Photo story: Politicians in supermarkets

Some might not know the price of a pint of milk - but politicians just can't get enough of supermarkets. What's going on?

Nick Clegg in Tesco

There's nothing fishy about this photo opportunity, except, perhaps, what the deputy prime minister was doing in a West London Tesco in the first place.

After all, Nick Clegg's speech on Wednesday had very little to do with business, or retail policy, or, indeed, fish. What message was he trying to send out?

"He is a Waitrose kind of guy who wants to be seen in Tesco," says brand marketing guru Chris Bullick.

Tony Blair

"We like to see them out and about. It puts them more in touch in the real world," says Claire Beale, editor of Campaign magazine, who takes a slightly more charitable view of politicians, such as Tony Blair in this 2006 visit to a Marks and Spencer's store in London, mixing with the trolley-wielding classes.

There is also plenty of opportunity for purposeful pointing.

David Cameron in Asda

Or even, as in this picture from a 2010 visit to an Asda supermarket in Wakefield, a moment of sober reflection.

David Cameron

The trick is not give the photographers too much of an open goal. Try to steer clear of obvious caption fodder.

NIck Clegg

Make up your own porky pie jokes for this picture of the deputy prime minister in a Notting Hill Sainsbury's last year.

It also helps to have the right money ready - and avoid getting into arguments with the staff.

Margaret Thatcher

On this 1997 election campaign trip to a Tesco supermarket in Maldon, Essex, check-out worker Shirley Taylor refused to accept the former prime minister's cheque because she did not have a cheque guarantee card.

David Cameron at Asda HQ in 2012

Unlike Lady Thatcher, who was actually buying something, today's politicians increasingly use supermarkets - and other places of work - as a backdrop for policy announcements and Q&A sessions.

Nick Clegg at Tesco

Workers on a lunchtime break tend to be a lot better behaved - and easier to control - than random members of the public. Throw an egg, or an awkward question, and you are likely to lose your job.

For the politician, it is a chance to associate themselves with a solid, dependable household name.

"Politician's brand values go up and down like a yo-yo," says Chris Bullick, managing director of digital branding agency Pull.

"Nick Clegg is far more of a chameleon than any of the supermarket brands, there is no question about that."

David Cameron in Asda

For the supermarkets, it might just be a case of "any news is good news," he adds, a chance to get their name on the TV news bulletins.

But if a political leader is going to make the effort to break out of the stuffy confines of Westminster, they should at least try to have some fun with it.

Gordon Brown

It's not clear what Gordon Brown is about to tell Tesco workers in Newcastle, but judging from the look on wife Sarah's face - not to mention Lord Mandelson - it can't be good.

Ed Miliband in Asda, Clapham Junction

On the other hand, it is possible to have too much fun.

"He must stop waving his arms around," advised Guardian sketch writer Simon Hoggart, of this 2011 appearance by Ed Miliband at a vast Asda supermarket in Clapham Junction.

"If you do that in front of an audience of checkout personnel, they are going to wonder why you are bagging imaginary groceries."

Alex Salmond

And, finally, it is worth remembering that not every politician in a supermarket is there to press the flesh. In 2011, Alex Salmond was involved in a bizarre stand-off with Scottish Labour leader Ian Gray at an Asda store in Ardrossan.

The SNP leader (pictured here in a different store), had arrived by helicopter for a campaign visit. But aides reportedly flew into a panic when they spotted Mr Gray in the aisles and, fearing an ambush, began to steer their man away from the scene as quickly as possible.

But there was to be no ugly confrontation by the cooked meat counter. Mr Gray had simply popped in to the store "pick up some provisions", he explained, and had been unaware of his rival's presence.

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  1.  
    @Markfergusonmp 19:03: Mark Ferguson, LabourList editor

    tweets: Latest Ashcroft polling in Scotland is shocking. When the only ray of light is that your leader might keep his seat, be concerned.

     
  2.  
    18:54: Expenses row
    Bob Blackman MP

    Conservative MP Bob Blackman, who is defending a 3,403 majority in his Harrow East constituency, is defying the expenses watchdog after being told he must repay £1,006.20 of overclaimed mileage. Mr Blackman faces a £1,000 fine if he doesn't pay up by next week, but is insisting he has been the victim of "arbitrary and draconian" treatment. He's only prepared to pay £237.

