David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, Nicola Sturgeon, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood will face each other tonight for the first "multi-party debate" (as it's officially known). The live two-hour clash has been swiftly dubbed on Twitter the "#massdebate" (no sniggering at the back), and excitement is starting to build. So how are the Magnificent Seven preparing for tonight's duel?
The parties have been busily managing expectations. The bookies say Farage, who beat Nick Clegg last year in two TV debates, will come out best tonight. Ukip spinners have rushed to dampen expectations, with one telling me that he would prepare for tonight's debate "with a couple of G&Ts". "We're not wasting our time having a mock debate, that'd be farcical", the spokesman laughs. "Nigel will relax, maybe chill a bit before the debates. He'll have a run through the facts as well, but he's best at thinking on his feet."
The Conservatives express fury at Ukip's nonchalance, with a source branding their pre-match spin "b*****ks" and pointing out that Farage had signed a letter "demanding these debates" and "wants his moment to shine". Officials insist that Cameron has been "too busy running the country" to rehearse, but I've heard that that he has been preparing since mid-March, with a number of cabinet ministers standing in for the other party leaders in mock debates. His strategy will likely be to leave the other leaders to bicker while he stays above the fray, coming across as a statesman.
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg will have limited gains to make, unless their rivals make some horrendous gaffe, as many voters know what they think of them already. However, the smaller parties, like the Greens, Plaid Cymru and Scottish Nationalists, can't hide their excitement as their leaders will get their moment standing on an equal platform with the Prime Minister. "We've never had so much exposure", a Green spokesman says. I'm assured that the Green leader, Natalie Bennett, who recently blamed her "mind blank" during a radio interview on a "huge cold", is feeling "good" and isn't under the weather. Nicola Sturgeon could also turn heads. "Don't fall for the SNP leader's charm," Graeme Archer writes, "she only cares about destroying the Union". As for Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood, here's what you need to know about her.
The effect of seeing a fresh face can't be overstated, as Nick Clegg knows all too well after the "Cleggmania" seen in 2010 following his debut appearance alongside Cameron and Gordon Brown. However, as we point out, "it should be remembered that Mr Clegg was judged to have won [the debates] last time and yet, at the election, his party lost five seats".
Last week's leaders interviews failed to make or break the Conservatives and Labour's position in the polls, but tonighta lot of voters could be tempted to vote for something else.
The Morning Briefing will be taking a break tomorrow for the Easter Weekend, and will be resuming service on Tuesday. Have a Happy Easter.
IT'S NOT PERSONAL, IT'S BUSINESS...
Ed Miliband's rift with British business has intensified after 17 more major business figures signed a letter endorsing the Conservative Party's economic plans while the Labour party unveiled new anti-enterprise policies. Senior business leaders from firms like Selfridges and AstraZeneca have joined more than 100 other leading industry figures who have signed a letter to The Telegraph warning that a Labour government would "threaten jobs and deter investment" in the UK. "They are the nation's job and wealth creators", says Ben Wright. "Their opinions cannot be easily dismissed; they will carry weight and influence".
NO ZERO-HOURS HERO
Labour faces accusations of hypocrisy as it emerged that one of the signatories to a letter condemning zero-hours contracts has advertised for unpaid internships at his firm and also oversaw a project that employed staff on zero-hours contracts. The Independent's Matt Dathan has more. Nearly 70 sitting Labour MPs have also been accused of using zero-hours contracts to pay their staff, according to reports.
DAVE BASHES THE BISHOPS
David Cameron has used an Easter message to hit back at Church of England bishops he suggested had treated him as if he was "devoid of morality" because of the Coalition's policies on issues such as welfare. In a message penned for the magazine Premier Christianity, he urged his critics not to dismiss his Government's policies as "amoral" simply because they disagreed with them. Here are more details.
Labour could raise taxes for hundreds of thousands of middle-class professionals after the next election by lowering the threshold for the 40p rate, Ed Balls has suggested. In an interview, the shadow chancellor repeatedly refused to rule out changing the point at which the higher rate of tax kicks in, saying he had to be "honest" with the public that there was still a £90 billion deficit to pay off. Steven Swinford has more.
