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  1. Personal attacks are focus of David Cameron and Ed Miliband's Prime Minister's Questions clash
  2. Schools in England and Wales are to be given the power to hand top performing teachers a 2% pay rise
  3. Organisers of a digital election debate say they'll hold it on 26 or 27 March to meet the PM's deadline
  4. MPs approve the introduction of standardised packaging for cigarettes in England
  5. David Cameron says suspended Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson is a "huge talent" and he hopes the situation "can be sorted out"
  6. There are 57 days until the general election

Live Reporting

By Tom Moseley and Vanessa Barford

All times stated are UK

Get involved

  1. Recap: Wednesday round-up

    Thanks for joining us tonight, we'll be back from 06:00 GMT on Thursday with more rolling coverage.

  2. @BBCNewsnight

    tweets: .@LiamFoxMP on the coalition: "What started up as great romance ended up as doing it for the children and sleeping in separate rooms"

  3. Guardian front page

    Guardian front page
  4. Union's teachers' pay reaction

    Responding to news of the teachers' pay settlement, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, says: "The fact that the review body has recommended breaking the Treasury's pay cap, albeit only for some teachers, demonstrates the review body recognises there is a real issue in terms of the adverse impact the coalition government's public sector pay policy is having on teacher supply."

  5. Daily Mirror front page

    Daily Mirror front page
  6. Financial Times front page

    Financial Times front page
  7. Sun front page

    Sun front page
  8. The Sun Politics


    tweets: YouGov/Sun poll tonight - Labour lead by one: CON 34%, LAB 35%, LD 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 5%

  9. Minority government

    BBC Newsnight

    Discussing coalitions, former Conservative chief whip Andrew Mitchell says he thinks a minority government would be "the worst of all worlds at the moment". He also doubts predictions that the Lib Dems will be "decimated" on 7 May will turn out to be accurate. For the Lib Dems, Julia Goldsworthy says her party "went into (coalition) with our eyes open - we knew it would be challenging".

  10. Looking back at coalition

    BBC Newsnight

    Newsnight has been looking back at how the coalition has worked out in practice. Former Lib Dem Energy Secretary Chris Huhne says it would have been better for Nick Clegg to have been made either foreign or home secretary, as well as deputy prime minister. Former cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell says the alternative vote referendum - pitting the two parties against one another - was about the worst thing to happen in terms of coalition stability. You can watch on the live coverage tab above.

  11. Public sector pay

    As well as teachers, government sources have told the BBC pay settlements will be announced tomorrow for the following workforces:

    • The armed forces
    • Independent contractor GPs and dentists
    • The prison service
    • Senior military and judiciary

    The government said it had accepted pay review bodies' recommendations for these groups, who would receive an average of a 1% increase.

  12. Independent front page

    Independent front page
  13. The World Tonight, BBC Radio 4


    tweets: The Mirror's @Kevin_Maguire "The old party allegiances have been dying for some time...both Conservative and Labour"

  14. Teachers' pay 'down to strong economy'

    Education Secretary Nicky Morgan tells the BBC the flexibility to give schools in England and Wales the power to raise teachers' pay by up to 2% from September is possible because of the "strong economy". It has always been the government's policy to recognise the contribution of the best-performing teachers, she says. "This is particularly important for those who have been in the profession for a few years and are very important to the future of their schools."

  15. Times front page

    The Times
  16. Tomorrow's Daily Mail

    The Mail's splash for Thursday is looking ahead to next week's Budget:

    Daily Mail front page
  17. Voting system

    Chuka Umunna

    Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna tells LBC Radio the first-past-the-post system will "come under pressure more" and should be scrapped in favour of a more proportional system even if that means permanent coalition government. The comments come days after Ed Miliband dismissed the prospect of pursuing electoral reform if he becomes prime minister, saying he would not put his energies into "a big debate about the electoral system". But Mr Umunna said the need to change Britain's voting system to reflect a new era of multi-party politics cannot be ignored. "We have a first-past-the-post voting system that I don't like. I am an electoral reformer... I believe we need to change the way we do politics and that includes changing our voting system," he said.

  18. Teachers' pay

    Amid suggestions of a rift in the coalition over the issue, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the settlement was affordable and the government should be "as generous as it can be", where possible, to public sector workers. The Lib Dem leader told the Daily Mail online that there was "quite a fierce debate" going on in government about the issue. "The recommendation is that for some teachers, it depends where they are on their pay band, they get a 2% increase," Mr Clegg said. "That's being resisted by George Osborne. I just think it's affordable, it wouldn't cost us the earth, it's recommended and we should get on and do it."

  19. World watches Clarkson

    Newspapers and media commentators around the world have been reacting to the BBC's decision to suspend Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson over a "fracas" with a producer. Here's some of the response.

    Jeremy Clarkson in Red Square, Moscow
  20. The debates debate

    Here's a bit more from that David Cameron interview on the BBC's Midlands Today. When asked whether the debate should be held before the manifestos come out, Mr Cameron said: "I think everyone knows what people's policies and programmes are. People can see the difference between Labour, Conservative, Liberal, Green and all the rest of it."

  21. Post update

    BBC Trending

    tweets: Jeremy Clarkson petition passes 500,000 signatures How does online petition for him compare to others?

  22. 'Effective alternative' coalition?

    Stephen Crabb

    While the main parties are refusing to countenance questions about possible coalitions, we've found one front-bencher actively promoting one. Conservative Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb says a Tory, Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrat coalition could provide an "effective alternative" - in the Welsh Assembly. Mr Crabb criticised the "monopolistic hold on the levers of government in Wales by the Labour Party". But Welsh Labour said the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Westminster coalition has been "terrible for Wales". Assembly elections take place in 2016.

  23. Scottish welfare call

    Scottish government building

    The Scottish Government has called on the UK Government to cancel the extension of new Work Programme contracts and to keep its promises on devolving further welfare powers. Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil and Fair Work Secretary Roseanna Cunningham made the calls at a meeting of the joint ministerial working group on welfare. They met Scotland Office Minister David Mundell and Department for Work and Pensions Minister Mark Harper to discuss progress on implementing the welfare elements of the Smith Agreement.

  24. The SNP effect

    There has been much talk about the possible impact the SNP will have on the balance of power after the election. The Election2015 site has produced what it calls the "complete guide" to the various predictions and projections that have been made.

  25. Final debate

    House of Lords


    It's the final debate of the day in the Lords, which is looking at the government's review of the EU's competences - the power to act in particular areas conferred on it by the EU treaties. The review was part of the coalition agreement between the Conservatives and Lib Dems when they formed a government together in 2010.

  26. Post update


    tweets: Fascinating that Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, was one of the Tory big hitters to vote against plain packs

  27. DUP demands

    The Guardian

    Could the Democratic Unionist Party play a part in any hung-Parliament negotiations after 7 May? Nigel Dodds, the party's leader at Westminster, has written an article for the Guardian setting out "very straightforwardly" what he would look for. Spending 2% of GDP on defence is a "bare minimum", he says, and the so-called "bedroom tax" should be "revisited".

  28. Susan Hulme, BBC Parliamentary correspondent


    tweets: "Weak" "despicable" "useless" - all the nice stuff Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband say to each other on #TodayInParliament @BBCRadio4 1130pm

  29. Debates 'rubbished'

    Channel 4

    Labour's Baroness Bakewell does not agree with Michael Grade on the TV debates stand-off. David Cameron and his adviser Lynton Crosby may have succeeded if their aim was to "rubbish the debates", she says, "but they have lost in the eyes of the public".