     
  3.  
    18:50: Ashcroft polling in Scotland

    Here's the highlights of Lord Ashcroft's findings from Scotland:

    • Of Scotland's 59 seats, as many as 56 could be taken by the SNP
    • Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy is set to lose his seat in Ross, Skye and Lochaber
    • The Conservatives' sole seat in Scotland is very, very close to being taken by the SNP
    • Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy is on track to hold his seat
    • The SNP has a 6% lead in the seat being vacated by Gordon Brown in Kirkcaldy
     
  4.  
    @robindbrant 18:50: Robin Brant, Political Correspondent

    tweets: .@LordAshcroft has polled in 4 @Conservatives (over lab) marginals, says too close to call in three of four

     
  5.  
    18:44: Ashcroft polling

    Lord Ashcroft is briefing journalists on his latest polling findings at an event in London and details are seeping out over Twitter. Here's a few of the stats lobby colleagues have found particularly illuminating:

    • 40% are not feeling the effects of the economic recovery
    • 58% don't want any more austerity, compared to 42% who say we need more
    • UKIP is the most popular party when it comes to immigration, on 31% to 22% for both Labour and the Conservatives
     
  6.  
    18:29: Labour defeated on austerity House of Commons Parliament

    The Commons, which has spent the afternoon debating a Labour motion describing the government's deficit reduction strategy as a "failing austerity plan", has made up its mind in a vote. The motion's been defeated by 298 votes to 216, a government majority of 82.

     
  7.  
    @stephenkb 18:27: Stephen Bush, Staggers editor

    tweets: I wonder: does the Conservative message that the worst has passed actually make it easier for people to give it over to "nice-but-wet" Ed?

     
  8.  
    18:27: 'Scary guy' Putin
    Alastair Campbell quote

    Tony Blair's former spin doctor Alastair Campbell has been talking on BBC Radio 5 Live about foreign affairs this afternoon. He says he thought Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, was a "scary guy" after first meeting him before he became president. "When Tony first invited him to Downing Street Putin hadn't won. He was an interesting sort of guy, very clever." Now, he says, "it's too simple to say he's a bad man" because he feels Ukraine "was a put-up job". In comments that add significance to David Cameron's August 2013 defeat on military action in Syria, Mr Campbell adds: "I think the moment at which he felt emboldened was Syria - that was the moment when he felt 'these guys aren't strong'." You can listen to the clip in full here.

     
  9.  
    18:20: Miliband debate latest
    Ed Miliband

    Here's more from Ed Miliband on leaders' debates and his challenge to David Cameron: "I want these debates to happen. I want the seven-way debates to happen, I want the two-way debates to happen. And I think the British public need them to happen and frankly David Cameron has first of all made these excuses about the Greens, then the Greens were invited. Then he talked about Northern Ireland and now he's saying he doesn't like the timing of the debates. I'm saying to David Cameron it's time to stand up and be counted because the British public deserves these debates to happen. I want them to happen and frankly he should stop making excuses and wriggling.

    "If he thinks they are an essential part of our democracy, it's time he stopped wriggling, it's time he stopped running scared and he actually said these debates are going to happen and he's going to take part.

    "Yes I'll do it earlier than planned because David Cameron has made another excuse today saying he doesn't like the date. Well if he doesn't like the debate, then let's move the date and let's make the debates happen."

     
  10.  
    @Ed_Miliband 18:12: Ed Miliband, Labour leader

    tweets: David Cameron said he would do the live TV debate with me if it happens earlier than planned. I will do it anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

     
  11.  
    18:05: Clegg double-take
    Nick Clegg (centre) ahead of a discussion on drugs policy Nick Clegg tweeted this picture of himself and Richard Branson ahead of their joint appearance at a debate on drugs in central London. No - you are not imagining things, there is only one deputy prime minister in the picture although the other participant in their discussion is wearing a strikingly similar shirt to the Lib Dem leader.
     
  12.  
    17:50: Punch and Judy politics
    David Ward

    David Ward, who pressed David Cameron about the rowdiness of PMQs during the session, has elaborating his views on the state of the Commons' flagship event. The Liberal Democrat MP doesn't hold back. "Most people in the real world, outside of the Westminster bubble, think that prime minister's questions is pathetic and is the manifestation of all the things which are wrong with politics at the moment," he says. "People in Bradford see politicians evading simple and often important questions, being loud, boisterous and frankly just looking like a bunch of out of control public school children. No wonder people get apathetic about voting when they see how this lot carry on in the weekly 'Punch and Judy' show."

     
  13.  
    17:50: Field: Don't 'throw in the towel' BBC News Channel
    Passport controls at Heathrow

    Returning to the immigration debate, Labour's Frank Field says a target on net migration is essential to "give direction" to policy, suggesting that to ditch it would be to "throw in the towel". "When you fail, you try next time to fail less spectacularly. That is how progress is made," the MP - who backs temporary curbs on freedom of movement within the EU - tells the BBC News channel. But economist Jonathan Portes disagrees, saying the Conservatives' current target has been a "miserable failure" and any numerical target is counter-productive.

     
  14.  
    17:41: PMQs verdict The Spectator

    This lunchtime's exchanges disappointed Isabel Hardman at the Spectator, who wasn't impressed by rowdy MPs' heckling clashing with sensitive questions. "They were getting carried away to the extent that when a serious question did come up, many MPs were rolling so fast down a hill of heckling and laughing that they couldn't stop themselves when they needed to," she writes. Laughter over Labour MP Barry Gardiner's opening sentence of his question - "my father died of cancer" - was especially shameful, she says.

