 86,025 participants judged the Lib Dem leader as having performed best. Some 27% said David Cameron, while 25% said Gordon Brown. The extent to which that represents the voting intentions of the electorate is another matter.

1425Campaigning in the Cardiff North constituency - a key Tory target - Kenneth Clarke says: "The public must not be lulled into a false sense of complacency in this election. There remains a serious risk of further financial collapse." For good measure, the shadow business secretary adds that any claim by Gordon Brown that "he has solved the recession and we are on the way to recovery is complete rubbish and I think he knows that only too well".

1418"If the Tories had been in charge when the [economic] crisis hit, very many more jobs would have been lost as they stood aside and let events take their course," Mr Brown says, accusing the Conservatives of making the "wrong calls" on the economy.
David Cameron

1417Mr Brown says Labour have learned from the mistakes of Conservative governments during past recessions, when inflation left homeowners unable to pay their mortgages.

1414Having arrived at Coventry, Gordon Brown tells college students that he knows his "job is on the line". But he hammers out Labour's message about the need for a leader with "substance" over style. "Forget the Prime Minister in me. Forget the Labour leader in me. It is the British citizen in me that fears for our economic future under a Conservative government," he says.

1410The BBC's James Cook, following Gordon Brown, says: "Speaking to journalists en route to Coventry, the PM was keen to move the discussion on from the debates. He said 'I think we're now onto the economy as the central issue. I feel happy that the issues we are now discussing are the ones that are now important to the future of the country'."

1407Mr Darling brushes aside Conservative accusations that Labour are spreading "lies" in campaign leaflets. The Chancellor says he does not like using that word and points out that Tory posters have used tombstones to refer to what they call "Labour's Death Tax", despite ministers dropping plans for a compulsory levy to fund a social care system for adults.

1401Moody's had cut its credit rating on Greece on Thursday. However, Chancellor Alistair Darling reassures BBC Radio 4's The World At One that despite Britain's predicted 11% deficit being just 2.6% short of that the Athens' government is struggling with, Greece has a much smaller economy than the UK.

1354News of a blow to the Conservatives' claims that a hung parliament would hurt Britain's triple-A sovereign debt credit rating. One of the three main ratings agencies, Moody's, says it would not necessarily have direct implications, given the parties' broad agreement on the need to reduce the deficit.

1347A Radio 4 caller tells Mr Cameron his stance on promoting gay equality is "not good enough" because he has failed to discipline party members who say they have sympathy with bed and breakfast owners who want to refuse accommodation to homosexuals. The Tory leader then wraps up by admitting he has failed to get rid of "Punch and Judy" politics - but says it has been inevitable in the arena of prime minister's questions.

1342Mr Cameron says there is a "huge gulf" between the parties on how to tackle the financial deficit and that it would cause massive problems in terms of reaching agreement on economic policy should the election result in a hung parliament.

1336A caller challenges David Cameron over his stance on the foxhunting ban, saying that just because the law has been difficult to enforce it does not mean it should be repealed. The Conservative leader accepts he has always been opposed to the hunting ban and says laws should not be passed if they are unlikely to work.

1330Examining the BNP's claim that Labour is "trying to turn Stoke into a multi-cultural city", BBC UK affairs specialist Gillian Hargreaves says Stoke's non-white population is between 6% and 7%. "It also has virtually no inward ethnic minority migration - unlike other areas of the Midlands," she says. Staffordshire University's Prof Mick Temple puts the level of BNP support in the city down to poverty, rather than immigration issues.

1325Asked about the closure of many employers' final salary pension schemes, Mr Cameron agrees that the "generous" Parliamentary scheme available to MPs should be closed.

1321Mr Cameron is talking to a Radio 4 caller about the benefits system. He says that if people are offered work and do not take it, their benefits should be docked.

1319Back in the Potteries, a couple of dozen protesters are staging a noisy demonstration outside the BNP manifesto launch. The police are keeping an eye on things but aren't looking too concerned.

1315Mr Cameron is asked what action he would take to rid the electoral system of "gross unfairness" - a reference to the number of seats won by a party not reflecting its share of the vote. The Tory leader says making constituencies a uniform size would be a "good start" but that he doesn't support proportional representation because it would lead to hung parliaments with no power.

1311David Cameron is speaking to callers on BBC Radio 4's The World At One. The first - a teacher - says he fears the Tory vision of a "Big Society" will result in a "generation abandoned" because some parents do not seem to care about their children's education. Mr Cameron replies that academy schools with business backing have encouraged parents in deprived areas to take more interest in their children's schooling.

