The Scottish Nationalist Party has marked the launch of its manifesto today by warning Ed Miliband that it would block defence spending and paralyse Britain's armed forces if he attempts to renew the Trident nuclear defence system, in a scary message we have splashed on today: "SNP's ransom note to Miliband". "We will hold UK defence to ransom, SNP warns," the Times goes for.
This comes after SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said that the SNP would be in a "very, very strong position" with Ed Miliband in power. The Conservatives have piled in, with David Cameron confessing he is "frightened" by the prospectof a Labour government propped up by the SNP. Writing in today's Telegraph, Boris Johnson warns that Miliband will elevate the SNP to "a position of effective dominance", adding: "You wouldn't get Herod to run a baby farm". Sir John Major, the former Prime Minister, will also speak about the threat posed by the SNP on Tuesday. Tony Blair garnered lots of attention for his recent speech about the EU, so the Tories hope deploying their own elder statesman should be as effective.
As manifesto launches go, the SNP could be about to throw petrol onto a fire the Tories want to keep burning. Ed Miliband has so far ruled out a coalition with the SNP, leaving the door open to looser deals to get their support on key issues. Other Labour figures have made this clear. Angela Eagle said that Labour will speak to "any party" to "try and build a majority", while Andy Burnham told Good Morning Britain today that the party "would talk to people".
The Scottish Nationalists are set to win more than 50 seats. The biggest risk to their success is voters fearing what they would do if they got anywhere near power, as rival parties paint Sturgeon as someone who - like Heath Ledger's Joker - "wants to watch the world burn". Nicola Sturgeon has already tried to reassure voters, saying that her MPs would back a Labour Queen's Speech, and then seek to "change the direction" of his government on an issue-by-issue basis, "without bringing that government down".
Tory HQ believes talk of post-election deals is an effective message, with "Labour-SNP stitch up" threatening to replace "long-term-economic-plan" as their catchphrase. Labour is trying desperately to move the conversation onto something they prefer, like the NHS, as they prepare to kick off a campaign "health week". Ed Miliband's party feel this is fertile territory, but they will need to take health professionals with them, as a recent survey by GP magazine found that 28% of GPs are planning to vote Conservative, compared to 13% for Labour. Post-election deals or the NHS, both parties will claim success depending on what you think about more.
MAKING YOUR MIND UP
Not sure who to vote for yet? Some 7.5 million eligible citizens have until midnight tonight to register to vote in May's election, Matthew Holehouse reports. As the Daily Mirror's front page says: "Your country neds you... to vote". Once you've done that - 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...
ED MAKES 25 WOMEN VERY HAPPY
The Labour leader was surrounded by 25 screaming hens after his entourage parked outside their hotel in Knutsford, Matthew Holehouse reports. He was spotted after one of the group stepped outside for a cigarette. Within minutes, the party had left the hotel demanding a glimpse of the leader. You can watch their bizarre meeting here. Also, Mary Riddell has been looking at what Ed Miliband is really like.
THE BLAME GAME BEGINS
Nigel Farage has blamed "fanatical" David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy for the drowning of hundreds of migrants off Italy, saying the exodus was "directly caused" by western intervention in the civil war in Libya. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said he will raise the question of how the European Union responds to the recent spate of drownings in the Mediterranean when foreign ministers meet today. Read more here. Meanwhile, Dan Hodges argues that Farage and Ukip are "fading away without a fight".
BEYOND THE (HADRIAN'S) WALL
David Cameron will vow to prevent England, Wales and Northern Ireland from losing out unfairly as a result of Scottish devolution by introducing an annual report detailing the impact of Scottish government decisions on the rest of the UK. In a move that is likely to be seen as an attempt to be the champion of English interests, the Tory leader will say the review will set out "what action is needed to make sure there is no detriment to the rest of the UK". The Guardian's Patrick Wintour has more.
THANKS, BUT NO BANKS
Two of Britain's major banks have rejected overtures from the Conservative party to back Tory policies ahead of the election, as lenders try to stay out of the limelight in the run up to next month's vote, James Titcomb reports. Sources at the banks, two of the biggest lenders in the country, said they had been approached with a view to endorsing the Conservatives' policy on allowing paid leave for volunteering, but declined to back the proposal.
NICK'LL TEACH THEM A LESSON
Nick Clegg has hit out at his coalition partner sfor "wilfully taking an axe to our vital public services" and warned that their plans "will hit teachers and schools hard". The Liberal Democrat leade will make this attack as he unveils a new five-point plan for parents and teachers about his own party's education policies. Politics Home's Josh May has more.
Ed Miliband's mansion tax will force more than 120,000 homeowners will have to get their properties revalued at a cost of up to £4,800 each, a new analysis has found. New research by Savills, the estate agents, homeowners will have to spend a total of £110 million valuing their properties or face fines of thousands of pounds. Steven Swinford has more. Meanwhile, Ed Balls has left the door open to increasing corporation tax if Labour wins the election, Matthew Holehouse reports.
Millions of people will be able to buy shares in Lloyds Bank, under a dramatic Conservative plan to launch a "Tell Sid"-style mass privatisation of the bailed-out banking firm, Tim Ross reports. David Cameron is promising to order the sale of billions of pounds of Lloyds shares to the public within a year, at a discount of at least 5 per cent, if the Tories win the election on May 7.
ONLY TIME WILL TELL...
Lord Archer, the former Conservative deputy chairman and novelist, has been speaking to Peter Stanford about David Cameron's campaign blunders, where the party's election strategy is coming unstuck – and how to fix it. "What I am still waiting for," he muses, "is one of those moments that change the whole election campaign."
ED DOES DO GOD
Ed Miliband set out to woo Christian voters signalling he would consider new measures to protect their right to express their beliefs in the workplace after a series of controversial cases, John Bingham reports. The Labour leader also pledged to work closely with faith schools and said religious groups running community projects should not face suspicion from councils and government bodies over their motives.
Average of polls as of Sunday, April 19: Lab: 33.4%, Conservative: 34.5%, UKIP 12.8%, Lib Dem 8.4%, Green 4.9%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB.
TOO MANY TWEETS…@DavidSchneider: I'm voting cos they may be all bad but if party A is a bit less bad than party B, in that gap 1000s of lives can be improved #register2015
From The Telegraph
Boris Johnson - If Ed Miliband's in the driving seat, Nicola Sturgeon will be steering him to the Left
James Kirkup - Westminster doesn't matter - all the SNP cares about is separation
Matthew d'Ancona - You think coalition government was bad? What's coming is uglier
Dominic Lawson - The Scottish Nasty Party and how its growing intimidation and intolerance of dissent reeks of fascism
10.45 David Cameron is speaking in Cheshire.
11:00 Lord Wallace of Saltaire speaks at the Royal United Services Institute on the Liberal Democrat's defence policy
11.00 Labour is launching "health week" with Ed Balls and Andy Burnham in London
15.00 Nick Clegg speaks in Newquay about education.
18:00 Lord Saatchi speaks at the Institute of Directors on promoting growth
19:00 Treasury Minister Priti Patel, shadow business minister Stella Creasy, Liberal Democrat candidate Anuja Prashar and Green Party candidate Rebecca Johnson participate in a Fawcett Society hustings in London on women and the economy
2240: ITV's The Agenda with Tom Bradby, with Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, comedian Marcus Brigstocke and columnist Jane Moore.
The Scottish National Party launches its 2015 General Election manifesto
Sinn Fein is expected to launch its 2015 General Election manifesto
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