     
  15.  
    17:40: Mexican visit
    Labour leader Ed Miliband (left) and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at Buckingham Palace. Earlier we showed you a picture of David Cameron meeting the Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at Downing Street. Well, Ed Miliband has also met the Mexican leader, who is on a state visit to the UK. But the venue for their encounter was different - the two held talks at Buckingham Palace
     
  16.  
    17:32: Eurostar sell-off BBC Radio 4
    Eurostar

    Earlier today the Treasury announced it is selling taxpayers' 40% stake in Eurostar for £757.1m. The decision is a "disaster", Kat Hobbs, founder of the We Own It pressure group, has told BBC Radio 4's PM programme. "What we had was a public asset that could be run for the benefit of all of us, and George Osborne has sold it off - it's an ideological decision," she says. Dr Eamonn Butler, from the Adam Smith Institute, disagrees. "It's a good deal for the taxpayer, actually," he says, highlighting the fact that three-quarters of a billion pounds will help pay down the national debt. "It means there is more money in taxpayers' pockets."

     
  17.  
    17:30: Reckless on immigration policy BBC News Channel

    UKIP MP Mark Reckless has been defending the party's immigration policy on the BBC News Channel. He declines to mention the word cap but says that between 20,000 and 50,000 applications for work visas were likely to be approved every year under the system his party is proposing. He acknowledges that total migration numbers could exceed 50,000 a year because of dependents and others coming into the UK but insists overall levels would be "significantly reduced" by applying the same restrictions to EU nationals as to non-EU migrants through an Australian-style points system.

     
  18.  
    @hattmarris84 17:27: Matthew Harris, LBC executive producer

    tweets: EXCL: Colonel Bob Stewart MP has told @IainDale on LBC that he has seriously considered resigning as an MP over defence cuts.

     
  19.  
    17:15: 'Worst ever' PMQs
    Paul Flynn

    Labour veteran Paul Flynn has seen one or two PMQs in his time, and it's his view that today's exchanges were the "worst ever". He called for the "demeaning spectacle" to be abolished if it could not be improved - you can read BBC Wales' story on his comments for more.

     
  20.  
    17:15: Defence spending House of Lords Parliament
    Lord West

    Peers have been debating defence spending this afternoon. Former Labour defence minister and former First Sea Lord Lord West has called for the Conservatives and Labour to make a joint pre-election pledge to maintain spending at 2% of GDP. Lord West said spending, as a percentage of national output, was at a 25-year low and ministers were "horrifyingly complacent" about the resources needed to deal with the threats facing the UK.

     
  21.  
    17:09: Spending debate House of Commons Parliament

    In the Commons the opposition day debate on future government spending has seen Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie, claim that stagnant wages, falling tax receipts and rising welfare costs have had a "devastatingly corrosive effect" on the health of the country's public finances. "The majority of people are not feeling the benefit of the recovery and the squeeze on living standards has never been so prolonged since the 1920s," he said. Treasury minister David Gauke insisted public spending is only "returning to the levels of 2002-03, before the previous government lost control of public spending". Mr Gauke also criticised Labour for opposing the government's policies to unwind the deficit. He said it is "down by half as a percentage of GDP, thanks to the stability we have put in place".

     
  22.  
    16:58: PMQs verdict New Statesman
    Prime Minister's Questions

    George Eaton at the New Statesman has given his verdict on today's PMQs. He says Ed Miliband had the better arguments, but the leader of the opposition's questions didn't stop David Cameron losing his cool. "Cameron simply blustered through it at all," he writes. "Miliband's arguments were by far the stronger but at no point did the PM appear truly uncomfortable."

     
  23.  
    16:53: Downing Street on drugs

    Throughout the day, we've been reporting Nick Clegg's call for changes to the UK's drugs policy following his joint appearance with Sir Richard Branson. Now Downing Street has rejected any shift in approach. "The prime minister and Nick Clegg, as you well know, take a different view on this," a Downing Street spokesman says. "The prime minister thinks we have got the right approach and you see that in the fact that drug use is falling."

     
  24.  
    16:49: Debate discussions

    No 10 has responded to Channel 4 and Sky News' offer to reschedule their planned TV election debate between David Cameron and Ed Miliband. A Downing Street spokesman says: "We have heard lots of different things from different broadcasters for quite some time now. It is one for the political parties, but my understanding is that discussions are continuing."

     
  25.  
    16:47: Shaking up PMQs
    Jack Straw

    Jack Straw, the former leader of the House of Commons, is speaking out to MPs on the procedure committee about prime minister's questions. "It's become less productive and more vulgar as the years have gone by," he says. Mr Straw thinks this is partly because PMQs now takes place in one half-hour chunk on Wednesday lunchtimes. Before 1997 it took place in two 15-minute sessions on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. What frustrates Mr Straw is that it's the whips who decide this format, not backbenchers, a fact he says is "completely unacceptable". His comments follow yesterday's launch by Labour of its political reform agenda, which didn't call for a return to the pre-1997 schedule.