  30. 'Crosser and crosser'

    Channel 4

    Former BBC, ITV and Channel 4 boss Lord Grade says nobody asked him to join the row over election TV debates (he has criticised the broadcasters and accused them of "playing politics"). "I have been steaming here for the past few weeks getting crosser and crosser", the Conservative peer says.

  31. Clarkson controversy

    James May, Richard Hammond an Jeremy Clarkson

    Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson is a controversial figure, but has helped propel the programme to monster proportions around the world, the BBC's Tom Espiner reports.

  32. Not my job

    While he hoped the Clarkson situation can be resolved, David Cameron said he would not interfere with the running of the BBC and added: "The prime minister has many responsibilities - sadly securing the future of Top Gear isn't one of them."

  33. PM on 'great talent' Clarkson

    David Cameron

    More from David Cameron on Jeremy Clarkson. Here's what he told BBC Midlands Today: "Of course I don't know exactly what happened. He's a constituent of mine, he is a friend of mine, he is a huge talent. I see that he has said he regrets some of what happened. What I would say, because he does amuse and entertain so many people - including my own children, who will be heartbroken if Top Gear is taken off air - I hope this can be sorted out because it's a great programme and he is a great talent."

  34. Cameron on Clarkson

    David Cameron has just been asked on BBC Midlands Today about the suspension of Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear following what the BBC said was "a fracas" with producer Oisin Tymon. He said Clarkson was "a friend of mine" and added: "My children would be heartbroken if Top Gear was taken off air".

  35. 'Attack ads'

    Greg Dawson

    Newsbeat politics reporter

    They've always been banned from television and radio in the UK. But online, paid-for political ads are becoming a feature of 2015's election. So-called "attack ads" - many from the UK's main political parties - have emerged across social media in recent months, free from the strict rules that apply to television. Read the rest of the article here.

  36. Protecting whistleblowers

    House of Lords


    Baroness Neville-Rolfe

    Here's Business Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe bringing a splash of colour to the Lords, where peers are debating the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, including measures to protect whistleblowers.

  37. SNP deal

    Laura Kuenssberg

    Chief correspondent, Newsnight

    Newsnight's Chief Correspondent Laura Kuenssberg blogs: "Talk of SNP deal will dog Miliband." She goes on: "English MPs suggest voters in marginal constituencies hate the idea of Scottish Nationalist MPs dictating their futures. So as Prime Minister's Questions demonstrated in a noisily grisly session on Wednesday, David Cameron will try to ram in a reference to the supposed 'deal' between Labour and the SNP at every possible opportunity."

  38. 2% for teachers?

    More on the news that the government is expected to allow schools to raise teachers' pay by up to 2% from September. Teachers received a 1% rise last year, after two years of salary freezes, in line with the general 1% pay cap across the public sector, which is due to be extended to next year. But the BBC understands it has been decided that the upper end of the main pay band will increase by 2% and schools can decide whether to award this based on performance. The full BBC story is here.

  39. Pensions mis-selling scandal

    House of Commons


    Jack Straw

    In the House of Commons, Jack Straw, currently the independent MP for Blackburn, is making what's likely to be one of his last speeches in the chamber. Mr Straw, who was first elected in 1979, is standing down at the general election. He is using an adjournment debate to raise the case of a constituent affected by a pensions mis-selling scandal.

  40. Laura Pitel, The Times political correspondent


    Tweets: Very senior Tory ministers voted against plain packaging, according to @pressassoc: Chris Grayling, Esther McVey, Liz Truss, Greg Hands

  41. Lloyd George link lost

    David Cornock

    BBC Wales Parliamentary correspondent

    There will be something missing when the new parliament meets in May. The imminent retirement of crossbench peer Viscount Tenby will remove a direct link with David Lloyd George. The third Viscount Tenby, who is 87, is taking advantage of a new law that allows members of the House of Lords to retire and will formally leave on 1 May.

  42. 'Crawl to power?'

    The Daily Telegraph

    Daily Telegraph sketch writer Michael Deacon has been examining David Cameron's PMQs claim that Ed Miliband wants to "crawl to power in Alex Salmond's pocket". "For one thing, crawling is a highly difficult manoeuvre to execute while inside a pocket", Deacon points out. "Useful though pockets are for the transportation of small items such as keys and wallets, they are not typically designed to enable easy perambulation for a human occupant."

  43. Cigarette packaging vote welcomed

    Labour has welcomed today's vote in favour of standardised packaging for cigarettes. "Experts say it will make children less likely to take up smoking, and so will ultimately save lives," says shadow public health minister Luciana Berger.

  44. 'Split' claim

    The expected development on teachers' pay comes after the Lib Dems said they were in dispute with the Conservatives over whether to implement the recommendations of the School Teachers Review Body. The Lib Dems argued schools should have flexibility to offer individual teachers a rise of up to 2% next year. Any claims of a split were denied by their coalition partners.

  45. Plain packaging 'breaches trademark laws'

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage says today's decision in favour of plain packaging for cigarettes "breaches property rights and trademark laws". He said the government had forced through the legislation, without a debate in the Commons chamber. "How anyone who believes in free markets can now support the Conservative Party is beyond me," he added.

    Nigel Farage
  46. BreakingBreaking News

    The BBC understands the government will give schools the power to increase the pay of top performing teachers by up to 2% from September. Pay deals for millions of public sector workers are due to be signed off tonight and published tomorrow, it is understood. The government limited public sector pay with a 1% cap on rises overall, but it's believed schools will be given discretion to award top performing teachers more. The entire settlement remains within the 1% envelope.

  47. Mob politics?

    Winston McKenzie

    UKIP's Winston McKenzie has been speaking today about being replaced as the party's Commonwealth spokesman. "That's politics, man", the former champion boxer told LBC. Speaking to the Mirror, he compared the decision to Fredo Corleone's demise in The Godfather Part II.

  48. Left wing eurosceptics 'under-represented'

    At the European Scrutiny Committee, Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins says the views of left wing eurosceptics are under-represented in the media. He cites famous Labour figures including Tony Benn and Barbara Castle. "That opinion is still represented within the party," he says. "It never appears, and the populous gets the impression that euroscepticism is a right wing movement."

  49. Ed Balls interview

    New Statesman

    Ed Balls

    Ed Balls has been interviewed by the New Statesman's George Eaton. Their train trip from Wales to London saw the shadow chancellor talk about his marriage to Yvette Cooper, his desire to get into No 11 and what he's learned from Gordon Brown. It also saw him address Ed Balls Day, the Twitter phenomenon marking the anniversary of the time Mr Balls accidentally tweeted his own name. "Who in postwar British politics has had a day named after them?" he muses. "You take what you can, really, don't you?"

  50. Recap

    It's been a busy day in the politics world so far. Here are some of the highlights:

    • David Cameron and Ed Miliband clashed in a heated PMQs - the last but two before the general election
    • Mr Miliband accused the prime minister of "chickening out" of a debate with him, saying: "Like all bullies, when the heat is really on he runs for cover"
    • But Mr Cameron said the Labour leader was "weak and despicable" for not ruling out a post-election deal with the SNP
    • A former Ministry of Defence special adviser said Mr Cameron gave a "personal assurance" that defence spending would increase after 2015
    • MPs voted in favour of the introduction of standardised packaging for cigarettes in the UK
    • Organisers of a digital election debate said they would hold it on 26 or 27 March to meet a deadline set by Downing Street

    At this point Alex Stevenson and Nick Eardley are signing out. But Tom Moseley and Vanessa Barford will be here to take you through until midnight.

