The Conservatives pledged to maintain Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent yesterday, not that you'd know as they were keener to talk about Ed Miliband's leadership credentials. Defence secretary Michael Fallon claimed he would "stab the United Kingdom in the back" by abandoning Trident, while skills minister Nick Boles claimed Vladimir Putin wanted Miliband to win the election.
The "backstabber" jibe is a marked change in tone by the Tory campaign, as the message previously was that Miliband was "weak" and "not up to the job of being Prime Minister". The Tory top tier is piling in on the Labour leader as part of a plan to get voters talking about his readiness to lead. "The Tories want to weaponise Ed Miliband", writes Dan Hodges. Over-the-top criticism like this works as it sparks debates about how accurate it is to say Miliband would betray Britain just as - in Fallon's words - he "stabbed his own brother in the back to become Labour leader". "Mr Fallon's attack was ill-judged," our view is. Others may wonder: do they have a point?
The conventional wisdom is that Miliband is more unpopular than his party, so the Tories hope that reminding voters of his existence will cause voters looking at Labour to run away screaming. But a new poll by Survation found that Miliband's personal approval rating is now higher than Cameron's, with the net score for people saying he was doing a good job at +3.2 points (compared to his Tory rival's +2.3). The Tories will take comfort in the fact that Cameron still comes out top on the question of "who would make the best prime minister?" with a 12 point lead. Three pollsters (Survation, Panelbase and TNS) put Labour between three to six points ahead of the Tories in the polls. ComRes still has the Tories ahead, but only just (at 34 per cent to Labour's 33 per cent).
So will the negativity work? David Cameron has defended Fallon's "pretty frank remarks" about Miliband, but some voters may recall he took over as Tory leader promising an end to "Punch and Judy politics" and declared to the party faithful "let sunshine win the day". Think back to last year's Rochester and Strood by-election, when Cameron pledged to throw the "kitchen sink" at stopping former Tory MP Mark Reckless - who he called a "fat a***" - being elected under the Ukip banner. Other Tories accused him of being an "unprincipled, back-stabbing, liar". The result? Reckless won, while a Tory MP described his party's campaign to me as "a load of bo***ks".
The Tory campaign is pushing a more positive message today, pledging to freeze rail fares in the next Parliament and give half of the UK workforce three days' paid leave each year to volunteer, in a revival of Cameron's "Big Society" initiative. With parties unveiling their manifestos as soon as next week, will policies, rather than personalities, be debated?
NO TO NATO
The Conservatives will not make a general election commitment to meeting Nato's target of spending 2 per cent of national income on defence, Steven Swinford has learned. The failure to make the commitment comes even though Cameron last year used a Nato summit in Wales to urge other European members of the military alliance to meet the 2 per cent standard.
MILI'S MYSTERIOUS GIRL
Ed Miliband failed to tell his future wife that he was going out with another woman, Nicola Harley reports. Justine Thornton, the Labour leader's wife, said that when she first met him she was left "furious" after he failed to tell her that he was "secretly" dating another woman.
STOP STURGEON SURGIN'
Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Jim Murphy will share a platform in Edinburgh in a high profile and desperate bid to prevent massive SNP gains in Scotland, Auslan Cramb reports. With the polls predicting a landslide for the Scottish nationalists, Labour will warn that Nicola Sturgeon's plans for immediate full fiscal autonomy would leave a £7.6 billion hole in Scotland's economy.
SWIVEL-EYED LOON ARMY
David Cameron would be held "hostage" by Ukip and "swivel-eyed" right-wing Conservative MPs if he forms a minority government after the election, Nick Clegg has warned. Speaking to the Independent's Andrew Grice, the Liberal Democrat leader widened the divide between the Coalition parties by claiming that Mr Cameron would be "held to ransom" if he did not form another coalition with the Lib Dems. Clegg's attack echoes the "swivel-eyed loons" remark reported by the Telegraph in 2013 used by a close ally of the Tory leader.
Foreign investors are slashing holdings of British gilts at a record pace on concerns over electoral gridlock and the long-term stability of sterling, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports. Data from the Debt Management Office show that non-residents sold a net £14bn of gilts over the two months of January and February, an even bigger sell-off than during the white heat of the financial crisis in early 2009.
UKIP IS ROCKARD
A UK Independence Party local election candidate has defended his other job as a porn baron named Rockard on the day that a senior Ukip MEP that some of its members "occasionally resorted to boorishness or chauvinism". Patrick O'Flynn, the party's economy spokesman and a close ally of party leader Nigel Farage, admitted that the party could still appear like a "rugby tour". Chris Hope has more.
HUGHES DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?
Tim Farron, the Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, drew a massive backlash from his colleagues, including Vince Cable and Paddy Ashdown, when he gave his party 2/10 for its work in coalition. Simon Hughes has weighed in, telling HuffPostUK's Ned Simons that the ambitious Lib Dem should not "undermine" Nick Clegg.s leadership. Hughes, someone who has run for the leadership twice already, was also asked if he wanted another go at the top job, but replied: "No. No,no,no,no."
DIANE'S RUSSIAN TO DEFEND VLAD
A Ukip MEP has declared she admires Vladimir Putin as a "nationalist" who has "put Russia first", Matt Holehouse reports. Diane James, the party's Justice Spokesman who is regarded as a potential successor to Nigel Farage, told LBC radio that Putin was "strong leader" and suggested the European Union was to blame for the invasion of Ukraine.
WEAPON OF MASS ELECTION
Samantha Cameron is twice as popular as other leaders' wives, a new poll has found. The survey by YouGov confirmed Mrs Cameron's "secret weapon" status as a greater election asset than the wives of other party leaders. Read more here.
BIG BEAST ON HIS WAY BACK?
Former Labour deputy prime minister John Prescott has sparked talk he's being lined up as Ed Miliband's Energy Minister, by asking Whitehall officials for a climate change briefing, the Sun's Steve Hawkes reports.
THE STREET ONLY KNEW YOUR NAME
Police forces would have to guarantee bobbies on the beat through a new legal commitment to neighbourhood policing, under Labour plans to be unveiled on Friday, Emily Gosden reports. Ed Miliband will claim that Conservative cuts have left neighbourhood policing "at risk of disappearing" and will pledge to make drastic £800 million-a-year backroom job cuts and efficiency savings to help safeguard frontline staff.
MAKING YOUR MIND UP
Not sure who to vote for yet? The Telegraph has teamed up with Vote Match, the UK's biggest voting advice app, in order to help you find the party that best matches your views. The app is quick and easy to use, and the results may surprise you...
Average of polls as of Wednesday, April 8: Lab: 33.8%, Conservative: 32.6%, UKIP 13.9%, Lib Dem 8.6%, Green 4.9%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB.
TOO MANY TWEETS…@JohnCleese: I think Mr Fallon needs to explain that Tories prefer to stab people in the front,the way that they are taught at Eton
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09.00 Yvette Cooper and Sadiq Khan.
11.00 Ed Miliband speech in Edinburgh with Jim Murphy.
11.00 Michael Fallon speaks at Rusi in London.
Final candidate lists for the General Election to be published
Ladies' Day at the Grand National
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
HOUSE OF COMMONS
HOUSE OF LORDS
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