     
  26.  
    16:22: Immigration punishment
    Peter Kellner

    "When parties are seeking votes what matters is the plausibility, the credibility of what they say," YouGov president Peter Kellner says on the BBC News channel. "If you have one party saying we'll stop immigration, and another party saying we will control it better… voters will go for the more credible promise." He thinks Nigel Farage is being "quite smart because he's not promising the moon, he's promising something that is perhaps deliverable". The Tories, by contrast, will be "punished" for having failed to meet their 2010 manifesto commitment of cutting net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. But only those "for whom immigration matters to them personally" will turn their backs on David Cameron, Mr Kellner adds.

     
  27.  
    16:21: Steel 'driven mad' by e-mails
    Lord Steel

    Let's put aside thoughts about election debates and policy wrangles for one moment and reflect on the issue of e-mail etiquette. Former Liberal leader Lord Steel is concerned about the subject and has written a letter to The Oldie magazine. "Am I the only person driven mad by receiving emails from all and sundry beginning 'I hope you are well?' he writes. "When did this start and when will it end?"

     
  28.  
    16:15: Lib Dems vs Greens
    Ed Davey

    Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey has gone on the offensive against the Greens in an interview with sustainable living publication BusinessGreen. "They are very against the single market in Europe, which is disastrous for the environment," he said. "They want to nationalise everything - I think they'd undermine green business quicker than any party imaginable. They want to nationalise whole swathes of Britain's energy system." Green MEP Molly Scott Cato responded by saying Mr Davey's attacks showed "just how desperate" the Lib Dems have become.

     
  29.  
    16:06: Handover time

    Stepping aside with dignity is something all the party leaders may have to get familiar with if the results don't go their way on 7 May. It's something our early bloggers, Matthew West and Victoria King, are able to do with the same combination of grace and panache that's typified their copy all day. They're relinquished their keyboards as it's time for Gavin Stamp and Alex Stevenson to take over and keep you updated until midnight.

     
  30.  
    16:03: Mexican talks in No 10
    David Cameron (right) and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto

    David Cameron has been holding talks with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in 10 Downing Street. The two countries' respective foreign ministers have also signed a declaration on closer co-operation.

     
  31.  
    16:02: Commons action House of Commons Parliament

    In the Commons chamber, MPs have agreed legislation devolving the power to set Corporation Tax to the Northern Ireland government. The Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Bill will now go before the House of Lords for further scrutiny. A debate on future government spending called by Labour is now underway. Chris Leslie is leading for the opposition while Treasury minister David Gauke is representing the government in the early stages.

     
  32.  
    16:01: More on TV debates

    Broadcasters have offered to change the date of a planned election debate between David Cameron and Ed Miliband if the leaders agree. You can read our full story here.

     
  33.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC 16:02: Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: ...so if you watched them all back to back, starting now, non stop, you'd still be watching on Saturday morning.

     
  34.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC 15:50: Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: A little #PMQs factoid @edgingtont dredged out for #Wato @bbcradio4: today was the 130th encounter between Messrs Cameron&Miliband...

     
  35.  
    15:48: 'Completely pointless' House of Commons Parliament
    James Gray MP

    James Gray, a Conservative member of the procedure committee, launches a scathing attack on Thursday's debates held by the backbench business committee, which he says are "about as important as the Oxford Union - they're completely pointless". Mr Gray says the government has covertly accrued power in parliament while MPs work hard in their constituencies. "The executive go their merry way and occasionally say to select committee chairmen 'aren't you important', when in fact they're not," he adds. Sir George Young, who was leader of the House in the first years of this parliament, replies: "You do a serious disservice to the backbench business committee."

     
  36.  
    @anntreneman 15:44: Ann Treneman, Times sketch writer

    tweets: I have just spent some time in a basement with Sir Richard Branson and Nick Clegg. Surely this is beyond the call of duty

     
  37.  
    15:38: Debate statement
    Leaders' election debate from 2010

    Channel 4 has issued a statement about its proposed head-to-head debate between Ed Miliband and David Cameron, the subject of a row at PMQs earlier. It reads: "Sky News and Channel 4 are continuing to prepare for a head-to-head debate between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on 30 April. However, in response to media inquiries following today's PMQs, we would obviously be willing to host a debate on a different day the two main party leaders could agree on."

     
  38.  
    15:38: Excuses, excuses House of Commons Parliament
    Thomas Docherty

    The Commons' procedure committee is questioning former leaders of the House, including Jack Straw - you can watch live coverage by clicking on the 'live coverage' tab at the top of this page. Labour MP Thomas Docherty apologises to the chair for being late but his excuse gets a decent laugh: "My plane was diverted to Stansted because its brakes weren't working, which I always think is something they ought to try before they take off."

