David Cameron bid his Coalition Cabinet farewell yesterday, after promising not to go on too long as Prime Minister, marking its final session before the election with "Co-ale-ition" beer and tubs of "Coalition crunch" crisps.
Cameron will be feeling demob-happy today as he prepares to face off against Ed Miliband for the last session of Prime Minister's Questions of the Parliament. Coalition niceties will officially dissolve from next Monday as politicians throw themselves into campaigning. But the Prime Minister's pre-resignation still hangs over the Conservative campaign, with MPs fearing that constant talk of who could take over risks being a "distraction". Cameron has struggled to move the conversation on from when he will retire, popping up at an Age UK rally to talk about his intended "political epitaph", in an appearance which saw him heckled by the audience of pensioners.
The uncertainty Cameron sparked around the party's future leadership has set some MPs on edge, with one fuming to our reporters: "It's impossible to suggest people should vote for you if you don't know who will lead the party". Another MP argued that the Prime Minister had made his potential second term in office, which he pledged to serve in full, even more precarious. "If the election result is not good enough, some people will now say, 'He's going before 2020 anyway; we might as well go for him now'," he told the Independent.
A good day to bury bad news? Ukip tried its best, announcing the expulsion of Janice Atkinson over false expenses claims, with Nigel Farage unveiling her replacement as the party's parliamentary candidate in Kent. However, the process quickly went a bit pear-shaped as a local party member complained that the new candidate, Harriet Yeo, had been chosen without any consultation. Ukip spinners insist the timing was a coincidence, with one telling me: "We reacted quickly. We weren't waiting for an old Etonian to tell an old Etonian that he's passing the baton to another old Etonian".
The Prime Minister is undoubtedly kicking himself for being so frank about his future. Our view is that he "should have said, and no doubt now wishes he had, that the question of a third term does not arise until he has secured a second". Conservative campaigners will be getting impatient over this leadership talk, as every day it continues is a day less talking about the issues.
THE BENEFITS OF ENGLISH
Foreigners will be stripped of hundreds of pounds worth of housing benefits if they refuse to learn English under a Conservative majority government, Ben Riley-Smith has learned. Doctors and nurses will also have to tell migrants who cannot speak English where they can learn the language under proposals being drawn up by the Conservatives.
SALMOND THE SABOTEUR
Alex Salmond has been accused of trying to "sabotage" democracy after pledging to install Ed Miliband as Prime Minister even if the Conservatives are the largest party after the general election, Simon Johnson reports. The former First Minister said Nationalist MPs in a hung parliament would try to bring down any Tory minority government by voting against its Queen's Speech, even if Labour has fewer seats.
LABOUR'S POSTER CHILD
Labour has been accused of using an "inappropriate" image on its election poster of a potential "victim of child abuse", Camilla Turner reports. The poster, which features an X-ray image of a broken bone, is accompanied by the words: "Next time they'll cut to the bone".
THE GREEN REPUBLIC
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett (no relation) has indicated that she would support the abolition of the monarchy and called on the change to be considered after the election. Miss Bennett repeatedly refused to rule out removing the Queen from her role as head of state and said a decision should be placed in the hands of the people. Read more here.
MONEY MONEY MONEY (IT'S A RICH MAN'S PARTY)
David Cameron has failed to shake off the Tories' image as "a party of the one per cent" and now faces being ousted from Downing Street, a senior Tory has said.Ex-Conservative minister and London mayoral candidate Steve Norris said at a Centre for London think-tank debate that his party was suffering in the polls because of perceptions they are a party of the rich. Politics.co.uk's Adam Bienkov was in the audience.
VAT'S NOT CONVINCING
George Osborne has refiused five times to give a "cast-iron guarantee" that he would not raise VAT in the next parliament, saying only that there is no need to do so. The chancellor was tackled on his plans after Labour's Ed Balls ruled out a rise in VAT for his party's general election manifesto and unveiled a poster warning of a Tory plan to increase the tax. The Guardian has more.
A NOBODY WILL WIN
Tory MP David Davis, who challenged David Cameron for the leadership of the party in 2005, thinks none of the front-runners to succeed the prime minister will actually get the top job. "I can guarantee it will be someone we haven't thought of," he told the Huffington Post UK's Jessica Elgot. Meanwhile, I've argued that Education Secretary Nicky Morgan should be considered a serious leadership contender.