  51. Standardised packaging

    Standardised packaging

    With today's vote on standardised tobacco packaging, it means from 2016 every packet will look the same except for the make and brand name, with graphic photos accompanying health warnings - if the House of Lords also approves the move. The Irish Republic passed a similar law earlier this month and Australia has had plain packaging since 2012. Our full story's here.

  52. DUP's debates debate

    House of Commons


    Nigel Dodds

    In the Commons the Democratic Unionist Party's debate on the TV debates has wrapped up. Earlier, the party's deputy leader Nigel Dodds and Ian Paisley argued the case for why they should be included. "This party, its members, could actually have a say after 8th May on who walks into Downing Street as prime minister," Mr Paisley said. "That being the case, isn't it only right and proper that the national audience know where smaller parties like my party stand on the issues of national defence, on the issue of the union, on the issue of grammar school education, on issues of healthcare, taxation, the cost of living and defence spending?" he added. David Simpson, another DUP MP, was deeply critical of the BBC, which he said had displayed "blatant arrogance". The Commons is now debating serious organised cross-border crime.

  53. 'Institutional mindset'

    Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg asks whether the BBC's "institutional mindset" has changed since the 2005 Wilson review. He says he is not suggesting a deliberate bias, but rather a reluctance to challenge the status quo - a perception that "this is what decent people think". James Harding says he hopes this is not the case. The BBC "genuinely lives beyond London" with coverage around the country, he says, which "forces us to wrestle with the news agenda and what, if you like, the status quo is or should be". He also says the corporation needs to make sure everyone feels their issues are represented.

  54. 'Real impartiality'

    The European Scrutiny Committee is discussing a 2005 review of the BBC's coverage of the European Union. The independent inquiry said coverage must become "more demonstrably impartial". Director of news James Harding says the review "reminded people that there was real impartiality in the BBC". He also says coverage has enabled people to understand highly complex issues such as quantitative easing.

  55. BreakingBreaking News

    MPs have approved regulations enforcing standardised tobacco packaging. The result of the deferred division (MPs voted by paper) was a government win by 367 votes to 113, a majority of 254.

  56. Roles split?

    Does Lord Hall believe the roles of director general and editor-in-chief should be divided? "I think we would find it very hard to divide it," he tells the European Scrutiny Committee. "People will say 'all right, you're the chief executive but hang on, what do you think about it? You must have a view on it'."

  57. Europe editor

    James Harding tells the European Scrutiny Committee the BBC's Europe editor Katya Adler is an "outstanding" journalist and people who care about the scrutiny of Europe should be "very pleased" to have someone like her doing that job.

  58. European Scrutiny Committee

    Sir Bill Cash, chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, says "a lot of people sense" a "pro-European bias" in BBC coverage. Lord Hall, BBC director general, replies: "We are and we will be impartial in all matters concerning our coverage."

  59. Clarkson suspension

    In a quick break from EU coverage questions, BBC director general Lord Hall is asked at the European Scrutiny Committee whether he is involved in the suspension of Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson. "I have been involved in that, I am involved in that, we have an inquiry taking place on that, I can't say any more than that," he replies.

  60. Politics 97


    Politics 97 homepage

    Such is the value of the BBC's online political journalism that our contributions are pored over by media journalists many, many years after their newsworthiness has faded. BuzzFeed has devoted an entire article to the BBC's Politics 97 website, which it points out "is still online in all its web 1.0 glory". But it has missed a trick: the BBC's Budget 97 website is even more magnificent. Just who is that politician walking Reservoir Dogs style towards the camera?

  61. My name is...

    Yesterday Labour supporters might have been temporarily baffled by receiving an email in their inbox from David Cameron. "I'm not currently prime minister of the United Kingdom. I'm actually a Labour member from Glasgow," its author explains, before asking party supporters for cash. Today a follow-up has arrived from George Osborne. "I am furious with what the other George Osborne has done to our country, and I urge you to help me get him out of government," he writes. Carl Packman, the author and researcher, is not impressed. "I'd like for the Labour Party to find a living member called Margaret Thatcher to email me now," he's tweeted.

  62. James Harding on BBC's independence

    The European Scrutiny Committee is discussing the BBC's coverage of European affairs. After criticism by the MPs of previous refusals to give evidence, BBC director of news James Harding (pictured below) says: "If you detect a reluctance of people like me to come to Parliamentary committees to discuss editorial judgements... you are right". He asks the committee not to misunderstand this. The reason the BBC's independence is "prized so dearly", he says, is because the public would not want to see journalists called to account for what they do before politicians. Sir Bill Cash says the BBC would have no money were it not for Parliament's authorisation. "We wouldn't have anything worth paying for if it weren't independent," James Harding replies.

    James Harding
  63. Viewing figures

    Dr Matthew Ashton, a politics lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, offers his take on the Downing Street strategy over the TV debates - and a clue as to why the PM might be prepared to say yes to the digital debate. "They're hoping that the debate involving multiple leaders will turn into a farcical circus, allowing him to duck the big issues and avoid Labour and UKIP making an easy hit," Dr Ashton says. "If he avoids the debates altogether then he could try to look statesmanlike, while the other leaders squabble amongst themselves on TV. If he does agree to the proposed digital debate, it will be in the likely knowledge that the viewing figures are likely to be much smaller than they would be on the BBC or ITV."

  64. 'Not dragged here'

    On the issue of previous requests for him to appear before the European Scrutiny Committee, Lord Hall says he would never use his peerage "as an excuse not to appear". "I don't know where that idea came from but it's simply untrue," he says. He has not been "dragged" to the committee, he says, adding that he has been "wrestling" with two principles - the BBC's editorial independence versus the scrutiny of select committees.

  65. Greens on digital debate

    The Greens sound enthusiastic about the digital debate idea put forward today. A spokesperson says: "We are looking forward to receiving the invitation from the Guardian/ YouTube and Telegraph. We welcome the opportunity for the Green Party's views to be heard and relish this chance to put across our policies to the voters of Britain."

  66. 'Widespread ignorance'

    At the European Scrutiny Committee, Lord Hall, the director general of the BBC, has just been asked whether a "trade off between what's important and what's popular and entertaining" is responsible for "widespread ignorance" about the EU. He says the corporation has to make sure important issues are covered. "I think there are very interesting ways in which we can lead people from programmes which have a mass audience to the background which enables them to understand much more," he adds.

  67. 'Pathetic and unleaderly'

    The Independent

    Ed Miliband in PMQs

    John Rentoul wasn't impressed by Ed Miliband's decision to focus all six of his questions on the TV debates at PMQs today. "Looking at the Labour benches it was written in all their faces," he writes. "They thought it was pathetic and unleaderly to ask about political processes. One or two inveterate hecklers among Labour MPs, it is true, enjoy making chicken noises at the prime minister, but that only confirms the impression of deep gloom on the Labour side." He suggests opposition MPs like Stella Creasy and Gisela Stuart did a better job of pressing the PM on issues that really matter.

  68. Empty chair poll

    David Cameron

    "Empty-chairing" the prime minister continues to be a possibility - and the broadcasters' resolve to do so may be strengthened by a poll out this lunchtime. Research from ComRes/ITV News shows that the proportion of people who now think the TV debates should go ahead even if David Cameron does not take part has risen seven points to 71%. Meanwhile 59% think the prime minister is being cowardly in trying to avoid TV debates with the other leaders. ComRes interviewed 2,026 British adults online between 6 and 8 March 2015.