     
  39.  
    15:22: Clegg "invasion" update
    Sheffield Hallam protest

    Here's an update on the situation in Sheffield Hallam, where Nick Clegg's constituency office was briefly occupied by student protesters earlier. The arrival of the police swiftly brought proceedings to a close, the Sheffield Star reports. Sociology student Alison Kwan told the paper: "We were intimidated out of the office by the police so we went to the car park to have a seminar." This isn't the first time the deputy prime minister has had trouble with students, either, as our story from November 2010 shows.

     
  40.  
    15:17: Blue Labour returns
    Blue Labour books

    Blue Labour, the movement co-founded by MP Jon Cruddas and peer Maurice Glasman, is the subject of a new collection of essays being published this week. Today's launch at the University of Kent launch is taking place as supporters try to argue that small-c conservatism might just be the way forward for Ed Miliband's party. It's not for the faint-hearted though, as this example indicates: "Critiquing the dominance in Britain of a social-cultural liberalism linked to the left and a free-market liberalism associated with the right, Blue Labour blends a 'progressive' commitment to greater economic equality with a more 'conservative' disposition emphasising personal loyalty, family, community and locality." Might be a bit late for the manifesto, perhaps.

     
  41.  
    15:11: Labour on immigration

    Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has responded to Nigel Farage's immigration speech this morning. "The Tories and UKIP have got themselves in a ridiculous tangle on their immigration promises," she says. "The Tories' net migration target is in tatters and they are arguing over whether to keep it. Now it seems UKIP are just as chaotic and confused." Ms Cooper's team privately admits Labour has had to work hard to address concerns about immigration in seats, particularly in the north of England, where it faces a threat from UKIP. But they insist Labour is making progress in engaging with concerned voters. Ms Cooper adds: "Nigel Farage's slippery approach is just designed to exploit concerns about immigration and increase division rather than ever setting out practical policies to control and manage immigration in a sensible way to make the system fair."

     
  42.  
    15:07: Straw before MPs
    Jack Straw

    They have more than 75 years combined parliamentary experience between them so Sir George Young and Jack Straw should know everything there is to know about Commons procedure. The veteran Conservative and Labour MPs' knowledge will be put to the test when the two men - who are both former leaders of the Commons - appear before the Commons procedure committee in a session starting about 15:00. The session should have an added edge to it given Mr Straw's recent suspension from the Labour Party over "cash for access" allegations - which are now being investigated by the parliamentary watchdog.

     
  43.  
    14:52: Paul Waugh, editor of Politicshome

    tweets: TweetOfTheDay RT @Kevin_Maguire: Geriatric John: RT @BuzzFeedUKPol Shocking news about Sir Menzies Campbell

    Menzies Campbell
     
  44.  
    14:40: Defence budget warning
    RAF Tornado GR4 in Afghanistan in November 2014

    The UK's defence chiefs should be prepared to resign en masse if the next government tries to impose any further cuts on the armed forces, a former head of the RAF has warned.

    Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon said the current service chiefs could face a "very, very difficult decision" if they are confronted with the prospect of further cutbacks after the general election in May.

    He was speaking at a meeting of the UK National Defence Association (UNDA) campaign group, at which he also warned military chiefs could not carry on pretending they had the resources they needed.

     
  45.  
    14:35: Immigration vs everything else
    Issues index

    Nigel Farage's speech on immigration, one of UKIP's biggest campaigning issues, and Ed Miliband's attack on David Cameron over the issue in PMQs have got pundits asking how important the debate about net migration actually is to the election campaign. Yesterday's updated "issues index" from polling firm Ipsos Mori suggests it is an important issue for voters but not the most important.

     
  46.  
    14:32: Tory MP faces expenses payback
    Bob Blackman MP

    Conservative backbencher Bob Blackman faces repaying more than £1,000 after losing an appeal against an inquiry that found he claimed mileage expenses for up to five times the real distance. An investigation by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) watchdog found last month that the Harrow East MP made more than 700 claims for travel around his constituency that were either "inaccurate" or not allowed under the rules. Mr Blackman refused to accept the findings, insisting he would hand back£237 for journeys to party political engagements and from his home to his office. Ipsa has said today it is standing by its original ruling.

     
  47.  
    14:25: Online voting
    Mobile phone

    Online voting could boost youth voter turnout from 44% in 2010 to as high as 70%, a report out today claims. The idea is being pushed by parliamentarians after the Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy voiced its support for pilots in time for a 2020 rollout. Industry figures have suggested this is unlikely, but that isn't stopping WebRoots Democracy from making the case for online voting. "The UK is a politically active nation online, and we need to translate this passion to voting: the bedrock of our democracy," founder Areeq Chowdhury says. "Analogue methods of politics will increasingly become incompatible with the digital world of today."

     
  48.  
    14:18: Green team

    Back to Mumsnet, where Natalie Bennett is asked who's actually in charge of the Green Party. Is it true, she's asked, that she could share responsibility for the TV election debates - if they happen - with Caroline Lucas, her predecessor and the party's only MP?

