Election 2015

Election 2015: On the leader buses

Throughout the election campaign, BBC reporters will be at the heart of the action, travelling with the campaign teams. Here they set the scene.

Peter Hunt with Labour

Image copyright PA

While David Cameron undertook a symbolically helpful, but constitutionally unnecessary journey to the Queen - to tell her Parliament was being dissolved - Ed Miliband faced a more challenging task.

He was launching his party's business manifesto. Their focus is on "responsible" capitalism and the risks of leaving the EU. Their critics have accused them of having a "sneering hatred" of business.

In the coming weeks, Labour will attempt to move the debate onto more fertile ground, from their perspective.

Expect plenty of talk about the NHS, tuition fees and freezing energy prices.

Expect rather less unprompted talk about immigration; the failures of the last Labour government; and on how they'd cut spending if they succeed.

And also expect an unremitting focus on the character of the man who destroyed (for now) his brother's ambition.

Does the Labour leader have the vision? Can he be trusted with the economy? Has he connected with the electorate?

On television, in marginal constituencies and at photo opportunities political parties never tire of creating, Ed Miliband will be on display.

Voters will be able to observe and then pass their judgement.

Jonny Dymond with the Conservatives

Image copyright AP

The Conservative challenge is not a simple one: A political strategy that revolves around beating a simple message ("we've got a plan, Labour will ruin it") into voters' heads for six long weeks already feels thin.

A nervy interview last week and some patchy polls will not have boosted the morale of party campaigners.

The party needs to lever seats out of the hands of Labour in English constituencies, and to take Liberal Democrat strongholds; that needs to be done from the political centre.

At the same time it needs to push back a challenge from the right, in the form of UKIP, presenting a stern line on immigration and Europe, without alienating latte-loving metropolitan sophisticates or pragmatic business backers.

So a safety-first campaign makes sense. But it may not be enough.

It's been a long, hard, five years for many, and the good times seem a long way away. David Cameron's first big speech of the campaign, tonight in south west England, will give us an idea about the breadth of the campaign to come.

Chris Buckler with the Liberal Democrats

Image copyright PA
Image caption Paddy Ashdown fielded questions on board the Lib Dem bus

The lights inside the Liberal Democrats' coach are a bright yellow (with maybe just a tinge of green) - although the driver of the battle bus did helpfully offer to change them if it was better for the cameras.

This has after all been a coach of many colours. According to gossip on board, it has in the past served as transport for both the French rugby squad and Crystal Palace. The Lib Dem team started the campaign journey with a kind of caretaker manager in Lord Ashdown, while Nick Clegg was busy at Buckingham Palace.

The party's former leader was obviously happy to be back on the campaign trail and refreshingly frank with the press pack.

In response to questions about the poor state of the party in the polls, Paddy Ashdown pointed out that he led the Lib Dems at a time when their support was marked by an asterisk, indicating something less than 1%.

And he confessed he had watched Channel 4's "brilliant" drama Coalition on Saturday, although he thought the film portrayed him a little too much like Star Wars' Yoda.

Nick Clegg joined the bus mid-afternoon and although he tried to focus on issues like the environment, it's fair to say reporters were focused on the potential upcoming drama of future coalition negotiations.

Robin Brant with UKIP

Image copyright Getty Images

UKIP has long faced the accusation that it is simply a one man band. A Farage cult. It's something he and the party have repeatedly dismissed. But this election is all about Nigel.

UKIP's number one priority is to get him elected to parliament. This is his sixth and almost certainly last attempt. If he doesn't win in South Thanet he's said he'll resign as leader, leaving UKIP minus its biggest asset.

The party goes into this election with momentum and money - both on a big scale. The campaign is focused on appealing to the 'little man', and woman, who've been forgotten.

The theme is an emotive - and apparently positive - one: "Believe in Britain."

UKIP has branched out with a raft of new policies but immigration remains at the core. A demand for a referendum on leaving the EU is top of its wish list.

UKIP is targeting around 20 seats. The very least it has to do to have a good night on 7 May is hold Clacton and Rochester and get Farage elected in Kent.

A very good night would see its number of MPs rise to double figures. A nightmare night - for him - would be many more but no Farage among them.

It's not just about winning though. Watch for where it comes second. UKIP is hoping to open a 'second front' in the north of England, where it hopes to emerge as the opposition to Labour.

Two things are certain in the coming weeks: There will be organised anti-UKIP protests on the campaign trail and elements of racism (isolated elements the party says) will emerge from within it, again.