  69. 'Defining moment' for EU

    Asked by Sir Bill Cash whether he agrees with the BBC's Europe editor that this could be a "defining moment" for the future of Europe and the UK (given the possibility of a referendum on the UK's membership and "increasing euroscepticism"), Lord Hall says the BBC takes coverage of European issues "very seriously indeed", including live coverage of the European Parliament online.

  70. European Scrutiny Committee

    The BBC's director general, Lord Hall, and its director of news and current affairs, James Harding, are appearing before the European Scrutiny Committee. Chairman Bill Cash opens by asking Tony Hall (below) why he has declined previous requests to appear before the committee.

    Lord Hall
  71. Shapps on Mandelson

    Grant Shapps

    The Conservatives are quick to respond to Peter Mandelson's comments. They've put out a line from Tory chairman Grant Shapps linking his prediction that we're heading for another hung parliament to David Cameron's big campaigning message in PMQs about Labour and the SNP. "Lord Mandelson is confirming what we now all know - the only way Miliband will get into Downing Street is if he's carried there in Alex Salmond's pocket," he says. "That would mean more borrowing, higher taxes and weaker defences. Hardworking taxpayers would pay the price for the resulting economic chaos and a weak leader who simply isn't up to the job of being prime minister."

  72. Mandelson predicts hung parliament

    The Daily Telegraph

    Peter Mandelson

    Peter Mandelson isn't expecting Ed Miliband to secure an overall majority. He's told a Retail Week conference that Labour hasn't done enough to win over voters - a comment which isn't going to be greeted with delight at party HQ. "The two big parties in British politics have never polled a smaller share of the total vote as they are doing now," the Telegraph quotes him as saying. "Why? Because people basically are unhappy with what's on offer. They are therefore shopping around in politics in a way the large parties are ill-equipped to deal with, which will almost certainly deliver us a stalemate hung Parliament in two months' time."

  73. Have your say

    Here's some of your comments following this lunchtime's PMQs and the chief issue raised by Ed Miliband, the TV debates:

    Surely PMQs provides the ideal platform for Ed Miliband to debate with David Cameron. He is allowed to ask up to six questions each week of his own devising. Let us hope his questions in the final two sessions relate to policy.

    Graeme Lowe

    Maybe if the Tories stopped going on about Labour doing a deal with the SNP and tried to win some seats in Scotland the people of Scotland might take them seriously.

    Jim Noble

    In our democratic society we have the amazing freedom of the leader of the country being called to account on how our nation is run. It is then a travesty that the leader of the opposition with such an opportunity before him chooses to ask six questions all around having a political debate. Stay on what's important to the country not on what's important to Westminster Mr Milliband!

    Richard Gamble

    It is beyond me how anyone can defend Cameron regarding these TV debates, those that do must be Tory supporters. Who on earth does this guy think he is to dictate to a nation when he is or is not prepared to engage in debate?

    Andy Davison

    Keep sending your comments over to and we'll include some more later this afternoon.

  74. 'Digital debate' rationale

    Here's an explanation of the thinking behind the decision by the digital debates' chief to move their proposed forwards to 26 or 27 March. Chris Birkett, director of the consortium leading a proposal for an online debate featuring YouTube, the Guardian and the Telegraph, told the BBC they've moved their plans forward a week and hope it's enough to unblock the "log jam". He said: "We're not let anyone off the hook; we just want to create a situation which everybody agrees. We want to see our leaders debate on big public platform."

    Mr Birkett added: "Last time around we had three TV debate speaking to exactly the same demographic each time. We say let's have just one debate speaking to an entirely different demographic. And don't forget we are making it available for all the broadcasters free of charge to broadcast as well - we want as many as possible to engage."

  75. Bercow apologises

    House of Commons


    John Bercow

    John Bercow has apologised for comparing employment minister Esther McVey to a washing machine. In response to a point of order from Tory backbencher Heather Wheeler, he said he didn't mean to cause offence while rebuffing Ms McVey for an excessively lengthy answer on Monday afternoon. "It was an off-the-cuff remark, it may well have been a foolish one and I apologise for it," he said. Mr Bercow had observed after one of Ms McVey's contributions to work and pensions questions: "I am reminded of the feeling when one thinks the washing machine will stop - but it does not."

  76. TV debates recap

    Natalie Bennett, Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood

    The TV debate story has moved on again today. Here's a recap of where we stand right now:

    • Broadcasters and No 10 had been in a standoff after Downing Street made clear David Cameron would not participate in a TV debate after 27 March
    • This morning the organisers of the digital debate said they would break the deadlock by bringing forward their debate to meet the PM's deadline
    • Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps told the Daily Politics he thought the revised proposal is a "plausible way forward"
    • Nigel Farage backed the digital debates proposal minutes before PMQs, saying "scrutiny is an important part of democracy"
    • PMQs saw Ed Miliband press David Cameron over the TV debates in general
    • In a fresh statement the broadcasters declared they are trying to deliver debates "because we know our audience wants them"
  77. Maria Miller on Clarkson and debates

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Presented by Martha Kearney

    Maria Miller

    On the suspension of Jeremy Clarkson over a "fracas" with a producer, Maria Miller, the Tory MP and former culture secretary, says the BBC has a "clear obligation" to its staff, but also to the licence fee payer. She says the mess should be sorted out quickly so fans aren't punished.

    Asked about TV debates, she says the BBC would have to cautious about appearing to enter a political debate by "empty chairing" the prime minster.

  78. SNP ready to 'work with' Labour

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Presented by Martha Kearney

    Angus Robertson, who is the SNP's leader at Westminster, makes clear he thinks it's obvious why Labour won't rule out a deal with the nationalists. "If the numbers are such that the Labour cannot command a majority in the House of Commons without other parties, they will have to work with the SNP," he says. "Voters are very well aware that a vote for the SNP will get you the SNP. We've said we are prepared to work with Labour and the Liberal Democrats."

  79. SNP's PMQs verdict

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Presented by Martha Kearney

    Angus Robertson

    The SNP's Angus Robertson wasn't impressed at all by Ed Miliband's choice of questions in today's PMQs. "If I had the opportunity to raise six questions which the leader of the opposition did, I would be raising questions about austerity, that effect the man and woman on the street, rather than the debates," he says. Yvette Cooper replies that Mr Miliband raises all sorts of issues in PMQs.

  80. 'Weaselly'

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Presented by Martha Kearney

    David Cameron is behaving "shamefully", shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper tells Wato. "It's weaselly," she adds. "The problem is the prime minister is still running away from the debates I think the public are entitled to see." Defence minister Penny Mordaunt says the PM is "clearly not" a "shrinking violet", and therefore Labour's criticisms won't "stick".

  81. Debates debate

    House of Commons


    In the Commons, the DUP's Nigel Dodds is now speaking in his party's opposition day debate about the general election television debates.

  82. 'Appetite for debates'

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Presented by Martha Kearney

    Michael Lyons

    Michael Lyons, the former chairman of the BBC Trust, tells Wato there is a very real public appetite for TV debates. He says it is clear the broadcasters have done their best to find a solution after "quite a challenge" - although admits there was a bit of a "dog's dinner" in some respects. He says a head-to-head debate between David Cameron and Ed Miliband is something "the public would want to see".

  83. Tom Edgington, BBC journalist


    tweets: Former BBC Chairman Sir Michael Lyons describes Lord Grade's #tvdebate comments as "audacious" @bbcworldatone #wato

  84. Labour on defence

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Presented by Martha Kearney

    Yvette Cooper says the Labour Party doesn't support unilateral disarmament - the UK should continue to have a deterrent. Angus Robertson says 75% of Labour candidates support SNP policy on not renewing Trident and there is room for a "progressive alliance" on that front.

