David Cameron, fresh from an Easter break where the most strenuous campaigning he did was feeding an adorable baby lamb, has marked his return to the campaign trial by love-bombing Ukip. The charm offensive, made in an interview with Telegraph's Peter Dominiczak on the Conservative election battle bus, is our lead story today: "It's time to come home, PM tells Ukip voters".
With one month until the polls open, the Prime Minister insisted he had heard the message from frustrated Tory voters "loud and clear" and appealed to those flirting with Nigel Farage's party, saying: "Now please, come on, let's get together and take the country forward." Cameron's warmth is a marked contrast from his infamous attack on Ukip voters in 2006 as "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists", which some activists will not have forgotten. The Prime Minister's message could well have been inspired by fellow Conservative Gary Barlow, who once sang: "Whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn't mean it, I just want you back for good."
The Conservatives are hoping to capitalise on Ukip's drop in the polls and win back some of their old supporters. Farage's party has fallen from getting regularly over 20 per cent in the polls to around 14 per cent on average. "We have had some embarrassments and they're going to take their toll," one Ukip source recently told me. Efforts to bring Ukippers back to the Tory fold could, I argued last week, help put Cameron back in No 10. "With a majority will come the power to fulfil the promises – on Europe, on immigration – that defectors most want kept," our view is. "That is a happy bargain, and one that, if the polls are to be believed, some are already striking."
Someone else with lots of experience of No 10 is also getting stuck into the campaign: Tony Blair. Labour's triple-election winning ex-premier will use a speech in Sedgefield, his old constituency, to take the fight to Cameron over his EU referendum pledge and praise Ed Miliband's "real leadership on the EU". Blair's previous interventions have almost consistently led to "clarifications" that he does - actually - support Miliband, so he'll be on his best behaviour.
Miliband will have mixed feelings about Blair's latest intervention, which the Guardian splashed on today. On the one hand, he became Labour leader promising to "turn the page from Blair" and has often spoken about his desire for the party to "move on". However, backing from Blair - a figure that David Cameron and George Osborne refer to as "the Master" - is still valuable. This dilemma will explain why he isn't rushing to share the stage with Blair, just imagine who would look more Prime Ministerial? On balance though, it's better for Miliband to have his support than not to.
FROM COALICIOUS...TO COA-VICIOUS
David Cameron has ridiculed Nick Clegg as a "desperate" attention seeker who leads a "minor party", as the gulf between the two Coalition partners widened on the tenth day of the election campaign, Matthew Holehouse reports. The Prime Minister mocked the Liberal Democrats after Clegg branded George Osborne a "dangerous man" and Danny Alexander claimed the Tories wanted only to look after the "bosses".
Labour is taking a gamble by focusing heavily on the four televised debates in a bid to appeal directly to voters at the expense of deploying Ed Miliband on the campaign trail ahead of next month's general election. Party chiefs have calculated that it is better to give him "unmediated" coverage in the forum of the four leaders' debate events despite criticism from members of his own party that the strategy is too risky. Here are more details.
SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE
The National Health Service is facing an even bigger financial "black hole" than politicians and health leaders have acknowledged, following a sharp fall in productivity. The research, carried out by the Health Foundation, an independent think-tank, for the Financial Times shows that despite an inflation-protected budget, hospital productivity tumbled from 2012. Sarah Neville has more.
DAVE ON NIKILEAKS
David Cameron has said he is "slightly surprised" by a government memo claiming Nicola Sturgeon wanted him to remain as Prime Minister, although it was a "widely held view". He added that he "deplored" leaks and said it was very important to be able to have diplomatic conversations in private. Auslan Cramb has more.
THIS POSTER ISN'T WORKING
Labour will launch a new poster featuring an image based on the famous Labour Isn't Working election campaign, that risks backfiring with voters who remember the original poster, and may associate it with Labour's failures of the past. The iconic image of a dole line, used by the Conservatives in the run-up to the 1979 general election, has been converted into a queue to visit a GP's surgery, to highlight the party's claim that 500 fewer GP surgeries are open in the evenings and at weekends. Read more here.
LET SUNSHINE WIN THE DAY LATER...
The Conservatives have yet to finalise their manifesto less than a week before it is due to be launched, amid concern among some Tory MPs that the party is not putting forward a positive enough message to the electorate, the Independent's Oliver Wright reports. Drafts of the document were reportedly still being rewritten over the Easter weekend and that a finalised version has yet to be signed off by David Cameron.
A former Conservative parliamentary candidate now standing for Ukip in the general election has claimed he was fired in a "pre-emptive strike" because the Tories knew he planned to leave, Charlotte Krol reports. Ukip announced that Mike Whitehead had defected but the Conservatives said he was sacked last week as the candidate for the Hull West and Hessle constituency.
POSH WITH A CAPITAL P-O-S-H...
David Cameron has said he accepts he is seen by many voters as "posh" but he insisted he wouldn't change his image to attract votes, Rosa Prince reports. Responding to a focus group finding which suggested that the cartoon character he most resembled was Dick Dastardly, he joked: "I wanted to be the good looking one with the beautiful girl, but anyway, it didn't work out that way."
THE SULTAN OF SWING
As the Swingometer celebrates its 60th birthday, Prof Sir David Butler speaks to Harry Wallop about his invention, advising Winston Churchill and why he's no fan of Jeremy Vine, who he says has gone "too far with the graphics".
ED (NEARLY) BALLS IT UP
As the man who aspires to be Chancellor, you might expect him to have a robust grasp of basic mathematics. But Ed Balls appeared momentarily stumped when asked about his times tables at a press conference in Leeds this morning. Watch what happened here.
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 Friday, April 3: Lab: 33.3%, Conservative: 33.3%, UKIP 13.9%, Lib Dem 8.5%, Green 5%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB.
TOO MANY TWEETS…
@PickardJE: Introducing Labour's "Living Dead" - its 40 beleagured Scotland MPs. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e804dfd2-d9e6-11e4-ab32-00144feab7de.html#axzz3WRFYS0RG … "I'm now set to Defcon f***ed," says one.
From The TelegraphSebastian Coe - Never underestimate the voters' gut instinct
Dan Hodges - Can the Tories hold on to their early lead?
Tim Bale - The Napoleonic truth about coalitions: getting most seats doesn't mean you win
Janan Ganesh - The average voter is immune to romance and rhetoric
David Cameron will visit seats in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England.
George Osborne, David Gauke and Priti Patel will deliver joint Treasury press conference in London.
Nick Clegg to attend a dawn press conference in London, before touring Manchester and the Welsh borders.
Ed Miliband will campaign in West London.
2000 Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie take part in a party leaders' debate. (Watchable online outside Scotland).
2100 Radio 1/BBC News broadcast debate on young people and trust in politicians, with Sadiq Khan, Lib Dem president Sal Brinton among others.
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
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