Lord Ashdown is leading the Lib Dem campaign in the South West
Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown has kicked off his party's election campaign in Cheltenham, a marginal seat held since 1992.
Lord Ashdown was in town on behalf of the current MP and parliamentary candidate Martin Horwood who he described as "a tremendous campaigner".
He said the Conservatives, who claim they are the only ones who can bring real change, were the only competition.
Labour agreed it was the underdog but denied it was a two-horse race.
'Clear and consistent'
Lord Ashdown said Cheltenham had always been a "bedrock of strength" for the Lib Dems.
"This is a really important election. We always say that, but this is important because people's jobs will rest on it according to the decisions we take about how to get out of the financial mess we're in," he said.
Lord Ashdown said the second important issue was "adapting our lifestyle in order to be able to preserve our world for our children".
He said: "The Lib Dems have been clear and consistent on that long before it was fashionable.
"Martin Horwood has been an outstanding local MP for everybody. He's fought for green spaces, for the station, and for the hospital. He's a tremendous campaigner.
"My message is very simple. Don't listen to the promises, look at the record."
Conservative candidate Mark Coote said: "My view is that people have a chance for change or, if they vote Lib Dem, a chance at another Labour win. You don't have to vote Labour in Cheltenham to get a Labour prime minister.
"Cheltenham is one of the key seats David Cameron must win for any chance of government, it's an ultra-marginal seat.
"There may be campaigns I'm running that are also being run by the incumbent Member of Parliament, but he doesn't have any power to change things.
"He can campaign, but these things are going to be delivered by a new government and that has to be a Conservative government. I'm campaigning for results not for campaigning's sake."
Labour candidate James Green said: "I completely reject the view that it's a two-horse race in Cheltenham.
"There's no getting away from the fact that Labour are the underdogs, but as the Gold Cup showed - you should never write off a driven outsider.
"I have been out and about speaking to local people and they tell me time and time again that the Lib Dems and the Tories, who have dominated the politics of the town, have failed to tackle many of the difficult issues that local people face.
"It's up to Cheltenham residents to decide who they want as their local MP - not Paddy Ashdown."