1306Well, it might be the day when England celebrates his memory but "St George" didn't look in a party mood at the BNP's manifesto launch. Perhaps his glum expression could be put down to the apparent lack of will among those in power to declare 23 April a national holiday. Then again, maybe that helmet was just a bit uncomfortable.

1301Over in Newcastle, the BBC's Phil Herd says: "Is this the most bizarre request of the election campaign from the media so far? A Russian TV station has just asked if Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg will submit to a DNA test to see if he really is a quarter Russian."

1259Mr Griffin wraps up by saying the BNP does not need the media any more and that they can communicate with the public via their website. He departs with St George, while Mr Darby says they will conduct interviews for TV shortly.

1256After saying it is vital that the UK pulls out of the EU, Mr Griffin says prisoners should be put to work repairing sea defences and laying fibre-optic cables for internet provision in rural areas. Now he is saying where he would cut waste - with quangos, international development spending and the "fundamentally corrupt" banking system are in the firing line.

1252Defence features prominently in the manifesto. Afghanistan is "the biggest draw on the doorstep" for BNP candidates, says Mr Griffin. "It's not our right to go stomping around the world trying to Westernise all the Islamic countries," he says. The party leader is backed by images of soldiers and slogans reading: "Bring our boys home".

1248Nick Griffin has taken to the platform - accompanied by a man dressed as St George. The 90-page document is a "very serious piece of political kit" according to Mr Griffin, who then confesses he had "very little to do with it".

1246The BNP's manifesto is not just about immigration but talks about the "de-industrialisation" of areas like Stoke, Birmingham and Manchester which is a "tragedy", according to deputy leader Simon Darby.

1243News from the BNP manifesto launch in Stoke-on-Trent. Their document states they would end the involvement of British troops in the Afghanistan war, reports the BBC's Peter Hunt. It also calls for the UK to be officially declared a non-immigration country and the promotion of what it calls the already existing voluntary repatriation scheme.

1228Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones says Labour has given up its "Welsh socialist roots". He told the BBC's Daily Politics that Plaid "by and large now represents the values that Labour once did".

1221 Jembillouin tweets: Clegg keeps saying "two old parties".... do people really believe this. Him, Cameron & Brown are fresh faces, but the parties are all "old". Read Jembillouin's tweets
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1215 Michael Chambers writes: People often talk about politicians treating us like children. Read the daily papers today. They are trying to convince us Cameron won last night when clearly he was one of the losers. The papers are treating us like children.
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1208The BNP manifesto launch is due to start in Stoke-on-Trent at about 1230 BST, the BBC understands. There is said to be a small demonstration outside the venue.

1159The SNP and Plaid Cymru say they are the only two parties opposed to replacing the Trident nuclear missile system. In a joint statement, they say Trident is "obscenely expensive and morally inexcusable".

1150Mr Cameron was speaking to press on the doorstep this morning today looking airy and relaxed with not a tie in sight. Meanwhile, Mr Brown was sporting serious blue stripes and being serious about the serious economic challenges facing the country at the serious morning press conference. And Mr Clegg is out and about in Newcastle wearing a soft green number. No press conference for him, since he's gone turbo, he's doesn't need the press. Tiewatch verdict: Three very different styles reflecting the leaders' different priorities.

1144David Cameron says he wants to "reclaim" the English flag from the BNP. "We should be reclaiming the flag from the BNP and saying the flag belongs to the English people, all of them," says the Tory leader. The BNP are due to launch their election manifesto this lunchtime.

1131Cleggmania appears to be continuing, as Nick Clegg gets a big round of applause when he arrives to visit students at Newcastle Aviation Academy.

1125David Cameron says the disappointing UK economic growth figures show that Labour is "too weak" to sort out the country's economic problems. "We need a decisive government to take the steps to get the economy moving, to deal with our debts," he adds.

1117: Eurojeff writes: "Brown actually made more sense last night and was spot on about our place in Europe and on foreign affairs, but he floundered badly when quizzed on the leaflets. Looked like he was caught with his hand in the jar!"
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1112Pundits have made their judgements: David Aaranovitch in the Times calls Nick Clegg consistently good, Janet Daley in the Telegraph judges David Cameron as genuinely convincing, while Mike Smithson at Political Betting thinks the Brown camp will be pleased with their man's performance. Read a complete round-up of commentators' judgements

1106"The old guard rebounds," is how the New York Times reported last night's big debate. It said Mr Clegg faced a much tougher challenge from Gordon Brown and David Cameron, "but remained assured and articulate".

1056Never one to miss an opportunity to give an entertaining quote, the Conservatives' Boris Johnson has been praising David Cameron's performance against Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg last night. Boris says David had "walloped them around the park". He went on to say he was "mystified" by Mr Clegg's big growth in popularity. "I feel some psychological thing has taken over the nation that I don't understand," he says.