  85. Labour on defence

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Presented by Martha Kearney

    Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, says supporting the armed forces is important. The Labour MP says she doesn't see how the Tories could meet their warm words and aspirations given the scale of cuts they plan after the election. Her party won't do what the Tories are planning, she says - but she won't commit to the 2% pledge in the next Parliament either.

  86. Meeting the target

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Presented by Martha Kearney

    Penny Mordaunt, the Tory MP, says the government should be judged by its record - so far, the 2% pledge has been kept. There will be a comprehensive spending review after the election, but those who care about the defence spending can take comfort from pledges already made, she adds. She hopes the 2% threshold will continue to be met.

  87. 'Creative accounting'

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Presented by Martha Kearney

    What counts is real military activity, not creative accounting says Anders Fogh Rasmussen. It follows newspaper reports that David Cameron has asked Oliver Letwin to find ways to meet the 2% target while spending less by including the money spent on war pensions and the intelligence budget in the 'defence spending' total.

  88. 'Drastic changes'

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Presented by Martha Kearney

    Anders Fogh Rasmussen says we're in a "new security environment" which has seen "drastic" changes after Russia's actions in Ukraine. We need to strengthen national defences, he says, and that will cost money. He says he believes the UK will continue to meet the commitment of spending 2% of GDP on defence.

  89. Defence spending

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Presented by Martha Kearney

    Defence spending is being discussed by WATO. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former head of Nato, says the 2% of GDP figure is important - it's about sharing the burden between members. All 28 allies signed up to the pledge to reach the benchmark over the next decade and David Cameron has assured him the UK will stay above the 2% figure, he adds.

  90. PMQs recap

    Here's a recap of the highlights from this week's PMQs

    • Ed Miliband focused his questions on the ongoing row over the TV debates
    • The leader of the opposition suggested David Cameron had lost his nerve, claimed he was "worried he might lose again" and accused him of "chickening out"
    • The prime minister insisted he would be prepared to hold a debate on 23 March and said he wanted to talk about "the country", not a "television programme"
    • Mr Cameron's main attack against the Labour leader repeated the claim that Alex Salmond could help Mr Miliband into Downing Street
    • UKIP MP Douglas Carswell, previously treated by leniently by the party he defected from, was booed by Tory MPs during his question on immigration
    • The prime minister denied he is backtracking on the government's 2% defence spending pledge following a question by Labour's Gisela Suart
  91. Norman Smith, BBC assistant political editor

    tweets: Labour - " we will look at idea of digital debate" #tvdebates

  92. Nick 'Plumber' Boles

    Daily Politics

    Live on BBC Two

    Nick Boles, plumber

    Nick Boles, the apprenticeships minister, has been filmed getting his hands dirty - or wet - helping out as a plumbing apprentice. "Finally, an honest day's work from a politician, eh?" he says.

  93. Paul Waugh, PoliticsHome editor


    tweets: Labour points out Tories had confidence and supply voting deal with SNP in Holyrood in 2007. Shows "massive hypocrisy and their idiocy"

  94. Norman Smith, BBC assistant political editor


    tweets: Downing St say " more than happy" to look at idea of digital debate #tvdebates

  95. Digital debate

    The broadcasters have issued a statement after today's proposal from YouTube, the Telegraph and the Guardian for a digital debate before 27 March. It reads: "The joint broadcasters are trying to deliver debates because we know our audiences want them. In 2010 they were watched by more than 20 million people and our research suggests there is an appetite for them in 2015. We have issued invitations to seven party leaders and we continue to hope they will all agree to take part."

  96. Paul Waugh, PoliticsHome editor


    tweets: It's official. No10 spksmn, asked if PM now rules out head to head TV debate with Miliband:"Yes. Final offer means final offer"

  97. Pete Wishart, SNP MP


    tweets: I had a little piece of jacket pocket related theatre if I had got called at #pmqs today. Alas, it will have to wait.

  98. Chess challenge

    Daily Politics

    Live on BBC Two

    Grant Shapps appears to be conflating a confidence-and-supply arrangement with a coalition. They amount to the same thing, he says - "propping up the government". Emma Reynolds says his assessment is "total bunkum". And then the two end up somehow challenging each other to a chess match. Things are clearly getting out of hand.

  99. SNP in government?

    Daily Politics

    Live on BBC Two

    Tom Newton-Dunn tells the Daily Politics he thinks the SNP will get more than 40 seats. "The SNP are going to have a blocking vote, a veto on every government that comes in," he says. "It does beg the question: what are the Tories going to do about the SNP? Will there be a deal to be done there?" The answer's 'no', Tory chairman Grant Shapps says. He says the only chance of the SNP getting into government is via Ed Miliband and Labour.

  100. Trident renewal

    Daily Politics

    Live on BBC Two

    Labour's shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds is asked about whether or not Britain needs four new submarines for Trident, which David Cameron was pressed on. Does Labour support it or not? "This idea the Tories were trying to get up in PMQs is totally false," she says, as Tory chairman Grant Shapps presses her on a recent survey that suggested three-quarters of Labour candidates oppose Trident's renewal. Ms Reynolds says the world is too dangerous to give it up. "I hate to say it, but there's no dividing line between the parties," she insists.

  101. Pic: Daily Politics panel

    Daily Politics
  102. Tony Grew , parliamentary journalist


    ‏tweets: Speaker apologises for comparing @EstherMcVeyMP to a washing machine says no offence intended

  103. 'Punch and Judy'

    Daily Politics

    Live on BBC Two

    The Sun's Tom Newton-Dunn wasn't impressed by the tone of that session. "That really was Punch and Judy at its utter worst. What have the good British public done to deserve a spectacle like that?" he asks on the Daily Politics. He was surprised that Jeremy Clarkson didn't come up. And he points out that the PM wore a blue shirt for the first time - not a white one. "I'm not saying it's a big point," he adds. Still, worth noting.

  104. Tim Sculthorpe, Press Association parliamentary editor


    tweets: Only two #PMQs to go. Not sure lobbing insults about being "despicable" (DC to EM) and "bully" (EM to DC) is helping anyone win votes.

  105. Policing cuts

    House of Commons


    One last question to catch up with - Jack Dromey, Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington (and Harriet Harman's husband) raised policing cuts. He quotes Sir Hugh Orde saying future spending cuts may make it impossible to adequately protect the public from criminals. This gives David Cameron an opportunity to address Labour's spending cuts plans. "As for the shadow chancellor's dossier, he briefed against it before we even had a chance!" Ed Balls shakes his head as the PM adds: "He now briefs against himself!"

  106. Two more to go...

    House of Commons


    And that's it for this week's PMQs. Just two more before the election now. We'll bring you reaction and analysis as it comes in.

  107. James Forsyth, The Spectator


    tweets: Ed Balls nodding vigorously as Cameron says that Trident is non-negotiable

  108. SNP (again)

    House of Commons


    The SNP have been licking their lips in public, Tory MP Julian Lewis says, about the prospect of curtailing the UK's plans on Trident as part of a coalition deal after the election. Will the PM rule such a deal out, he asks. David Cameron says for him Trident and its replacement are "non-negotiable".