    Ms Bennett answers thus: "The Green Party leadership is a team - that's something we've always made clear, and one of the things that is different about the Green Party. So we - and I - are perfectly comfortable with different people representing us in different forums, indeed we like to be able to share opportunities around.

    "That helps make it clear that unlike another party I think you could identify, we're not a one-man band!

    "Sometimes you might see me on the TV, sometimes Jenny Jones as our member of the House of Lords, sometimes Caroline, and sometimes one of our brilliant Young Green candidates."

     
  49.  
    14:12: Trident debate
    Trident submarine

    David Cameron was quick to turn Tory backbencher Liam Fox's question about Trident on Labour, amid fears from some that the SNP could insist on moving Britain's nuclear deterrent away from Scotland in coalition talks. "People don't want to see a grubby deal between the people who want to break up Britain and the people who want to bankrupt Britain," the prime minister said. The issue was highlighted by CND canvassing results published yesterday which suggested that three-quarters of Labour's parliamentary candidates would vote against Trident replacement.

     
  50.  
    @stefanstern Stefan Stern, columnist

    tweets: @IanDunt Yes, but Dave is still on the hook because of all those quotes he gave last time about how marvellous and essential they are.

     
  51.  
    @IanDunt Ian Dunt, editor of Politics.co.uk

    tweets: If Brown held out against TV debates, the media reaction would have been much more severe than it has been against Cameron.

     
  52.  
    @robindbrant Robin Brant, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: understand the migration policy fully unveiled by #ukip today has been the product of 7 months work

     
  53.  
    13:57: Public opinion on drugs
    Nick Clegg and Richard Branson

    Nick Clegg says the public's opinion on the idea of drugs reform is "more subtle and smarter" than the media believe.

     
  54.  
    @AlexStevensKent Alex Stevens, professor in Criminal Justice at the University of Kent

    tweets: I asked Clegg what UK decrim' would look like. A. We can work that out, and it would be cheaper than current system #CHEvents

     
  55.  
    PMQs Andy Crockett., Politics Live reader

    Wouldn't it be nice and a refreshing change if at PMQ's, the prime minister actually answered a question put to him? No invented question, no refusing to answer, no head in the sand, no evasion, just answer the question asked.

     
  56.  
    @JohnRentoul John Rentoul, columnist at the Independent on Sunday

    tweets: David Cameron embarrassed himself by refusing even to pretend to answer either of EdM's questions #PMQs

     
  57.  
    PMQs Eddie Jonas, Politics Live reader

    Don't you love the way carefully chosen and worded statistics are used by the PM? "Police funding has been reduced however the PERCENTAGE of front line staff has gone up!"

     
  58.  
    13:41: Green party leader on Mumsnet

    Natalie Bennett continues her redemption after last week's slew of criticism by appearing on a Mumsnet online Q&A session. So far, we've learned that the Greens would support the Labour Party on a confidence and supply basis in the event of a hung parliament, that they'd never form a coalition with the Tories, and that Ms Bennett's favourite biscuits are macaroons.

     
  59.  
    @mattholehouse Matthew Holehouse, political correspondent, Daily Telegraph

    tweets: Nick Clegg says many Tory MPs back him on drug reform, but we will have to find them ourselves

     
  60.  
    13:38: Immigration BBC Radio 4

    Is it time for the Conservatives to have a rethink on immigration? Eric Pickles says not. He tells The World at One it's a good thing to have a target of tens of thousands and there's no suggestion the Conservative Party is pulling back from its promise. Would he like to see it as a manifesto pledge this time around? The communities secretary says he's sure that "a number of policies" will be in the manifesto.

     
  61.  
    13:35: Office invasion

    While Nick Clegg is speaking in London, it appears some disgruntled students have invaded his Sheffield office. More details here in the Sheffield Star.

     
  62.  
    13:29: 'Reform not a taboo'

    Nick Clegg is pretty clear who he blames for inaction on the issue of drugs. "I'm incredibly frustrated that, after five years in coalition, we cannot take our work to its logical conclusion - just because the Tories are scared of being branded soft on drugs," he says. "It's time for the Conservatives and Labour to realise that the world has moved on, reform is no longer a taboo subject and voters expect politicians to deliver results based on solid evidence, not overblown rhetoric."

     
  63.  
    @BBCWorldatOne World at One

    tweets: @EricPickles: "This country was virtually bust when the coalition came in" #wato

     
  64.  
    @CH_Events Chatham House Events

    tweets: UK is way behind the curve - Portugal, Switzerland, US have all shown there is a better way to deal with #DrugPolicy - @DPMoffice #CHEvents

     
  65.  
    13:25: Living standards BBC Radio 4

    Labour's shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint says for the first time we will be going into a general election with most people receiving a lower wage than at the last election.

    Lib Dem Employment Minister Jo Swinson says there is also a skills gap, which the government is trying to plug. Only 7% of engineers are women, for example, she says, and that is something they're trying to fix.

    Meanwhile, Conservative Communities Secretary Eric Pickles tells the World at One that living standards for those of working age will move past their 2010 peak at the end of this year... but only if we "stick to our long-term economic plan".