LOSING OUR RELIGION
Christians in Britain are being cowed into hiding their faith for fear of being viewed as a "bigots" and "accessories to child abuse" or simply fools obsessed with "genuflection before a sky pixie", according to Michael Gove. The Coalition Chief Whip said such is the antipathy to religion that prayer is now viewed with greater suspicion than smoking crack while those who publicly profess faith are assumed to believe in "bronze age absurdities". John Bingham has more.
IT'S YES-NP, BUT....
Labour would "of course" work closely with the SNP after the general election, Jim Murphy has admitted for the first time before insisting this would only happen if they were both fighting a Tory Government, Simon Johnson reports. The Scottish Labour leader said his party would be prepared to work with the Nationalists "but it will be on the opposition benches and we will be looking across at David Cameron as Prime Minister."
U-KIP CHANGING YOUR POLICY
The UK Independence Party's immigration policy is in chaos after it dropped plans to cap the numbers of migrants coming to the UK from the party's forthcoming election manifesto. Suzanne Evans, the party's vice chairman, said that there would be no immigration target when the manifesto is formally published in a fortnight's time. Chris Hope has more.
THEY SEE EU-UR TRUE COLOURS
Teenagers should not be allowed to vote on Britain's membership of the European Union because they have been "brainwashed" by EU-friendly colouring books, the UK Independence Party has said. Ukip said 16 and 17 year olds should not be given a vote in an in/out referendum because they had been unfairly influenced by EU-friendly colouring books and other materials while they are at school. Here are more details.
BOJO WON'T LET THEM GO
Boris Johnson says he will keep his new anti-riot water cannon - despite not getting approval to use them from Theresa May. The Mayor claimed he could "readily" get permission from a future Home Secretary to deploy the high-powered machines in an emergency. The Evening Standard's Joe Murphy has more.
MILI'S GOT GEEK CHIC
Ed Miliband has pleaded "guilty" to being a geek and boasted about being "brilliant" at the cult computer game Manic Miner. The Labour leader was quizzed by Absolute Radio's Geoff Lloyd and revealed the last film to make him shed a tear was Pride, a suitably left-wing tale of gay activists and striking miners. Asked about Jeremy Paxman's description of him as a "north London geek" in last week's Sky and Channel Four News debate, Mr Miliband said: "I plead guilty to being a geek. I'm proud." Here are more details.
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 Monday, March 30: Lab: 33.7%, Conservative: 34.1%, UKIP 13.6%, Lib Dem 7.9%, Green 5.1%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB.
TOO MANY TWEETS…@TamCohen: Ed Balls is at Glasgow airport. Asks journos following Nick Clegg 'is it hamsters today, or goldfish?'
From The TelegraphJanet Daley - Business chiefs vs Ed Miliband: Labour has gone back to the 1980s
Graeme Archer - Nicola Sturgeon – the most dangerous woman in politics
Andrew Cooper - Beyond the Westminster bubble, nobody cares about the TV debates
Stephen Day - The leaders' debate might be more important than you thought
09:00 Nick Clegg's weekly phone-in on LBC with Nick Ferrari
09:30 Latest overseas aid statistics (UK ODA as a proportion of GNI, 2015) to be published by DfiD
1300 Zac Goldsmith speaks at an RSA event on transforming politics in the UK
20:00 David Cameron (Conservative), Ed Miliband (Labour), Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat), Nigel Farage (UKIP), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Natalie Bennett (Greens) and Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) take part in a pre-election debate on IT
2245 ITV's The Agenda with Tom Bradby, guests include Rory Bremner, Christiane Amanpour, Grace Dent and Fraser Nelson.
Anniversary of Argentina seizing the Falklands in 1982.
The Institute for Economic Affairs publishes a report on the health system
The Institute for Government publishes a report on the impact of coalition reforms by department
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
HOUSE OF COMMONS
HOUSE OF LORDS
Samizdata quote of the day
5 hours ago