David Cameron hasn't yet secured his second term as Prime Minister, but has ruled out standing for a third term in office because a "fresh pair of eyes and fresh leadership would be good". Opening up to the BBC in his kitchen (a risky place for party leaders to do interviews, as Ed Miliband will tell you), Cameron pointed to three "tremendous" people who could take over, George Osborne, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson. We have more details here.
"Terms are like Shredded Wheat - two are wonderful but three might just be too many," the Prime Minister quipped (he may have meant to say Weetabix). His candour has served to throw a petrol bomb on the leadership talk fires, with Cameron's pledge on nearly all the front pages this morning. "Cameron fires start gun on Tory leadership race", the Times says, "Cameron sets leadership deadline" says the FT, while the Daily Mirror clearly doesn't want him to have another serving of Shredded Wheat, sniffing: "Arrogant Cameron: I won't do 3rd term (in your dreams, mate)".
The Tory leader likely wanted to acknowledge his political mortality and avoid echoes of Margaret Thatcher's infamous pledge to "go on and on". However, he could easily have dodged the question about his future, as it now sets off relentless speculation about when he will finally step down, and who is ready in the wings to take over. Tony Blair suffered this exact problem after promising before the 2005 election not to serve a "full third term", as his authority drained away to his presumptive heir Gordon Brown. Blair's former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, asked Michael Gove the key question on Newsnight last night: "How does it help you win a second term by having this discussion now?"
Tory campaigners will find it frustrating to have succession talk drowning out subjects like David Cameron's economic record. Everything his colleagues do now will be seen through the leadership prism. Boris Johnson has had to laugh off his father placing a £20 bet on him taking over from Cameron, and will have to squirm like he never has before on LBC radio this morning to avoid starting an early leadership campaign. Theresa May has been talking tough on law and order, while George Osborne has kept up his stark warnings about there still being "a lot more work to do" to fix the economy.
The Prime Minister's pledge could easily backfire. He failed to win a majority for his first term back in 2010, so it may seem rather hasty to talk of third terms. In an election campaign, everything is judged by one test: does it make it more or less likely that you win? It's very hard to see how Cameron's pre-resignation helps the Tories to victory.
I'LL DO ANYTHING (BUT I WON'T DO VAT)
The Labour party will lay down a significant general election marker today, with a pledge that VAT will not rise if it is elected to power on 7 May. Shadow chancellor Ed Balls will announce the new manifesto commitment during a speech in Birmingham, City A.M reports.
UKIP ON THE ATKINSON DIET
MEP Janice Atkinson has been expelled by Ukip after her chief of staff was filmed apparently asking for an inflated invoice to claim on European expenses. A disciplinary panel made the decision to kick out Atkinson - she had been due to contest a Commons seat for it on May 7 - along with her assistant Christine Hewitt, a party spokesman said. Here are more details.
LIFE IS TOFF FOR LABOUR
A Labour MP has said Ed Miliband is seen by voters as 'being more of a toff than David Cameron' and accused him of costing his party votes on the doorstep, Steven Swinford reports. Simon Danczuk, the MP for Rochdale, said that Labour MPs who claim that Mr Miliband is popular on the doorstep are "telling lies".
MY BUDGET WILL BE BALLS'
Ed Miliband has claimed that Alex Salmond would not be allowed to write a minority Labour government's first budget "in a million years", Auslan Cramb reports. He used a speech in Scotland to accuse the former Scottish National Party leader of "bluff and bluster".
French cabinet minister Ségolène Royal has accused George Osborne of being "spiteful" in his comments about the French economy, and warned "what goes around comes around". She told Newsnight that his swipe at the "French approach" in the Budget was "condescending" and added: "When a country like the UK is facing difficulty, we don't make fun. In your country your budget deficit is much greater than it is in France, we don't have take pleasure from it." Politics Home has more details.
ONE BILLION POUNDS
The Democratic Unionist Party has named its price for keeping a Tory or Labour government in power. Ian Paisley, son of the party's founder, told The Independent he would be open to a deal with either main party in return for "hundreds of millions" extra for the province.
FARR-OFF THE MARK
Tim Farron, the Lib Dem's foreign affairs spokesman, has been rebuked by Vince Cable for giving the party leadership 2/10 for its work in coalition. The twinkle toes Business Secretary told BuzzFeed's Emily Ashton that Farron's credibility "isn't great" and suspected that "he would not be seen as a very credible leader". Cable's wife also reveals he is now an "international supreme" dancer.