1048 Nina writes: If I was thinking of voting Labour or Liberal Democrats the one thing that would have switched me to voting Conservatives is their policy on Europe. David said that it is not in our best interest to completely pull out of Europe for trade, but in relation to Westminster powers going to Brussels he said that has happened without the people having a say. Completely agree.
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1041Chaotic scenes at Leadenhall Market in London as the Conservatives' David Cameron and Boris Johnson attempt a walkabout, says the BBC's Vikki Clein.

1036The total live audience for last night's prime ministerial TV debate on Sky News was four million people, according to early figures. This is well down on the 10 million people who watched last week's first debate on ITV 1. An average of 2.1 million watched last night's show live on Sky News, with 586,000 watching on Sky 3, and 1.36 million tuning in on the BBC News Channel.

1030 Warriorsottovoce writes: "After the initial honeymoon with Clegg, we are really seeing the cracks in his patchwork policy. Cameron - certainly a better performance, but more work to be done."
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1026Labour's Peter Mandelson appears to have relaxed his declared opposition to personal attacks. He used Labour's daily press conference to describe David Cameron and Nick Clegg as "a couple of kids in school trousers". It comes a day after he criticised the Tories for orchestrating personal attacks on Mr Clegg.

1020Gordon Brown returns to the theme of the economy, attacking the Tories' plan for £6bn of spending cuts as "a death sentence for thousands of jobs". And in a shot across the bows of both the Conservatives and Lib Dems, he says "novices cannot today be trusted with the economy".

1015It's the London Marathon on Sunday, and Labour's Harriet Harman uses a marathon analogy to support Gordon Brown. "The marathon not a sprint. The runner who wins through is the one with resilience, with focus, who has done the preparation, and has the mental and physical resilience, and that is Gordon Brown," she says.

1012If you are planning your Friday night viewing, Jeremy Paxman will be grilling David Cameron on BBC One tonight at 2030 BST. Gordon Brown will get his turn next Friday. Mr Clegg has already gone before Mr Paxman.

1003The cartoonists of the national newspapers have been in lively form on Friday. The Independent's cartoon shows Cameron and Brown in a tree, trousers down, with Clegg - depicted as a bird - below them, covered in the same way that those sitting under birds sometimes are. The Times dips into Monty Python territory, showing Clegg at a window in a parody of the famous scene in Life of Brian. Cameron claims "He's not the Messiah…" with Brown adding that "…he's a very naughty boy!" And the Guardian depicts some monstrous-looking journalists from the "crazy old Tory Press" throwing David Cameron at a fragrant-looking Nick Clegg.

0957 Liz Hodges from Exeter writes: Did you notice the audience at the Bristol debate? No-one looked inspired and no-one looked as if they believed a word any of the three leaders said! They are all as bad as each other - they have a certain unfortunate blame culture.
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0952Conservative leader David Cameron has been speaking about the row over Labour election leaflets. Asked on Sky News if he was pleased to have scored points in last night's debate over the matter, Mr Cameron said "I'm frankly pretty angry about it, because I've been seeing these leaflets for a long time and they really are appalling."
Gordon Brown

0946Nick Clegg has rejected suggestions that Mr Cameron and Mr Brown's improved performances in last night's debate had helped him to decide who to side with in the event of a hung Parliament. But leaving his hotel in Bristol this morning, he said the debates meant "all bets are off" over the eventual result of the election.

0938There may be "a bit of disappointment" at the latest GDP figure, says Hugh Pym, the BBC's chief economics correspondent. He says the markets had expected the economy to grow by 0.4% during the first quarter of 2010, and not the 0.2% given by the Office for National Statistics. Yet he added that the figure could still be revised at a later date.

0932The UK economy expanded just 0.2% in the first quarter of 2010, figures show. This is less than had been expected.

0930Political journalist and author Andrew Rawnsley says: "Labour and Tories still struggling to halt the Cleggwagon." Mr Rawnsley, who hit the headlines earlier this year for his book The End of the Party, adds: "Perhaps I should have called that book The End of the Parties." Read Andrew Rawnsley's tweets
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0923The row over Labour leaflets that warn elderly people that the Tories would scrap benefits like free bus travel and winter fuel payments continues. This morning the Conservatives have launched a poster depicting Gordon Brown as Vicky Pollard, a comedy character from the TV show Little Britain. The poster has the slogan: "Did I lie about the dodgy leaflets? Yeah but no but yeah but..."

