Over 100 business leaders have given their verdict on Ed Miliband, just two days after he tried to woo company chiefs with a "business manifesto", writing a devastating letter in today's Telegraph - which we have splashed on - warning that "Labour threatens Britain's recovery" and that the "Conservative-led Government has been good for business".
Their intervention will make for uncomfortable reading at Labour HQ, and has already led to glowing press coverage for the Conservatives. The BBC's headline is "Top bosses sign letter supporting Conservative-led government", the Independent's take is "Business leaders warn a change of government would 'threaten jobs and deter investment' in open letter", while Sky News go for "Business Leaders Back Tory Economic Policies".
Senior Labour figures have previously liked to dismiss critical business leaders as "Cameron cronies", but the 103 senior executives who have signed the letter include at least five who previously backed Labour, including former Dragon's Den star Duncan Bannatyne and Dixons Carphone chairman Sir Charles Dunstone. Even more awkwardly, Peter Grauer, the chairman of the Bloomberg, at whose London HQ Miliband launched his "business manifesto", has joined in.
How will Ed Miliband respond? Labour has struggled to find business leaders who would openly back them. However, the FT leads on Miliband's plans to - in effect - outlaw most zero-hours employment contracts, the controversial deals which guarantee no fixed hours or benefits. This ties in with his war on "predator" companies, after singling out the retailer Sports Direct as a "terrible place to work" last year because it hired thousands of workers on zero-hours contracts.
Business leaders helped David Cameron put Gordon Brown on the back foot in 2010 over his "jobs tax" (a.k.a. plans to increase national insurance). Tony Blair's post-mortem into Labour's 2010 election defeat still resounds. "If... chief executives say it is Labour that will put the economy at risk, who does the voter believe? Answer: the chief executives," he wrote. However, business leaders wading into the Scottish independence debate weren't quite as decisive as the pro-unionist side hoped.
Labour will cling to polling that suggests the public would warm a party that can be tough with chief executives, as a recent YouGov survey found that 49% of voters think government should be doing more to stand up to big business. Miliband's bet that voters will back him over business was always a gamble. But it's looking even riskier today.
CLEGG TRIES EDUCATING JOEY ESSEX
Nick Clegg has met Joey Essex, the star of the popular show The Only Way is Essex. After yawning during the 7.30 ampress conference, Mr Essex had an audience in the foyer, where Mr Clegg explained how the party had been formed out of an alliance of the Liberals and the Social Democrats. "Liberal Democrats. It's a weird word isn't it. It's got cats in it," said Mr Essex. "What's the cats about?""Crats," Mr Clegg corrected. "Wicked," replied Mr Essex. Here are more details.
THE ROW KEEPS ON BREWING...
Ed Balls has defended Labour's controversial "controls on immigration" mug, after three frontbenchers said they would not be buying one. "I ought to buy one and have it in my constituency campaign office," he said. "I'm hoping after the general election I can do a toast in that mug as we get on and change Britain for the better." The New Statesman's George Eaton says the mug reflects a deeper divide in the party. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have launched their own range of "Labour mugs", which have slogans like "We definitely chose the right brother" and "We'd never forget the deficit..."
BLUE MAN GROUP
David Cameron and George Osborne used to rarely make public appearances together, but now they have both sat down with the Sun's Ton Newton Dunn for their first joint interview. They unveil a new promise not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT for five years, and talk about football rivalries, and their friendship.
I'M SORRY, BUT I WON'T WIN
Nick Clegg has admitted he will "not triumph" in Thursday's television debate because he is a "familiar proposition" for voters, Matthew Holehouse reports. The Liberal Democrat leader was propelled to first place in the polls during the 'Cleggmania' that followed the first leaders' debate in the 2010 general election.
ON THE (BLACK)ROCKS
Ed Miliband will create a "constitutional crisis" if he leads Labour into a power-sharing agreement with the SNP which would leave Britain like a "pre-crisis Spain", the world's largest fund manager has warned. BlackRock, the US investment manager, warned that Britain would become a "disunited kingdom" with mounting debts and rising interest rates in a "fractious Parliament". Chris Hope has more.
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...
PAXO MARRED THE INTERVIEWS
Andrew Marr has accused Jeremy Paxman of ruining last week's interviews of Ed Miliband and David Cameron with his trademark aggressive style. Marr told an audience at the London School of Economics that Paxman's on-screen aggression was rooted in genuine personal anger. Gregory Walton has more.
LAB-SNP NOT A NUCLEAR FAMILY
Ed Miliband could not lead a minority government which is supported by the SNP unless he agrees to abandon Britain's nuclear defence programme, Nicola Sturgeon has said. The Scottish First Minister said that any "confidence and supply" arrangement could only proceed if Labour ruled out renewing Trident. Emily Gosden has more.
Nigel Farage has started to use electronic cigarettes to cut down on his nicotine intake, Chris Hope reports. A well-known smoker, Mr Farage's admission comes after Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, also admitted that he had started to "vape".
KIM-ERON BREAKS WESTMINSTER
David Cameron has said he is related to Kim Kardashian-West, the reality TV star, Emily Gosden reports. The Prime Minister told heat magazine that he was thirteenth cousin of the celebrity, who is married to rapper Kanye West and first became famous after starring in a leaked sex tape.
Britons are so ill at ease with levels of immigration in their towns that their children do not play football with their neighbours in the streets, Nigel Farage has said. The UK Independence Party leader said people in eastern England felt a "deep level of discomfort" about the millions of immigrants who have settled in the UK in the past decade. He also called David Cameron "wilfully deceitful" and dishonest" in his promise to cut immigration, despite previously saying his campaign would be entirely "positive". Our sketchwriter Michael Deacon called him out on that.
Average of polls as of Monday, March 30: Lab: 33.6%, Conservative: 34.2%, UKIP 13.5%, Lib Dem 8.1%, Green 5.1%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB.
TOO MANY TWEETS…@CSDrake: The product of 15 minutes of television fame in 2010, Nick Clegg met with Joey Essex this morning
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0830 Ukip's Patrick O'Flynn and Suzanne Evans making a speech on a 'free and fair' EU referendum at One Great George St
950 Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney visits Brodies law firm in Edinburgh to mark the launch of Revenue Scotland
1000 Scottish Housing Minister Margaret Burgess visits Melville Housing Association in Dalkeith
George Osborne visits factory in West Midlands and later (1500) makes a speech at Britvic, Yorkshire.
1200 Nick Clegg visits East Renfrewshire
1830 Michael Gove on LBC with Iain Dale for an election phone-in
Scotland's four main party leaders—the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Labour's Jim Murphy, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Scottish Lib Dem leader William Rennie—are to address the Scottish Police Federation conference
New corporation tax financial year begins as the main rate is cut to 20 per cent from 21 per cent. The 'Google tax' on diverted profits is to come into effect, and changes to the bank levy (it will increase from 0.16 per cent to 0.21 per cent) will come into effect
Scotland to take charge of its first tax for 300 years – existing UK Stamp Duty Land Tax and Landfill Tax will be disapplied in Scotland and replaced by a Scottish Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and Scottish Landfill Tax
ONS to publish labour productivity statistics for the final quarter of 2014
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
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