     
  66.  
    @TransformDrugs Transform Drug Policy Foundation

    tweets: Richard Branson mentioned drug decriminalisation in Portugal. Find out more here

     
  67.  
    @DPMoffice Deputy PM, Nick Clegg

    tweets: Nick Clegg: The time for change has come; we need to implement evidence-based #DrugPolicy that works @RichardBranson

    Nick Clegg and Richard Branson at drugs event
     
  68.  
    13:18: Lending woes BBC Radio 4

    Steve Brittan, chief executive of company BSA Machine Tools, says it's all well and good telling businesses they need to invest, but without banks willing to lend them money to do so it's impossible for them to compete against their rivals, let alone expand their businesses.

     
  69.  
    13:17: All in it together BBC Radio 4

    "It's not just for government to solve this problem however," Mr Beatson says. There are things that only government can do, invest in infrastructure, for example and regulating industry. But it's also about businesses making investment. Productivity isn't about how hard you work it's about the return you get on your investment, he adds

     
  70.  
    13:15: Productivity worries BBC Radio 4

    The IFS report on living standards remains one of the big stories of the day. On The World at One, Mark Beatson, chief economist at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), says lower productivity has been a nagging concern since 1998, but we're now in an unprecedented world where productivity is lower than it was in 2008 despite the economic recovery.

     
  71.  
    13:10: Clegg drugs speech

    Nick Clegg is now giving his speech on drugs that we've been trailing this morning. "If you are anti-drugs you should be pro-reform," he tells the audience in London.

     
  72.  
    13:06: IFS report James Landale Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

    The Conservatives' great fear in this election is that they will experience a voteless recovery - all the stats say it's getting better but people don't feel that on the ground - and wont show it at the ballot box. They hope the IFS report will help convince the public that things really are improving.

     
  73.  
    13:00: Lunchtime recap:
    • Ed Miliband attacks David Cameron over his record on immigration at PMQs - the latter lists his other achievements in office, but admits that immigration from within the EU has risen.
    • The Labour leader also asks the PM to say if he will take part in a head-to-head TV election debate. Mr Cameron says "we're having a debate now" and in terms of the TV events, he wants to "get on with the debates before the election campaign"
    • Nigel Farage has given a big speech outlining his desire to return immigration to "normal" levels, with between 20,000 and 50,000 migrants given work permits each year.
    • But the UKIP leader has spent much of the morning insisting he hasn't performed a U-turn on the issue of whether he's setting a formal immigration cap. His spokesman Steven Woolfe said last week he wanted a cap of 50,000, but Mr Farage says he - and the public - have "had enough of caps and targets".
    • Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell has paid £80,000 in damages to Pc Toby Rowland, the office at the centre of the plebgate row
    • The Liberal Democrats' manifesto will include a pledge to hand drugs policy from the Home Office to the Department of Health, Nick Clegg is to say.
     
  74.  
    12:56: Migration target Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Labour's Hilary Benn says it was unwise of the prime minister to make the promise on net migration, and criticises Ms Perry for trying to "blame everyone else". Asked what Labour's plan is, he says the party would have a "fair" immigration policy that requires migrants to the UK to contribute. "That's what we're doing," Ms Perry intervenes.

     
  75.  
    12:55: Jobs factory Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Over to the MPs panel now, and transport minister Claire Perry concedes that the government had not met the target. But she says that no-one could have predicted the UK would become the "jobs factory of Europe", which is why migration to the UK has increased, she adds. Ms Perry stresses the government's "commitment" to bringing down immigration.

     
  76.  
    12:51: Miliband's tactics Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    The Guardian's Nick Watt predicts that Ed Miliband will not want to define his election campaign on immigration, but rather on the cost of living. "But for today's purposes he felt he had a clear way of getting a clear win on immigration, and clearly the prime minister was uneasy," he adds.

     
  77.  
    12:49: PMQs analysis Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Let's go back to the Daily Politics for a moment, where we're getting some reaction to PMQs. Guardian commentator Nick Watt says the PM clearly knew what was coming on immigration. He knew that Ed Miliband would mention David Cameron's pre-election "contract with Britain", and so had a copy to hand to reel off commitments that had been met, he added.

     
  78.  
    12:44: Coming up in the Commons House of Commons Parliament

    That brings an end to this week's Prime Minister's Questions and in a short while MPs will turn their attention to the Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Bill, which is going through its final stages in the Commons.

     
  79.  
    12:40: Hospital failures

    Labour MP John Woodcock raised a question, before the session ended, on Furness General Hospital, after an investigation rules that a "lethal mix" of failures led to the unnecessary deaths of 11 babies and one mother. David Cameron says it is a "very important report", adding that the government wanted to see many of its recommendations implemented. Where there are problems in the NHS it is important not to sweep them under the carpet but be open and honest about them, he says, adding that his heart goes out to all those whose children died at the hospital.