  109. Retirement plans

    House of Commons


    Gerry Sutcliffe, the Labour MP for Bradford South points out this will probably be his last question in PMQs. He's making his retirement plans - how about the PM's? David Cameron says: "We've all got plans for after 7 May. People we want to spend more time with, people we want to spend less time with. I've got a little list, I expect he's got one too!"

  110. James Forsyth, The Spectator


    tweets: Anna Soubry goes 'eurgh' when Nigel Adams suggests voters could go to bed with Nigel Farage and wake up with Ed Miliband and Alex Salmond

  111. Defence investment

    House of Commons


    Caroline Dineage seeks a commitment to the defence industry from the PM, skirting around the concerns of some of her Conservative backbench colleagues about recent defence spending predictions. In response David Cameron is able to talk about defence investment in her constituency.

  112. Sexual abuse inquiry

    House of Commons


    The DUP's Greogory Campbell calls for a cross-border inquiry sexual abuse after claims the IRA subjected alleged victims to "kangaroo courts". Mr Cameron says he will look at the idea, but the Stormont agreement has provisions for dealing with crimes of the past.

  113. Pic: Gregory Campbell

    House of Commons


    Pic: Gregory Campbell
  114. Vicki Young, BBC political correspondent


    ‏tweets: A moment of harmony as David Cameron pays a warm tribute to "remarkable man" David Blunkett #pmqs

  115. Wake-up call

    Nigel Adams, the Tory MP for Selby and Ainsty, raises David Cameron's previous warning about the perils of voting for UKIP. "If voters go to bed with Nigel Farage on May 7th, not only could they wake up with a new leader of the opposition but they could also wake up snuggled up to Alex Salmond," Mr Adams suggests. David Cameron runs with it. Who knows who voters might wake up with? he wonders. "It all points to the difference between the competence of the Conservatives and the chaos of the alternative."

  116. Pic: Nigel Adams

    House of Commons


    Pic: Nigel Adams
  117. Blunkett tribute

    House of Commons


    David Blunkett says he was thinking about asking about the long-term economic plan - getting cheers - which, he says, grows longer and less attractive by the day. But instead he goes with his "imminent" relief neither of them will have to "pencil in" PMQs on a Wednesday - Mr Blunkett is standing down the election. Mr Cameron brushes off the comment, but pays tribute to Mr Blunkett, saying he is an "extraordinary" politician.

  118. Pic: David Blunkett

    House of Commons


    Pic: David Blunkett
  119. Asbestos in schools

    House of Commons


    Annette Brooke, the third Lib Dem to get a question in this week, raises asbestos and the vulnerability of children to it. She wants the government's review on asbestos in schools to be published before parliament is dissolved. David Cameron says it will be published "in due course" and adds that "action will be taken".

  120. Pic: Speaker John Bercow tries to keep the peace

    House of Commons


    Pic: Speaker John Bercow tries to keep the peace
  121. Universal benefits

    House of Commons


    Rosie Cooper, from the Labour benches, goes on universal benefits. She says retired pensioners in her area ask about the point of a free bus pass when there are no buses. She asks the PM - amidst a number of interruptions - to "do the right thing" and ensure concessionary travel is fair and equitable. Mr Cameron says buses are the responsibility of local councils and argues the government has kept its commitments to pensioners.

  122. James Chapman, Daily Mail political editor


    tweets: @GiselaStuart goes on defence spending, as Miliband should have done #pmqs

  123. A new city?

    Sir David Amess, the Conservative backbencher for Southend West, wants David Cameron to outline which policies will continue the economic recovery. And he says he wants Southend to be made a city, too. The PM congratulates him for the "consistency of his campaign" on this but doesn't promise anything. On the "long-term economic plan", of course, he has rather a lot more to say.

  124. Pic: Gisela Stuart

    House of Commons


    Pic: Gisela Stuart
  125. Danny Shaw, BBC home affairs correspondent


    tweets: Home Secretary will not make a decision about whether to authorise the use of water cannon on mainland Britain until after the election.

  126. Defence spending

    House of Commons


    Labour's Gisela Stuart asks about 2% defence pledge, saying David Cameron must be "embarrassed" he is now backtracking. Mr Cameron denies reneging and asks about the SNP again, asking how Ms Stuart feels about a Labour coalition with the SNP who, Mr Cameron says, want to strip back the UK's defence - including Trident.

  127. Joey Jones, Sky News deputy political editor


    tweets: Both leaders say "anytime, any place, anywhere" and yet we're no closer to debates happening it seems. lots of bluster, and bitter too.

  128. Pic: Paul Farrelly waves a 'leaked NHS document'

    House of Commons


    Pic: Paul Farrelly waves a 'leaked NHS document'
  129. Ultra-rare diseases

    Greg Mulholland, a Lib Dem MP, tells MPs people with ultra-rare diseases are being let down. Children, some of who are gathered outside parliament, will be losing access to drugs soon, he says. "My understanding," David Cameron replies, "is that NHS England is holding a review. The review will be completed by the end of April." Because the drugs will be available until the end of May he doesn't see a problem for "continuity of care".

  130. James Chapman, Daily Mail political editor


    tweets: Mandelson in helpful mood today: predicts no Labour majority and says broadcasters would be wrong to 'empty chair' Cameron in #tvdebates

  131. NHS

    House of Commons


    Paul Farrelly from Labour asks about looming deficits in the NHS. He asks why the government is trying to "cover-up" what's in store for parts of the service. Mr Cameron says Labour MPs are trying to frighten people and says the government is trying to build a strong NHS.

  132. Hospices

    Mark Hunter, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cheadle, pays tribute to health professionals at a hospice in his constituency. Devolving £6bn of spending to Greater Manchester will help secure cash for local hospices, he suggests. David Cameron is very happy to agree with that. "I'm a parent which used a hospice in Oxford regularly and was absolutely amazed by the work that they do," the PM adds.

  133. Pic: Naomi Long

    House of Commons


    Pic: Naomi Long
  134. Northern Ireland Assembly

    House of Commons


    Naomi Long from the Alliance party asks if David Cameron shares her anger that Sinn Fein is "reneging" on promises made as part of Stormont agreement. Mr Cameron says what matters is now implementing the agreement. He says the Northern Ireland secretary is working hard to make sure everyone fulfils their pledges. More on the background here.

  135. Vicki Young, BBC political correspondent


    tweets: Maybe SNP MPs will turn up next week in coattails #pmqs

  136. Learning disabilities

    Maria Miller, the former culture secretary and ex-disability minister, asks the PM to welcome the Inclusion Zone in her Basingstoke constituency helping people with learning disabilities. David Cameron does so, and adds that over 1,000 employers have committed to changing their working practices under this government.

  137. Pic: Caroline Lucas

    House of Commons


    Pic: Caroline Lucas
  138. Caroline Lucas on NHS

    House of Commons


    Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, says market structures in the NHS cost over £10bn a year. She asks why the prime minister doesn't think the money would be better spent elsewhere. David Cameron says his government is cutting bureaucracy, and says Ms Lucas is wrong if she thinks there is only one way to deliver healthcare.

  139. Science spending

    Tory Stephen Metcalfe wants David Cameron to commit to sticking with the current science budget, which was ringfenced for the 2010-15 Parliament. The PM doesn't do so in his answer.

  140. Miners' strike

    Lisa Nandy, the Labour backbencher for Wigan, poses a question about the miners' strike. David Cameron says unemployment in her constituency has fallen by 44% since the coalition began its work.

  141. Mark D'Arcy, BBC parliamentary correspondent


    tweets: I think we can say goodbye to the idea of a grand Con-Lab Coalition after next a election #PMQs

  142. Michael Deacon, political sketch writer, Telegraph


    tweets: "He's weak and despicable!" "He's chickening out! Feeble!" Is this a #fracas?

