Nigel Farage has parked his tanks on David Cameron's lawn, pledging in today's Telegraph that Ukip would increase defence spending, in a move aimed directly at disgruntled Tories who have been tempted by both parties.
Farage's move comes as he prepares to launch Ukip's general election manifesto. Here's our guide of what to expect. It looks like this will be Farage's first - and last - general election manifesto as party leader, after he quipped last year: "By 2020 I will be too old and knackered and we'll have found somebody else". Ukip's rising stars are already vying to take over, like migration spokesman Steven Woolfe, who told Good Morning Britain today that he would "of course" be interested. Woolfe's ambition is well known in party circles, with the MEP telling me in January that Ukip could take on a "greater message".
Support for the Ukip has waned, with the party's current rating (12.7 per cent in our poll of polls) now less than half its 26.6 per cent high in the EU elections last May. The Conservatives are hoping after their manifesto launch (which we have splashed on today "Return of the good life") could help them to squeeze Ukip further in the polls and give them just the boost they need to win. Ukippers have accused the Tories of stealing their policies, with one deadpan officialmusing: "So proud of the Ukip policy team, short staffed, beset, yet able to write the Tory manifesto as well as ours." Others are nervous about such jibes, with one insider telling me: "If we say they're nicking our policies, voters may think 'I'll vote for them because they're practically the same thing now". The party's aim today, I'm told, is to show voters "whatever we say always seems to reflect public opinion so by voting Ukip you're getting the real deal".
Farage's team will be buoyed by today's Times' front page, reporting that Jean Claude Juncker has ruled out any treaty negotiations on Britain's relationship with Europe until after November 2019, two years later than David Cameron's suggested deadline. The party will be able to seize on such news as proof that "the establishment" won't change anything in Brussels.
Ukip's manifesto will be under special scrutiny after its previous leader Lord Pearson - and more recently Farage - admitted to never having read its last one in 2010. Farage later dismissed the manifesto - which infamously included policies like repainting the trains and making the Circle line a circle - as "drivel". We'll be covering Ukip's launch, and the Lib Dem manifesto, on our live-blog. For Ukip's 2015 manifesto, Farage has already told reporters: "I've read every word of it and I agree with it all". If a row breaks out over any of the new policies, the Ukip leader may regret not having as easy an excuse as he did about 2010's manifesto.
RIGHT TO BUY VOTES
David Cameron's plans to give housing association tenants the right to buy their homes, in a revival of Thatcher's "propery-owning democracy" vision, has caused strong reactions. Julia Hartley-Brewer says it is "economically illiterate and morally wrong", while Allister Heath says it is "great but the real solution is to build more homes". However as our map shows, the potential number of beneficiaries is huge, so the plans could have great sway if tenants liked the Tory leader's plans.
COALITION NEEDS A CLEGG TO STAND ON
Voters are facing a stark choice between "a coalition of grievance" that involves either the Scottish National party or Ukip, or the politics of conscience and stability with the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg has told the Guardian. Speaking before the launch of his party's manifesto, Clegg argued that the nation is realising that a new coalition government is inevitable..
RONNIE SINKS THE BLUE AND THE REDS
Snooker legend Ronnie O'Sullivan has some pretty strong views on politics, telling Forever Sports magazine that the Conservatives and labour are part of the "little boys' club" at Westminster. He also goes on to lay into Tony Blair over the Iraq war, saying: "He caused the war, him and Bush. And now he's the UN peacekeeper for the Middle East. I mean, how'd he get that job?" Read more of his interview here.
FROM CRADLE TO GRAVE WITH DAVE
David Cameron has pledged that the Conservative Party will offer voters "security at every stage of your life" as he unveiled the party's General Election manifesto, Steven Swinford and Chris Hope report. The Tory leader also revealed that middle-income workers will be protected from being dragged into the higher rate of tax under a future Conservative government. For those with little time, we summed up the Tory manifesto in 90 seconds here.
SEE NO EVEL...
A deal between Labour and the SNP after the general election would be a "betrayal of the English vote", Ed Balls has admitted. The shadow chancellor said that Labour "will not" make any agreement with Nicola Sturgeon's party that would see Scotland benefit ahead of England, Peter Dominiczak reports.
... HEAR NO EVEL...
Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, was accused of a desperate ploy to kick-start Labour's struggling election campaign in Scotland after attacking David Cameron's plan for an English-only rate of income tax as a "brutal betrayal", Simon Johnson reports. He launched an incendiary tirade criticising the Conservative manifesto's pledge to give English MPs a veto over financial matters if they affect England only.
...SPEAK NO EVEL
The Conservatives are playing a "dangerous game" by talking up the SNP in the hope Nicola Sturgeon's party can help them win the general election, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader has warned. Willie Rennie accused the Tories of "putting their party before their country" by building up the potential influence of the Scottish Nationalists, who are projected to win dozens of seats from Labour. Read more here.
FAST AND FURIOUS JUSTICE
Persistent vandals, shoplifters and drug addicts will spend two nights in a police cell under Conservative plans to deal a "short, sharp" punishment to petty criminals, Matthew Holehouse reports. The new Fast Sanctions and Testing (FAST) schemes, which will be initially piloted, are based on "swift and certain" punishment programmes operating across 18 US states.
LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS
Is it too late for the Tories to win the election? Michael Gove appeared to be strikingly blunt when asked this question by BBC politics producer Chris Gibson, cheerily responding: "Yes". Gibson tweeted: "I suspect Michael Gove may have misheard me or has seriously gone off message". You can watch a video of their exchange here.
GORGEOUS GEORGE GETS HIS BEAUTY SLEEP
He may be one of the most important men in Britain, but it appears George Osborne still values his sleep. The Chancellor has revealed he bans his own phone from the bedroom so he is not disturbed with late-night calls. In an interview with the Radio Times, about his TV habits and tastes, which Nick Clegg also took, Osborne disclosed he switches off news programmes which run late into the evening, but "very occasionally" watches television in bed. You can read more details here. He also said the BBC was in danger of being "left behind" by its US rivals which produce gripping box set-length series.
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, April 13: Lab: 33.5%, Conservative: 34%, UKIP 12.7%, Lib Dem 8.4%, Green 5.5%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB.
TOO MANY TWEETS…
@ShippersUnbound: Cameron on "the good life" and Miliband "I am ready" were as good as they've been in this campaign. Looking forward to them debating. Oh.
From The Telegraph
Nigel Farage - Ukip will keep defence spending at 2 per cent of GDP
Will Heaven - David Cameron has stolen the Labour Party's soul
Max Hastings - Call me an optimist but now Cameron's finally got fire in his belly I can't believe voters will be foolish enough to dump him
Tim Bale - Curb your cynicism: politicians do keep their manifesto promises
10:15 The Liberal Democrats launch their 2015 General Election manifesto in London
10:30 The Social Democratic and Labour Party launches its 2015 General Election manifesto in Belfast
11:15 The UK Independence Party launches its 2015 General Election manifesto in Thurrock
1800 Eric Pickles with Iain Dale for LBC election call phone-in
18:45 Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham participates in an Independent Live election debate in Manchester
19:30 Evan Davis to interview David Cameron for BBC One's 'The Leader Interviews'
Welsh Finance and Government Business Minister Jane Hutt makes an announcement on Welsh government funding
Estimate of Scottish GDP in Q4 2014 to be published by the Scottish government
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
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