0914 PCright writes: "Cameron came out on top for me, just from Nick Clegg, whose naive politics has shown through. Brown's desperation and schoolboy bullying came through with his 'pointing' finger, condemning Cameron and Clegg."
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0908
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The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg tweets: Sun still shining in Bristol - 3 camps happy with last night. Spin room was even more frantic! Cameron with Paxman today - will tweet time later. Read Laura Kuenssberg's tweets

0903 Gareth Rothwell writes: "I was annoyed with Nick Clegg last night. He joked that if you voted Conservative then Cameron would side with 'nutters, racists and climate change sceptics'. As someone who feels the actual evidence for climate change is sketchy at best, and therefore a sceptic, I'm not sure I like being lumped in a category with nutters and racists. I think I'll be voting elsewhere."
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0858Justin Fisher, professor of political science at Brunel University, says he thought last night's prime ministerial debate was "a score draw". The main political parties continue to be rather more partisan in their analysis.

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@bmbTO tweets: Good performance by Clegg, Cameron running out of sound bites, Gordo talking up saving the world again Read bmbTO's tweets

0846The BNP's Simon Darby said last night's prime ministerial debate did not properly look at the issue of Europe. "There wasn't anybody there suggesting we should remove ourselves from the European Union," he said. The BNP launches its party manifesto later. Expect Marmite sandwiches being handed out. Or perhaps not.

0839 istillremember71 writes: "It was a much more even fight last night. Clegg was given a grilling - and quite right too. Brown finished strongly and actually sounded like a prime minister in his summing up statement. Cameron caught out Brown very astutely with his immediate agreement to eye-sight tests and then going on the attack about the leaflets. The thing is though - there was no killer blow against Clegg."
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@MrMattReilly tweets: Want to raise interest in politics? Why not replace PMQs with Leaders' Debates, held in different city each week? Read MrMattReilly's tweets

0827The Conservatives' William Hague describes accusations his party is smearing Nick Clegg as "total nonsense". He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that newspapers attacking politicians is just the "normal course of politics".

0823Nick Clegg's chief of staff Danny Alexander denies the Lib Dems are getting upset by the personal attacks on their leader. He said they were only coming because the other two parties were fearful of the Lib Dems' success in the polls.

0818The SNP's Angus Robertson says Scotland was ignored in last night's debate. The three main parties had "forgotten" about Scotland, he told BBC Breakfast.

0755There's evidence this morning that the Conservatives have been quick to buy up online advertising after last night's debate, reports Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent. Search for "clegg debate" in either Google or YouTube and you see a sponsored link to the Conservative website and this message: "Cameron wins TV debate: YouGov snap poll: Cameron 36%, Clegg 32%, Brown 3rd with 29%."
Rory Cellan-Jones

0749The Tories' William Hague says David Cameron was the clear winner in last night's debate, and is ready to lead the country. "If we really want the change in this country, and be sure of it, then we need David Cameron as prime minister."

0741The reaction to the second prime ministerial TV debate continues. Labour's Douglas Alexander tells BBC Radio Four's Today programme that it has "split this election wide open". But he doesn't agree that it is now a three-horse race.

0656Party heavyweights are already hitting the airwaves to give their verdicts on last night's debate. For the Lib Dems, Ed Davey tells GMTV the "two old parties ganged up against us", for Labour Douglas Alexander says Mr Brown "dominated the debate on substance". For the Tories William Hague continues a theme from the debate when he challenges Mr Alexander to say he will withdraw Labour leaflets claiming the Tories would cut benefits for the elderly. Mr Hague says Labour is trying to "scare" elderly voters. Mr Alexander says he can't find some benefits in the Tory manifesto.

0635The BBC's Norman Smith says although Mr Brown and Mr Cameron improved their performances last night - Nick Clegg was still the ultimate winner as they failed to knock him out of what is now a three-horse race. That points to a hung parliament - which would benefit the Lib Dems. And while polls suggest Labour is in third place, Labour members are not panicking, he says. They think Mr Clegg's success could throw them a lifeline by draining Tory support - giving Labour a way back into the electoral race.

0620Those looking for some clarity about the debate on the newspaper front pages will struggle. The Conservative-supporting Sun calls it for The Camback Kid while The Labour- supporting Mirror leads on One Foot in the Dave. The Times, with a picture of Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron says it's Neck and Neck, The Independent sums up some of the stormier exchanges with its headline: This Time It's Personal.

0605Welcome back to our live text commentary. Now the post-debate analysis begins. Who 'won' last night's prime ministerial debate? Opinion polls suggest there was no clear winner. An instant reaction YouGov poll put David Cameron ahead - a ComRes poll suggested Nick Clegg was in front. But both suggested Mr Brown had the biggest improvement in ratings on last week.



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