  143. Women's rights

    Mary MacLeod, the Tory MP, praises the coalition on women's rights. She asks if the PM will back a women's select committee in the Commons. David Cameron says the government is doing a lot to help women, the government has a "good record" on women's rights, he says.

  144. George Eaton, New Statesman political editor


    tweets: The tediousness of the debate about the debates is probably the best argument for having them. #PMQs

  145. Immigration 'failure'

    Douglas Carswell, the UKIP MP asked about immigration, his party's big issue. "Why has he failed?" Mr Carswell asks the PM. Mr Cameron responds by saying his focus is on reforming welfare to prevent immigrants from taking benefits unfairly.

  146. Pic: Alistair Burt

    House of Commons


  147. Pic: Douglas Carswell

    House of Commons


  148. Contaminated blood

    House of Commons


    That's the end of the head-to head and next up is Tory MP Alistair Burt. He asks about a report on contaminated blood in Scotland and whether the prime minister will assure Parliament the issue will not slip from the agenda and the tragedy will be "closed down" in the next Parliament. Mr Cameron says the country should be helping people affected more and says he will tackle the issue if still PM after the election.

  149. Bankrupt and break-up Britain

    Mr Cameron responds: "The truth is they've got nothing to say on policy, nothing to say on the economy." He says a Labour-SNP alliance would be one between the people who want to "bankrupt Britain" and the people who wants to "break-up Britain". He finishes by declaring: "The British people will never have it."

  150. 'Bully' Cameron

    After another interruption from John Bercow, Ed Miliband says the only person posing a risk to the integrity of the UK is "this useless prime minister". He says the PM is running for cover "like all bullies" do when the heat is on.

  151. Pic: David Cameron waves Scottish Labour leaflet

    House of Commons


    David Cameron
  152. 'Despicable'

    David Cameron says Ed Miliband is being "despicable" and again presses the SNP question saying the Labour leader "wants to crawl to power in Alex Salmond's pocket" . If he had an ounce of courage, the prime minister says, he'd rule it out.

  153. Norman Smith, BBC assistant political editor


    tweets: Ed Miliband says he will take part in #tvdebates but no mention of digital debate #PMQs

  154. 'Chickening out'

    "If he's so confident," Ed Miliband replies, "why is he chickening out of the debate with me?" It matters because it goes to David Cameron's character, he says. He wants the PM to show more "backbone".

  155. 'A television programme'

    Ed Miliband says David Cameron should admit that "he's worried he might lose again". David Cameron replies: "He wants to talk about the future of a television programme. I want to talk about the future of the country." That gets a big cheer from the government backbenches.

  156. 'On the SNP's coat-tails'

    David Cameron prompts some 'ahhs' from backbenchers as he quotes a Labour leaflet in Scotland. "They're not trying to win, they're just trying to crawl through Downing Street on the coat-tails of the SNP," he says. Ed Miliband, responding, says the only person preparing for defeat is the prime minister.

  157. Pic: Ed Miliband

    House of Commons


    Ed Miliband
  158. 'Smirking'

    Speaker John Bercow intervenes, telling the Commons off for shouting and singling out Michael Gove for "smirking". Ed Miliband, resuming, says David Cameron is offering "pathetic, feeble excuses".

  159. Jane Merrick, Independent columnist


    tweets: Rhyming couplet from Cameron "if he wants a debate, I offered a date" #pmqs

  160. Debates and the SNP

    Ed Miliband invites David Cameron to "name the day" for a debate. The PM says 23 March is the date he'd like. Now, Mr Cameron says, what's changed is that "Labour can't win without the SNP".

  161. TV debates

    House of Commons


    The main exchanges begin with Ed Miliband facing the usual barrage of cheers and jeers from MPs. He leads with the TV debates. "When did he lose his nerve?" the Labour leader asks. Mr Cameron says he's offered a date already. "I'm going to be at the debate!" Mr Miliband responds.

  162. Pic: David Cameron

    House of Commons


    David Cameron
  163. Under way

    House of Commons


    Stella Creasy, the Labour MP, is up first on defence spending. She asks if tax cuts or defence are more important to the prime minister. Mr Cameron says economic security is key - his government has filled gaps in the economy are investing in defence.

  164. Pic: David Cameron in the Chamber

    House of Commons


    Daivd Cameron
    Image caption: David Cameron takes his seat in the House of Commons ahead of Prime Minister's questions.
  165. Defending the Milibands

    Daily Politics

    Live on BBC Two

    Emma Reynolds, Labour's shadow housing minister, is on the Daily Politics defending the Milibands for appearing together on the BBC. "Justine and his kids are obviously a very big part of his life," she says. "I think it is absolutely right that people that stand up and do the decent thing like Ed shouldn't be shot down all the time. I do think people want to know more about him and his background and his family."

  166. Norman Smith, Assistant political editor, BBC


    tweets: Momentum building behind digital debate. UKIP, lib Dems and Greens set to agree. No 10 " looking at it" . What do Labour do ? #tvdebates

  167. UKIP MP Douglas Carswell


    tweets: Thanks for all the suggestions as to what I should ask the PM today. So many things to go on. #Pmq #AskDave

  168. Farage accepts digital debate invite


    More from UKIP's Nigel Farage on his decision to take part in a digital election debate: "I hope that the prime minister will muster up the courage to stand by his own words, and show up to try and defend his record in government. Mr Cameron has failed on nearly every pledge he made to the British public in 2010, and it is evident he's afraid of butting heads with UKIP on immigration, the EU, our NHS, defence, education policy and more."

  169. BreakingBreaking News

    Nigel Farage has said he would take part in a digital debate organised by YouTube, the Guardian and the Telegraph. The UKIP leader says: "Scrutiny is an important part of democracy, and for this reason I am delighted to accept the Telegraph/Guardian/YouTube invitation to this debate - so that I can make the case to the British electorate on why they should vote UKIP."

  170. Political 'setback'

    House of Commons


    Theresa Villiers

    Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers accuses Sinn Fein of "setting back" the political situation in Northern Ireland by withdrawing their support for welfare reforms on Monday.

    Their action has "put in jeopardy corporation tax, and devolution, a financial package and put in jeopardy a fresh approach to the passed" she complains.

  171. 'A plausible way forward'

    Grant Shapps

    Conservative chairman Grant Shapps says he's not familiar with the "digital debate" offer (see 10.40am entry for details). But in general he sounds enthusiastic. "These debates are a good idea, if we can hold it before the election," he tells the Daily Politics. After Andrew Neil explains to him the details he adds: "I still think it would be preferable to have it on the main TV channels, but if the broadcasters can't sort it out this seems like a plausible way forward to me."

  172. Defence spending

    Daily Politics

    Live on BBC Two

    Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps doesn't say that the Conservative manifesto will include a pledge to maintain defence spending at 2% of GDP in the next Parliament when pressed on the issue on the Daily Politics. Instead his focus is on providing reassurance about the "defence of the realm". "We will do what is right to protect this country," he says. "We will make sure a future Conservative government will make sure we have not just the regular standing Army which we won't cut, but the equipment [too] to make sure we can defend this country."

  173. Tributes to Lord Molyneaux

    House of Commons


    Lord Molyneux

    MPs are paying tribute to former Ulster Unionist Party leader James Molyneaux who died aged 94 earlier this week.

