Debate invitations are like buses - you wait for ages and then two come at once. The broadcasters have struck up a new deal to get David Cameron on board, and the Greens' Natalie Bennett will be involved after all.
It's almost exactly what the PM asked for: two seven-way debates between the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Ukip, the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru and one between the two men who could be Prime Minister. The plans look "designed to call Cameron's bluff" is Nick Robinson's verdict.
But they may have been too clever by half. The DUP, who have eight MPs, are wondering exactly why the SNP with six MPs, are invited, the Plaids, with three, are invited, but neither their overall leader, Peter Robinson, or their Westminster chief, Nigel Dodds, are in. (Mr Robinson has written to the broadcasters demanding an explanation) The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, aren't exactly thrilled to be relegated to second-tier. "Televised election debate plans in disarray" is our splash.
Frankly no-one can say with any confidence how a seven-way debate will play out or even if it will happen at all. It feels increasingly unlikely that either David Cameron or Ed Miliband will be able to avoid a debate of one kind or another, although the format preferred by our digital debate, comprising the five national parties, may win out in the end. But if the 7-7-2 format does make it to our screens, my instinct is that the mass debates will be watched only by an eccentric few. (Tune in see at least one person you can't vote for debate at least one person you can't stand: LIVE!) That puts the focus on the one-on-one between the PM and the Labour leader.
What happens there is anyone's guess. It certainly puts the focus where the Conservatives want it: on the contrast between Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband. Who benefits then depends on which Ed Miliband turns up. As Mr Miliband proved at last week's Fabian Society conference when he turns it on he can deliver a polished performance. If that Miliband turns up then the debates should go well for the Opposition. What happens if the other Miliband, who couldn't explain the difference between taxing a £2 million house and a glass of water, turns up instead?
European Central Bank president Mario Draghi has announced a €1.1 trillion programme of quantitative easing to stimulate the flagging Eurozone and to stave off deflation. The pound soared to a six-year high against the Euro after the ECB's announcement. While it will make British exports more expensive it's good news for imports and British holidaymakers. "Bonanza for Britain as cash floods into Europe" is the Times' splash. Bruno Waterfield and Peter Spence have the story.
INTEGRATE HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE OR DIE TRYIN'
Labour's highly-rated health and social care spokesman Liz Kendall speaks to Paul Waugh and Daniel Bond in the House Magazine. Among the revelations: she mostly listens to rap, with Dr Dre, mid-Noughties Jay Z and Public Enemy her favourites. But it's her comments on NHS privitisation that have caught the eye of James Chapman in the Mail: "what matters is what works", Ms Kendall says, in an implicit rebuke to Andy Burnham.
DAN, DAN, HE'S OUR MAN
It's another one of Labour's new generation that has caught James Kirkup's eye. Dan Jarvis ends his tour of marginal seats today with campaign stops in Elmet & Rothwell, Pudsey and Great Grimsby. "In politics, as in sport, it's rarely a bad idea to do the thing your opponent least wants you to do," James muses, "How do you think the Conservatives would feel about a Jarvis-led Labour Party?"
SNP-TORY CO-OPERATION IS LIKE, SOOOOO 2007
Nicola Sturgeon says that the further powers for Scotland don't go far enough and that David Cameron has broken his promise to the Scottish people in an article for the Guardian. She reiterated her opposition to supporting a Tory government in Westminster. But Fraser Nelson's not convinced. "Without a villian, Ms Sturgeon will not have much of a pantomime; so she needs Cameron". If the SNP are kingmakers, they will "likely set sky-high demands and then walk out of coalition talks".
Lord Brittan, who as Leon Brittan was Home Secretary and Trade and Industry Secretary under Margaret Thatcher, has died. His last years were marked by allegations that he was involved in a cover-up of child sexual abuse in the 1980s. "Now Will We Ever Find Truth On Abuse Dossier?" is the Mail's splash.
YOU CAN'T TRUST PEOPLE
The New Labour years recieve the Peep Show treatement courtesy of Jon Laurence and his team. Have a lovely weekend.
You can get in touch with me by pressing "reply" or on Twitter. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams- a gallery of his work is available here.
HOW HAVE THE POLLS MOVED IN THE PAST MONTH?
Poll-of-Polls (Ashcroft-ComRes-Populus-Opinium-ICM-Ipsos-YouGov) Conservatives 32% Labour 33% Liberal Democrat 8% Ukip 15% Greens 7%
YouGov: Conservatives 31% Labour 33% Liberal Democrat 7% Ukip 17% Green 8%
TOO MANY TWEETS...
@hopisen: Having worked around parliament for several years, can say we need a campaign for clear demonstration enunciation. What do you want again?
From the Telegraph
James Kirkup - Meet the man who should lead Labour after Ed Miliband
Fraser Nelson - What the SNP really wants is Mr Cameron back in No 10
Philip Collins - The mansion tax is typical of blinkered Labour (Times)
Gaby Hinsliff - The Sun's Page 3 cynicism isn't just about lust. It's about resentment and power (Guardian)
0930 LONDON: Retail sales figures for December are published by the Office for National Statistics.
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
COMMONS - 0930:
HS2 Funding Referendum Bill - Second reading.
Overseas Voters Bill - Second reading.
Working Time Directive (Limitation) Bill - Second reading.
Political Party Policy Costings (Office for Budget Responsibility) Bill - Second reading.
Housing (Affordability, Supply and Tenant Protection) Bill - Second reading.
Under-occupancy Penalty (Exemptions) Bill - Second reading.
Protective Headgear for Cyclists Aged Fourteen Years and Under (Research) Bill - Second reading.
Zero-Hours Contracts Bill - Second reading (Day 2).
Parliamentary and Constitutional Reform Bill - Second reading.
Tenancies (Reform) Bill - Second reading (Day 2) .
United Kingdom Parliament (Sovereignty and Jurisdiction over Borders) Bill - Second reading.
Household Safety (Carbon Monoxide Detectors) Bill - Second reading (Day 2).
Funeral Services Bill - Second reading.
Off-Road Vehicles (Registration) Bill - Second reading.
Women's Refuges (Provision and Eligibility) Bill - Second reading.
House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Bill (HL) - Second reading.
A short debate on Coventry's economy and City Link.
LORDS - 1000
Specialist Printing Equipment and Materials (Offences) Bill - Second reading.
International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill - Second reading.
Medical Innovation Bill (HL) - Third reading.
Farewell Anna Raccoon
9 hours ago