David Cameron love-bombed Ukip, and now he is hoping to scare his former supporters into coming back to save Britain from the "calamitous outcome" of an Ed Miliband government being propped up by the SNP. The Prime Minister delivered this message in an interview with Peter Dominiczak, which features on our front page today: "Cameron: Ukip voters can stop 'toxic' SNP"
Cameron is trying to keep the "will they/won't they?" question about Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon in voters' minds. Boris Johnson has loyally echoed his leader, telling the Daily Mail that Ukippers should "swing behind the Conservatives" to avoid the "nightmare" of a "backward-looking Labour government" propped up by an "even more Left-wing" SNP. The Conservatives' sustained offensive may seem dull, but their hope is to make voters tempted by Labour notice, and think twice. As Alastair Campbell once said, "we had to...repeat our basic messages the whole time".
If Ukip is worried by Cameron's plea to their voters, the party isn't letting on. "He has tried so many scare tactics and it hasn't worked yet," a spinner tells me,"I really cannot see it working now". The Tories are convinced fears of an SNP/Lab pact are cutting through to English voters, as Dan Hodges notes, "and they are going to keep pushing on it hard". If talking about it more helps get back supporters who drifted off to Ukip, the thinking goes, so much the better.
This comes after the Tory tartan tiff took a turn back to the 1990s, with Sir John Major warning that the SNP and Labour would raise "merry hell". Lord Forsyth, Major's ex Scottish secretary, attacked the "dangerous" Tory warnings about the SNP's potential influence while Lord Tebbit, who served in Margaret Thatcher's government with Major, said they were "puzzling", "pointless" and a "huge scare tactic" and attacked his party for deciding to "just irritate Scots by shouting at them from Westminster".
The Conservative rhetoric won't help their prospects much in Scotland, where they have only MP, who polls say will be ousted by the Scottish nationalists in May. Lord Tebbit has acknowledged his party's gloomy outlook, telling the Guardian that his party should close down in Scotland and form a pro-UK party, and that it was "logical" for Scottish Tories to consider voting Labour as the best way to keep the SNP out. However, campaigners hope their blunt talk will sway voters south of the border.
Labour scoff at suggestions they'd work with the SNP, with Ed Miliband accusing his Tory rival of "demeaning his office", but they're already falling into the Tory trap, as every furious response keeps the "Lab-SNP" issue alive. Tory grandees fretting about their party's talk of Sturgeon also helps keep it going. All this drowns out Labour's planned "NHS week" of campaigning. As voters make up their minds, what will they most remember from this week?
NOT NOW DARLING
Alistair Darling has piled more pressure on Ed Miliband to rule out any sort of power-sharing deal with the SNP by arguing Labour cannot be held "to ransom" by a party with the "sole aim" of destroying the United Kingdom, Simon Johnson reports. The former Chancellor indicated the Labour leader should try and form a minority administration rather than enter talks with the Nationalists, whom he said had "no interest" in supporting a stable British Government.
LIFE OF O'REILLY
Miriam O'Reilly, the former Countryfile presenter who famously won an ageism case against the BBC, will be appointed by a Labour Government to fight against discrimination against pensioners. Miss O'Reilly will be made the first independent Commissioner for Older People in England if Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister, the Telegraph's Chris Hope can disclose. Since the start of the campaign, Miliband has been touring Britain with his lectern in an attempt to make himself appear more statesmanlike. We've put together a tribute - "Ed Miliband: me and my lecterns".
THE ORIGINAL MATERIAL GIRL
Madonna has made an "unapologetic" tribute to the late Baroness Thatcher, the former leader Prime Minister, and praised her for having a "rebel heart", Steven Swinford reports. The pop star posted a picture of Baroness Thatcher on her Instagram account along with the well known quote:: "If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing". The pop star added: "Thank you Margaret Thatcher! #unapologietic #rebel heart".
THANET IS NOT ENOUGHNigel Farage says he could be the next James Bond - but it couldn't be a woman. In an interview with Magic Radio, the Ukip leader said: "You've got to be faithful to Ian Fleming, and the original writer. It has to be male, it has to be a rogue of some description." When host Aileen O'Sullivan suggested Farage could fill the role, he replied: "I'm not handsome enough, but I'm certainly a rogue. I'd give it a go." Read more about their chat here.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
Who's going to win the 2015 general election? What sort of coalition, if we get a hung parliament, will emerge? According to the betting markets (drawn from the latest Betfair odds), the possible outcomes are: Lab minority: 36% - Con minority: 18.5% - Con-Lib Dem coalition: 13.8% - Con majority: 9.8% - Lab-Lib Dem coalition: 8.8% - Any other government/coalition: 8.8% - Lab majority: 2.2% - Con-Ukip coalition: 2.2%.