    Northern Ireland Minister Andrew Murrison describes Lord Molyneaux as a "distinguished Second World War veteran and a fine parliamentarian serving Northern Ireland for more than four decades."

    DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who represents Lord Molyneaux's former constituency of Lagan valley tells MPs that Lord Molyneaux was a "consummate parliamentarian who provided strong leadership during very dark days in Northern Ireland" who is still "fondly remembered by his constituents"

  174. Defence spending

    Daily Politics

    Live on BBC Two

    James Gray MP

    Conservative backbencher James Gray is speaking out against the prime minister's defence spending plans on the Daily Politics, after the Financial Times reported No 10 had asked Oliver Letwin to find ways of including intelligence spending in what's defined as 'defence'. "For the prime minister to be even contemplating tinkering with the accounts… I think is quite wrong," Mr Gray says. "Sticking other things in there and pretending they're part of defence won't wash. People like me won't be fooled by that."

  175. Northern Ireland party funding

    House of Commons


    Alliance MP Naomi Long has kicked off proceedings over in the House of Commons urging the government to hurry up and publish a new law to enable the Electoral Commission to publish details of all donations made to Northern Ireland recipients since 2007, and loans made since 2008, will be published.

    The government ran a consultation on creating the law in January last year. Northern Ireland Minister Andrew Murrison says he is "confident draft" legislation will be ready to lay early in the next parliament.

  176. 'Parachuted in'

    Nigel Farage and Al Murray

    Pub landlord Al Murray, who is standing in the same constituency as Nigel Farage, has announced he will be literally dropping into South Thanet this Friday 13th March. "I was shocked when it was widely regarded that I'd been parachuted into South Thanet," he says. "But I'm part of a new breed of politician, one who guarantees to give the electorate exactly what they want, no matter how dangerous or stupid it is." Mr Murray's big arrival will take place at Headcorn Aerodrome.

  177. Call to cut tax on spirits in Budget

    Daily Politics

    Live on BBC Two

    Whisky glass and graphic

    MPs have been seen wandering the corridors of Parliament clutching a miniature bottle of whisky. It is part of a lobbying campaign by Drop the Duty, which is calling for a 2% cut in duty across all alcohol in next week's Budget. At a distillery near Edinburgh, Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley, authors of Distilled, a book about craft spirits, put the case for the economic benefit of a cut in tax on spirits. Watch their film which airs on Wednesday's Daily Politics around 12:40 GMT. They will then debate their call with Grant Shapps and Labour's Emma Reynolds.

  178. Have your say

    Earlier today we published some readers' comments which were distinctly critical of Michael Grade's stance against the broadcasters. Here's some we've received since then that take an alternative view:

    Lord Grade is absolutely right. The broadcasters do not have any divine right to call upon politicians to debate one another.

    James Horrax

    Completely agree with Lord Grade. Broadcasters are starting to enjoy being the centre of attention rather too much. Stop playing politics.

    Jamie Page

    It strikes me that the broadcasters when they want something are crusading for freedom, when they are told they are wrong they are poor bullied victims. They can't have it both ways that's what free speech is all about.

    Bill Lord

    Keep sending your comments over to and we'll include some more this afternoon after PMQs.

  179. John Swinney, Scotland's finance minister


    tweets: For the 34th year in a row, Scotland generated more in tax per head than rest of UK. In stronger position than UK for 3 out of last 6 years.

  180. Digital debate proposal

    A bit more on the plans for a digital debate involving party leaders ahead of the election. The consortium writes: "At this year's General Election, the internet will be the main source of news for the majority of UK voters, especially amongst those aged under 44.

    "The Guardian, the Telegraph and YouTube will collectively provide the best possible online platform for such a debate, with direct connections to other election resources and party websites.

    "Together, the partners provide scale and balance, backed by leading technical expertise and world-class political journalism."

  181. Wednesday's Daily Politics

    Daily Politics

    Live on BBC Two

    Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn are joined by Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps, and shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds on BBC2's Daily Politics. They will discuss the election campaign so far, defence spending and also review Prime Minister's Questions. Desktop viewers can watch via the Live Coverage tab above, and the programme is on BBC2 from 11:30 to 13:00 GMT.

  182. Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent


    tweets: There's a man in Westminster Hall dressed as Guy Fawkes

  183. Paddy Ashdown on TV debates

    BBC News Channel

    Lord Ashdown

    Lord Ashdown says the Lib Dems are in favour of debate, but the prime minister should not be able to let the proposed digital debate excuse him from taking part in the TV equivalent.

    He highlights that Lord Grade is a Conservative peer as well as a distinguished broadcaster, and says his comments this morning were arguing for the Conservative interest.

  184. Michael Crick, Channel 4 News


    tweets: Paddy Ashdown to ITV on Clarkson and TV debates: "At least there's one member of the Chipping Norton set willing to come out and fight."

  185. Scotland's finances

    Here's some more on the latest figures on Scotland's finances. BBC Scotland correspondent James Cook reports that public finances north of the border have improved, with the net fiscal balance - or deficit - £12.4bn in the red in 2013/14, down from £14.3bn in a year. Scotland's deficit as a share of GDP fell from 9.7% in 2012/13 to 8.1% in 2013/14 but was higher than the United Kingdom average of 5.6%. More details here.

  186. New digital debate proposal

    Norman Smith

    BBC Assistant Political Editor

    The organisers of the digital election debate have sought to break the deadlock by offering to bring forward their date - to meet the prime minister's deadline.

    Downing Street say David Cameron will only take part in a debate which takes place before 27 March. This morning the team behind the digital debates offered to bring forward their date from the end of the month to 26 or 27 March.

    The proposed debate would include the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Greens. Downing Street say "they will look at" the digital debate proposals.

  187. BreakingBreaking News

    The organisers of the proposed digital election debates - involving YouTube, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph - have offered to bring their event forward to 26 or 27 March to meet David Cameron's deadline.

  188. Clegg's biggest regret

    Sky News

    Nick Clegg

    Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has been taking quick-fire questions from readers of First News, the newspaper for young people, on Sky News this morning. The questions weren't the ones most political journalists would usually ask. Here's what we learned:

    • Mr Clegg's biggest regret in politics is "not being prime minister"
    • If he had to choose one MP to spend time with on a desert island, he'd pick Ken Clarke
    • The last film he watched was Big Hero 6
    • He can correctly spell the word 'accommodation'

    In more serious political news, Mr Clegg also repeated his criticism of his coalition partner David Cameron and his Downing Street team over the TV debates. He said: "I think they're just behaving a little bit, sort of, arrogantly, sort of saying, 'Oh, we can't be bothered to turn up to debate, we're not going to lower ourselves to the level of everybody else'."

  189. Cameron's defence 'promise'

    We mentioned earlier that Luke Coffey - a former adviser at the Ministry of Defence - had told the Today programme David Cameron had given a "personal assurance" defence spending would increase after 2015. Mr Coffey told the BBC the pledge during talks on cuts in 2010 had made it easier to swallow a "difficult pill". Meanwhile, former Army chief Gen Sir Peter Wall has said Mr Cameron had promised increased spending when the economy improved. Full story here.

  190. Damian Green on policing

    Damian Green

    Former Tory policing minister Damian Green has written for the Times about what he describes as a "revolution" in policing in recent years. Mr Green says the introduction of police and crime commissioners and the college of policing has transformed scrutiny. He also praises the widening of direct entry to the police and the strengthening of complaint procedures. He argues the next Parliament will need to improve the ways police use technology and how individual forces are organised.

  191. Working retirements