MURPHY BANKS ON BONUSES
Jim Murphy will today promise that Labour would use £1 billion from a tax on bankers' bonuses in the City of London to fund free university education and higher bursaries for Scottish students. The Scottish Labour leader will say that the spending commitment was only affordable by taxing the "wealthiest in the City of London" and had the impact of redistributing money "from South to North". Here are more details.
THIS AIN'T LOOKING PRITI...
A Conservative MP has called for her Labour election rival to be axed after accusing him of sending her "misogynistic" and "racist" tweets - and branding her a "sexy Bond villain". Priti Patel, who represents Witham in Essex, criticised John Clarke after he compared her to the "village idiot". Here are more details.
BRUSSELS BROADCASTING CORP
The BBC's coverage of the European Union is biased and letting down viewers, MPs have concluded in a scathing report. The Corporation is failing its own promise to cover Europe impartially and there remain "deep concerns" about the breadth of topics investigated, the European Scrutiny Committee said.
CLEGG GONNA FUNK YOU UP
After Nick Clegg's previous hit, The Sorry Song, the Liberal Democrats have released a new election anthem, remixing his conference speech to the tune of Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk. The video has to be seen to be believed, with Clegg singing things like: "We are too hot... Lib Dems!" and "Voting Liberal Democrat, woo hoo!"
Average of polls as of Monday, March 23: Lab: 33.71%, Conservative: 33.29%, UKIP 14.45%, Lib Dem 7.91%, Green 4.87%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB.
TOO MANY TWEETS…
@AFNeil: First Miliband, now Cameron. New rule for British politicians: stay our of the kitchen!!
From The Telegraph
Dan Hodges - David Cameron may not know it, but he has just ended his modernisation project
James Kirkup - By 2020, the Conservative Party leader will be . . . not who you expect
Daniel Finkelstein - Tell every PM: ten years and that's your lot
Rafael Behr - Even if David Cameron wins in May this exit talk will haunt him
1200 Last PMQs before the election
1300 Nick Clegg takes questions on Mumsnet
1430 Miriam Gonzalez, Nick Clegg's wife, interviewed on LBC
Lord Davies to launch his annual review of Women on Boards; the Cranfield School of Management's 'Female FTSE' report is also to be published
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is to give a speech at the City of London Corporation's Easter Banquet for the diplomatic corps
1500 Owen Paterson speaks at a Heritage Foundation event in Washington DC on the General Election and the planned referendum on EU membership
1800 Westminster Policy Institute debate on how election could impact business, with Matthew Hancock, Simon Walker, Sean Worth. Brewer's Hall, London
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
HOUSE OF COMMONS
11.30am Oral questions - Cabinet Office, including Topical Questions
12pm Prime Minister's Question Time
Presentation of Bill - Protection of Children (Removal of Police Discretion) - Mr Barry Sheerman
Ten Minute Rule Motion -Tax Transparency and International Development - Fiona O'Donnell
Business -Finance (No.2) Bill - All stages
Motion - Motion to approve a Statutory Instrument relating to terrorism
Adjournment debate - Social care and military compensation - Mr Gordon Marsden
9.30 - 1100 Economic infrastructure of North Wales - Mark Tami
1100 - 11.30 Human rights and security in Democratic Republic of Congo - Jeremy Corbyn
14.30 - 1600 High Speed 2 - Mrs Cheryl Gillan
1600 - 1630 Crisis report on homelessness 2015 - Mr Brooks Newmark
16.30 - 1700 Monitor's investigation into Princess Royal University Hospital and hospitals in South East London - Jim Dowd
HOUSE OF LORDS
1500 Oral questions, Devolution of services and powers in England and basis for a future government, Commencement date for the next defence review, Threats to community life in the UK, Planned policy changes in respect of the Middle East following the recent election results in Israel
Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill - 3rd reading - Lord Cormack
Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill - 3rd reading - Lord Ribeiro
Health Service Commissioner for England (Complaint Handling) Bill - 3rd reading - Baroness Finlay of Llandaff
Modern Slavery Bill - Consideration of Commons amendments - Lord Bates
Debate -The economy of the UK in the light of the Budget Statement - Lord Deighton
Motion to approve for the purposes of Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993 the Government's assessment as set out in the Budget Report - Lord Deighton
Orders and regulations - Public Contract Regulations 2015 - motion to regret - Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
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