David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg faced voters last night for the final big TV event before the election, a Question Time special. So who won? Here are the five key things we learnt.
The Labour leader was the only one who, quite literally, tripped up, with our front page splash ("Miliband stumbles over his spending record") touching on his shaky departure from the stage. Miliband's stumble wasn't as bad as Bob Dole's fall off the stage during the 1996 presidential election, but it risks reviving memories in voters' minds of his image problem. ITV's Newzoids satire portrays him as an accident-prone leader whose catchphrase after every mishap is "at least I tried", so the "#Milistumble" will hardly help him seem more credible. Miliband vowed not to form a government if it meant a coalition or deal with the SNP, but as Mary Riddell points out, "it doesn't rule out vote by vote support". Nicola Sturgeon has already made hay with Miliband's refusal to work with her party, warning that Scots would never forgive Labour "for allowing the Conservatives back into office".
Fears of BBC bias, amid reports that over half of the audience could be left-wing, evaporated on the night, to the delight of Toby Young. "Is that because it was broadcast from Yorkshire, where more jobs were created last year than in the whole of France?," he purred. Members of the audience were still furious with Miliband's role in the previous Labour government, accusing him of "lying" over the damage his party did to the economy. Moments like this showed the voters were not afraid to get stuck in, with the Daily Mail calling it "The night real voters finally had their say".
Appearing earlier, David Cameron showed off former Treasury minister Liam Byrne's infamous "there is no money left" letter. "I bring this note with me everywhere!," he explained, and over the course of the show, he kept on brandishing it. "To him, it's a prize. A prize that he believes will win him another prize: the election," noted our sketchwriter Michael Deacon. The fact that the first two questions for Miliband were about Byrne's note showed Cameron had done his job by reminding voters of Gordon Brown's government.
So who won? A post-show Guardian/ICM poll found that David Cameron had come out on top, with 44% of viewers feeling he had done "best on the night", compared to 38% for Ed Miliband and 19% for Nick Clegg. For all the post-debate analysis, the crucial question will be what happens to the polls. The Tories and Labour, in our poll of polls, have been stuck at around 33%, with neither side breaking into a decisive lead. Cameron's hopes may rest on hitherto "shy" Tory voters surfacing in the last days of the campaign. Could they deliver an election surprise?
TANKED UP? NOT FOR NIGEL
Nigel Farage has considered hiring a tank to get the vote out on polling day, Chris Hope and I have found. The UK Independence Party leader looked at hiring a tank next Thursday as a stunt to encourage voters in South Thanet. However, after his advisers proposed the idea, he is understood to have decided against it.
The SNP will propose another independence referendum in its Scottish election manifesto, the former deputy leader has said amid fears over the party's influence on Ed Miliband after the election. Jim Sillars told The Telegraph's Ben Riley-Smith that party members will demand a promise to hold another vote on independence is the "first line" of the SNP's 2016 Holyrood manifesto.
Meanwhile, Ed Miliband has been urged by one of Labour's most senior parliamentarians to rescue the party's crisis-ridden general election campaign in Scotland because Jim Murphy is not a "stimulating leadership figure". Simon Johnson has more.
CHAMPAGNE (SOCIALIST) SUPERNOVA
Noel Gallagher, the former Oasis star who was caught up in Tony Blair's "Cool Britannia", isn't feeling as positive about Ed Miliband. "If he gets in, he will fial us. And he is a f***ing communist," he has told Alan Carr, in an episode of his show Chatty Man which will be broadcast tonight on Channel 4. According to the Daily Star, the singer also revealed he won't vote, and called Nicola Sturgeon "the unpleasant woman in the cheap shoes from across the border".
A record £1bn was pulled out of funds that invest in the UK stock market in March amid fears over the result of next week's general election. Investors moved their money into European equity funds, which saw inflows hit their highest level in 18 months at £663m, data released on Thursday showed. Read more details here.
YO! ED JUST GOT ROFFED UP
Simon Woodroofe, founder of the YO! Sushi and former Labour backer, says Ed Miliband "scares him", is too "defensive" and "seems angry about all the injustice in society". Speaking to LondonlovesBusiness.com, he also expressed support for Ukip, praising Nigel Farage's "good sense" on issues like immigration. On the subject himself, Woodroffe said: "Until we get our sh** together, we don't want to burden ourselves with more people."
FOLLOW THE MONEY
Who's going to win the 2015 general election? What sort of coalition, if we get a hung parliament, will emerge? According to the betting markets, the chances of the various outcomes, as implied by the latest odds from Betfair, are as follows: Lab minority: 35.7% - Con minority: 15.4% - Con-Lib Dem coalition: 19.3% - Con majority: 9.9% - Lab-Lib Dem coalition: 9% - Any other government/coalition: 8.6% - Lab majority: 0.9% - Con-Ukip coalition: 1.3%.