Labour has promised a real terms pay rise for NHS staff while the Conservatives accused them of "playing politics" with the health service and risking a future shortage of nurses, Laura Donnelly reports. During a debate about the future of the NHS, Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative Health Secretary, refused to commit to future pay rises for NHS staff.
MINISTRY OF SOUNDNESS
A Lib Dem peer has accused the main parties - including his own - of being trapped in a cycle of "electoral bribery and reality avoidance". In a scathing piece for the Telegraph, Lord Palumbo, head of the Ministry of Sound nightclub, warned that election promises are in the long term killing our democracy. "Honesty doesn't win seats," he laments, "promises do". Meanwhile, Ian Gorham, chief executive of FTSE 100 investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown, warned that successful people are being "demonised for political convenience" by "lunatic" politicians who have put wealth creation at risk by undermining pension saving. Dan Hyde has more.
IS 1.5 BLACK PEOPLE ENOUGH?
Nigel Farage has dismissed criticism of the lack of diversity in Ukip's manifesto, adding a "half black" party spokesman featured prominently along with "one fully black person". The Ukip leader was asked at his manifesto launch last week to justify the scarcity of black and Asian faces in the Ukip manifesto. It includes several photographs of the party's top team although it was suggested the only black face in the document appeared on a page about overseas aid. Here are more details.
Miriam González Durantez, wife of Nick Clegg, has another string to her bow, Xanthe Clay reports. Along with being a top city lawyer and founding her own campaign to inspire schoolgirls to aim higher, as well as being mother to three sons and wife of the Deputy Prime Minister, she's now giving Nigella a run for her money with a cookery blog, mumandsons.com. Here are five of her best recipes. She revealed her website on a Mumsnet discussion, and also spoke was asked if she was smarter than her husband.
Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party Chairman, has become embroiled in a row over allegations he was behind changes made to online biographies of his political rivals, Ben Riley-Smith reports. A Wikipedia administrator blocked a user called "Contribsx" from making any further changes to the site and claimed the account was being operated by Shapps "or someone acting on his behalf". "Thicky Wiki" is the Daily Mirror's front page take.
CLOWN OFF TO THE LEFT...
A man dressed as a clown was seen fleeing down a street with a Liberal Democrat election board under his arms. In a Stroud Life article, Adrian Walker-Smith, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for the Stroud constituency, said: "Our supporter was hanging out her washing in the garden when she heard a crack and saw a young man wearing clown trousers dashing along the street with the board. Michael Wilkinson has more.
John Major and Norman Tebbit couldn't have timed their return to the political scene better, as a new photography exhibition about the TV satire Spitting Image has opened at the James Hyman Gallery (until the election is over). I've popped along and there are some hilarious and quirky shots of the show's puppets, including a rather striking shot of Edward Heath, undressed and strung up to the ceiling with thread. The puppet cast also include Margaret Thatcher, Michael Heseltine, and Douglas Hurd.
GOLDMAN SACHS ATTACKS
The emergence of a Labour-led government after the May election could damage the confidence of financial markets and business leaders in the UK, Goldman Sachs has warned. The investment bank said Ed Miliband coming to power would be viewed as "more problematic by the business community" than a victory by Conservative leader David Cameron, Peter Spence reports.
MAKING YOUR MIND UP
Not sure who to vote for yet? You can use the quick and easy Vote Match app to help you find the party that best matches your views. The results may surprise you...
Average of polls as of Monday, April 20: Lab: 33.6%, Conservative: 33.7%, UKIP 13.5%, Lib Dem 8.3%, Green 4.8%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB.
TOO MANY TWEETS…@WillSh: Major, Ashdown. Just need Kinnock and then we can declare it "Election Expendables" day. Wonder if Sly will show?
From The Telegraph
Mary Riddell - Labour needs to be prepared to work with the SNP
Cathy Newman - This election campaign is crying out for a Jennifer's Ear moment
Rafael Behr - Humiliation seems likely but the Lib Dems must survive
Duncan Weldon - The economics and politics of Thomas the Tank Engine
08:30 Boris Johnson on LBC radio with Nick Ferrari
10:00 Margaret Curran, Yvette Cooper and Kezia Dugdale launch Scottish Labour's women's manifesto
14:00 Financial Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie, Deputy Chief Whip Lord Newby, Patrick O'Flynn and Stewart Hosie participate in a BBC Daily Politics debate on the economy
Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb, shadow welsh secretary Owen Smith, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, Nathan Gill MEP and Pippa Bartolotti participate in an ITV Cymru general election debate
19:30 Nigel Farage is to be interviewed by Evan Davis for BBC One's 'The Leader Interviews'
Prime Minister David Cameron attends a European Union summit in Brussels on migrants in the Mediterranean. Cameron is also campaigning in London today.
Ed Miliband meets voters East of England.
Nick Clegg in Bristol and Montgomeryshire
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett campaigns in Sheffield
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
HOUSE OF COMMONS
HOUSE OF LORDS