DEFECTING BY ACCIDENT
The UK Independence Party policy chief who is writing the party's general election manifesto has admitted she agrees with David Cameron's position on Europe, Chris Hope has revealed. Suzanne Evans, the party's deputy chairman and a former Tory councillor, said she would campaign to keep Britain within a reformed European Union if there was an in/out referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.
FRIENDLY FIRE FROM PAXO
Jeremy Paxman has accused broadcasters of acting in a "pathetic high-handed" fashion over the proposed TV leaders' debates – even though he would have been an integral part of one of them. Paxman branded the negotiations over the pre-election debates a "complete shambles", the Guardian's John Plunkett has more.
AND ON THAT (BLOND) BOMBSHELL...
Boris Johnson has suggested that he could replace Jeremy Clarkson as a presenter on Top Gear if the BBC no longer needs his services. The London Mayor told yours truly on Twitter that "if a vacancy, wd def let my name go forward", which sounds like the sort of thing he may soon be saying about the Tory leadership. Of course he was joking, says Iain Martin, wasn't he?
Average of polls as of Sunday, March 22: Lab: 33.84%, Conservative: 33.16%, UKIP 14.73%, Lib Dem 7.91%, Green 4.73%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB.
TOO MANY TWEETS…
From The TelegraphPhilip Johnston - We don't like coalitions – but we may have to get used to them
Tim Stanley - Why is Nigel Farage considered fair game?
Rachel Sylvester - Prepare for the great leadership bloodbath
Alex Massie - In a brave move, David Cameron sets fire to his authority
0900 Boris Johnson on LBC for 'Ask Boris'
0930 UK monthly inflation figures from ONS. Last month's figures showed a CPI inflation rate of 0.3 per cent in the year to January
1030: Campaigners launch the 'MyMP' campaign for "real democracy"
1030 Ed Balls speaks in Birmingham on Labour's economic policy and unveils a new manifesto commitment
1415 George Osborne to give evidence to the Treasury Committee on the Budget
1445 Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude speaks at a Reform event in London on the future of public service delivery
1545 Energy Secretary Ed Davey and shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint speak at a Policy Exchange event on the UK energy market
1830 Birkbeck University debate on "Policies or personality?Can the internet change our voting habits?"
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
HOUSE OF COMMONS
11.30: Oral questions - Deputy Prime Minister, including Topical Questions; Attorney General
Ten Minute Rule Motion - Schools (Opportunity to Study for Qualifications)
Motion - Business of the House motion
Legislation -Recall of MPs Bill - Consideration of Lords amendments
Legislation - Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill - Consideration of Lords amendments
Motion - Debate to approve a motion relating to Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993
Motion - Motion to approve Statutory Instruments relating to counter-terrorism
Adjournment debate - Lesser taught languages
9.30-1100: Commonwealth Day - Sir Alan Haselhurst
11-11.30 Future of Kettering General Hospital - Mr Philip Hollobone
1430 - 1600 Reform of the Vaccine Damage Payment Act 1979 - Mr Russell Brown
1600- 1630 Update on the Shrewsbury 24 - Mr David Anderson
1630 - 1700 Property taxes in London - Mark Field
1630: A debate on an e-petition relating to proposed increase in fees for nurses and midwives.
HOUSE OF LORDS
Public awareness on the effect on living standards of the UK's debt servicing costs - Lord Vinson
Planning of the proposed new London concert hall - Lord Campbell-Savours
Detecting and shadowing non-NATO naval units in UK waters - Lord Trefgarne
Action being taken to tackle air quality in London - Lord Dubs
Debate - 3rd Report from the Select Committee (Amendments to the Code of Conduct and the Guide to the Code; Redaction of written evidence to defunct select committees) (HL Paper 143) - Lord Sewel
Debate - Report of the European Union Committee on The EU and Russia: before and beyond the crisis in Ukraine - Lord Tugendhat
Short debate -Impact of oil palm plantations on world-wide climate and existence of indigenous animals - Lord Eden of Winton
Short debate - Social and economic value of sports volunteering in the United Kingdom - Lord Allen of Kensington
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