A "secret" Tory document leaked by Danny Alexander setting out plans to cut welfare by £8billion was commissioned by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, George Osborne has claimed. Alexander has been accused of a "desperate bid to gain attention" for the Liberal Democrats after disclosing the contents of two documents about welfare cuts, Peter Dominiczak reports. Back in March, Alexander wasn't so keen to leak, telling the Telegraph: "I've never got into the habit of trying to describe what goes on in Quad meetings, I know it makes me more boring but I think it's important we keep these processes confidential."
KIPPERS KOME BACK
Boris Johnson has pleaded with Ukip supporters to "grit your teeth, screw up your eyes, take a deep breath" and vote Tory. Speaking to the Sun, he urged those favouring Nigel Farage's party to "to "come home" to save the country from a "supine, useless and federalist" government involving Ed Miliband and the SNP.
David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, has said that his dog would be unlikely to vote for Labour, as he warned that Ed Miliband will be unable to form a majority government, Matthew Holehouse reports. A nationalist "tsunami sweeping Scotland" will mean a minority government led by Miliband will have to "reach out across political divide", he said.
DO YOU SPEAK TORY?
A grassroots Tory campaign group has launched a "diversity" battle bus with activists who speak a dozen languages on board, in an attempt to win over ethnic-minority voters, the Times' Lucy Fisher reports. Conservative Connect was launched last month by Raza Anjum, aformer employee at Conservative Campaign Headquarters, and entrepreneur Tian Yu Zhao to reach out to voters in ethnic and socio-economic communities that the Tories have found difficult to reach.
NOT LAUGHING NOW
The UK Independence Party has asked Scotland Yard to investigate the BBC, claiming that comments made about Nigel Farage during an episode of Have I Got News For You might hinder his chances of electoral success, Chris Hope reports. Farage's staff complained about a recent episode of the long-running satirical programme where a guest criticised Farage's campaigning in South Thanet.
FACTCHECK WEE ECK
Alex Salmond has been accused of telling voters in the seat he is contesting "blatant untruths" by claiming credit for policies implemented by Labour and the Liberal Democrats when he was not even an MSP, Simon Johnson reports. The former First Minister sent a leaflet to constituents in the Aberdeenshire seat of Gordon in which he said the SNP had "led the way" by providing free personal care and bus passes for pensioners.
VOTE WITH YOUR REMOTE
Next Thursday you can watch a hilarious political drama in the last 90 minutes of voting, before the real potential farce begins - as Channel 4 will be screening a play "The Vote" live from the Donmar Warehouse. The play depicts the very British chaos that ensues on election night after officials in a London polling station believe someone accidentally voted twice. I went to see it and found the play was fantastic. The script, from James Graham, the man behind the C4 drama Coalition, has plenty of cracking lines, while the main actors - Mark Gatiss and Catherine Tate - are fantastic fun, but Judi Dench steals the show. Assuming you'll be wanting to celebrate the election night, Max Davidson has written a fun guide on how to do it best.
MAKING YOUR MIND UP
Not sure who to vote for yet? The election is less than two weeks away, but you can use our quick and easy Vote Match app to help you find the party that best matches your views. The results may surprise you...
Average of polls as of Wednesday, April 29: Lab: 33.3%, Conservative: 34.2%, UKIP 13.2%, Lib Dem 8.3%, Green 5.3%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB.
TOO MANY TWEETS...
@AmolRajan: Striking that this v smart audience want honesty on hung parliament deals - but only Clegg in a position to be straight with them
From The Telegraph
Nigel Farage - England was betrayed by the two main parties
Fraser Nelson - Make no mistake: a Labour-SNP government would be a complete disaster
Sean Kemp - Westminster's obsession with US politics is both embarrassing and foolish
Eric Joyce - Scotland's one-party state
CIPS/Markit manufacturing PMI figures out today
10:00 David Cameron holds PM Direct in West Yorkshire before campaigning in North West10:00 Nick Clegg in Manchester and then Solihull (13.30).
11:00 Ukip MEP Roger Helmer on BBC Radio5 Live
11:00 Jim Murphy visits a Honda factory in Paisley
12:45 Ed Miliband in Bristol
Children aged under 12 are exempt from Air Passenger Duty on economy tickets from today
15:00 Natalie Bennett and Peter Tatchell launch Greens' LGBT manifesto in Soho
May Day/Labour Day
175th anniversary of the world's first postage stamp, the Penny Black, going on sale
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
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