     
  80.  
    12:39: Pic: Cameron, Clegg and Hague
    David Cameron, Nick Clegg and William Hague
     
  81.  
    12:35: Energy prices

    Labour MP Iain Mckenzie's attempt to attack David Cameron over the government's energy reforms backfires slightly, as the PM uses it as an opportunity to go on an attack of his own, by making fun of Labour's "price freeze" which he said would increase consumers' bills as energy costs have fallen.

     
  82.  
    12:33: Nursery first aid

    Lib Dem MP Mark Hunter asks the prime minister if he supports a campaign to ensure that all nursery staff are qualified in paediatric first aid, and if so, if he will seek to hurry up a government review on the matter. David Cameron says it makes sense for as many people as possible to have that sort of training, and promises to speak to the relevant minister in charge of the review.

     
  83.  
    12:32: Child protection

    Labour MP Meg Munn says it is time to make child protection "much more central" within the Ofsted process and ensure every school is inspected on this area regularly, even if they are rated "outstanding". David Cameron says he will look carefully at her suggestion.

     
  84.  
    @EmilyThornberry Emily Thornberry, Labour MP

    tweets: Cameron refuses to rule out putting up tuition fees if re-elected #pmqs

     
  85.  
    12:30: Tuition fees

    Seema Malhotra, a Labour MP, uses her question to ask the PM to rule out increasing tuition fees any further. David Cameron says universities are now better funded, with the number of students having increased, including from poorer backgrounds. Labour has taken four years to work out its own "useless" policy, which hits universities and helps rich students rather than poor ones. It represents the "chaos" that a Labour government would bring, he adds.

     
  86.  
    @CLeslieMP Charlotte Leslie, Tory MP

    tweets: In #PMQs. Never seen anyone look so upset that youth unemployment's gone down as the people opposite me.Just Wow.Election time IS here. :-(

     
  87.  
    12:29: Pic: All eyes on the PM
    David Cameron
     
  88.  
    12:27: Long term plan

    A question from Conservative MP Guy Opperman provides David Cameron with a rather helpful opportunity to set out his "long-term economic plan" for the north east. He goes on to list of what he says are the government's economic achievements.

     
  89.  
    12:26: Minimum wage

    Labour MP Julie Elliot criticises the government over what she sees as its failure on the national minimum wage, which prompts David Cameron to defend his record in this area, citing steps taken to enhance enforcement of the law.

     
  90.  
    @jreedmp Jamie Reed, Labour MP

    tweets: #pmqs Dave extolling the benefits of pubs. I hear they make a great place to leave the kids...

     
  91.  
    12:25: British beer industry

    "I bring the House good news," declares Andrew Griffiths, who tells MPs that British beer sales are up for the first time in a decade - praising the scrapping of the beer duty escalator and cuts in beer duty. He calls for further cuts to the beer duty. David Cameron praises Mr Griffith's campaign work in this area, adding that the government has been a "good friend" to pubs and the beer industry.

     
  92.  
    12:25: Pic: Opposition benches
    David Cameron faces the opposition benches

    David Cameron faces the opposition benches.

     
  93.  
    @gabyhinsliff Gaby Hinsliff, Grazia

    tweets: Seriously unconvinced there's any point whatsoever to #pmqs at this point in the electoral cycle.

     
  94.  
    @IsabelHardman Isabel Hardman, The Spectator

    tweets: That sound is the nails being screwed into the coffin of the TV debates #PMQs. Or else it's the sound of Labour MPs making chicken noises

     
  95.  
    @tnewtondunn Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun

    tweets: Only 10 Labour MPs put their hands up when Cameron asked how many would use Ed's pic in leaflets. Can't believe they fell for that #PMQs

     
  96.  
    @JGForsyth James Forsyth, the Spectator

    tweets: Sign of Tory discipline that Fox's question was about Trident not spending 2% of GDP on defence

     
  97.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC News

    tweets: PM ducks two offers from Ed Miliband to do the head to head tv debate the broadcasters have offered #pmqs

     
  98.  
    12:21: Nuclear weapons

    Liam Fox, former Tory defence secretary, seeks assurances that David Cameron would not agree to scrap the renewal of Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system in any future coalition negotiations. Mr Cameron reaffirms his commitment to the deterrent and says Labour needs to rule out any possibility of a coalition with the SNP, who have said the scrapping of Trident would be a red line in any coalition negotiations.

     
  99.  
    12:19: David Ward question

    Lib Dem David Ward asks the PM whether he feels his and Ed Miliband's behaviour at Prime Minister's Questions either enhances or damages the image of Parliament. In his reply, the prime minister acknowledges it is "inevitably a robust exchange" but says there is always room for improvement. PMQs has an important function, in that it holds government to account, he adds.

     
  100.  
    @paulwaugh Paul Waugh, Politics Home

    tweets: Real prob with Ed M saying he'll attend head to head debate on Apr 30, even if Cam doesn't: TV unlikely to empty chair a 2-way

     

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