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Summary

  1. Sir Malcolm Rifkind steps down as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee
  2. He also announced he will quit as an MP at the coming election
  3. Both Sir Malcolm and Labour's Jack Straw deny any wrongdoing over 'cash-for-access' allegations
  4. David Cameron announced British military personnel are to be sent to Ukraine to provide advice and training
  5. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett struggled to explain costing of election promises
  6. There are 72 days until the general election

Live Reporting

By Nick Eardley

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Signing off

A quick look back at the main stories of the day:

  • Sir Malcolm Rifkind
    resigned as chairman of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee and said he will not stand at the general election
  • Commons Speaker John Bercow said Sir Malcolm and Jack Straw - who were secretly filmed apparently offering services to a private firm for cash - will be punished if found to have broken the rules
  • Natalie Bennett
    had a tough day. As the Greens launched their election campaign, she struggled to answer questions about party policy
  • The House of Lords
    gave the go-ahead to three-person babies, meaning the UK becomes the first country to approve such laws
  • David Cameron appeared before the Commons Liaison committee for the last time before the election.
    He announced British military personnel are to be sent to Ukraine to provide advice and training
  • The Electoral Commission
    revealed the number of people on electoral registers in England and Wales fell by 920,000 between March and December last year

That's all from the Politics Live team for tonight. We'll be back at 06:00 tomorrow to bring you the latest political news.

Daily Mail front page

Daily Mail
BBC

Astrology 'could play healthcare role'

Conservative MP David Tredinnick has claimed astrology could have "a role to play in healthcare". He said astrology, along with complementary medicine, could take pressure off NHS doctors. The MP for Bosworth, in Leicestershire, who is a Capricorn, told Astrological Journal: "I do believe that astrology and complementary medicine would help take the huge pressure off doctors. 90% of pregnant French women use homeopathy. Astrology is a useful diagnostic tool enabling us to see strengths and weaknesses via the birth chart." He also acknowledges any attempt to spend taxpayers' money on consulting the stars would cause "a huge row".

The Scotsman front page

The Scotsman
BBC

Tomorrow's i front page

i front page
BBC

Sir Malcolm Rifkind resignation

Nick Robinson

Political editor

What a difference a day makes. In just 24 hours, Sir Malcolm Rifkind went from angry defiance to a grim-faced acceptance that he would have to quit his job - both as a member of parliament and chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

More from our political editor on Sir Malcolm Rifkind's change of heart.

The Times front page

The Times
BBC

Heseltine on MPs' second jobs

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30

Lord Heseltine
BBC

Former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Heseltine says that being a constituency MP "is not a full-time job". There is a huge commitment as a backbench MP but there is also plenty of time to do other things, provided it is within parliamentary rules, he says, adding that it is "healthy" to widen one's experience.

He adds: "An MP's salary is not designed to be the total income of all MPs, and that's why I believe that it should be possible for them to earn outside. What I don't want to see is the job of an MP becoming a professional activity."

'We think long-term'

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30

newsnight
BBC

"Unlike all the other parties, we think long-term", Baroness Jones adds on Newsnight. "We are thinking of the survival of the planet, the survival of humanity."

Baroness Jones

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30

Green peer Baroness Jones tells Newsnight the party is still forming its manifesto. In a sense, therefore, today's questions were premature, she adds.

Voters on Natalie Bennett

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30

What do the voters think of Natalie Bennett's interview earlier? One tells Newsnight he doesn't think he'll vote for the party now, today's performance having confirmed "initial worries" he had. Another says she would expect Ms Bennett to have answers.

Natalie Bennett on Newsnight

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30

What does today's performance by Green leader Natalie Bennett say about her party? On Newsnight, Ms Bennett says her party is about more than her and Caroline Lucas, the only Green MP. She says the party will not help prop the Conservatives after the election, but may support Labour.

'Further clarity required' on Ukraine

Vernon Coaker, the secretary of state for defence, has responded to David Cameron's announcement earlier that more non-lethal support is to be provided to Ukraine. He says more clarity is needed.

"In light of the ongoing situation in Ukraine, it is vital that the international community stands ready to increase pressure on Russia by extending economic sanctions if President Putin refuses to change course," Mr Coaker says. "While we welcome this non-lethal support package to build the capacity of Ukrainian Forces, further clarity is required as to whether this support is being offered within the NATO framework and questions must be answered as to the scale and timetable of deployments."

BBC Newsnight

@BBCNewsnight

tweets: Is the #Green Party ready for prime time? Baroness Jenny Jones will be on @BBCNewsnight to discuss Natalie Bennett's difficult day

Tomorrow's papers

The Mirror

Daily Mirror
BBC

Fraser Nelson, spectator editor

@FraserNelson

tweets: Tories should take no pleasure in Natalie Bennett's "brain fade" today. The weaker the Greens are, the fewer votes they'll drain from Labour

Tomorrow's papers

The Daily Telegraph

Daily Telegraph
BBC

Inside the Commons

Commons
PA

On Inside the Commons, the set up of the House of Commons is discussed - specifically, whether the current layout is too confrontational. We've seen MPs shouting and waving paper at one another through the programme, so should a new shape for the chamber be considered? Prime Minister David Cameron says no: he would "hate" to see a redesigned chamber.

Tomorrow's papers

The Guardian

Guardian front page
Guardian

The first of the front pages is starting to come in. The Guardian leads with British troops being sent to Ukraine and also features Natalie Bennett on her "brain fade".

Jim Pickard, chief political correspondent for the Financial Times

@PickardJE

tweets: So @MalcolmRifkind could've taken £81k/year for chairing ISC since it became parly committee in 2014. He chose not to - just usual £67k.

Kensington candidates

The Daily Telegraph

Now that Sir Malcolm Rifkind has decided not to put himself forward at May's general election, who will stand for the Conservatives in the Kensington constituency? James Kirkup - who describes the seat as "one of the great prizes in Conservative politics" - takes a look at the options. And suggests a cricket star would be a good choice. More

here.

Inside the Commons

BBC Two

TV

Fans of Michael Cockerell's excellent documentary, Inside the Commons, might want to switch on to BBC 2 pretty quickly. Tonight is the final episode of the four-part series. You've missed the first 15 minutes - but you can always catch it back on iPlayer.

John Bercow on "cash-for-access"

House of Commons speaker John Bercow has said Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw will "cop it" if they are found to have broken parliamentary rules. Mr Bercow said MPs should not be in parliament "to add to their personal fortune" and warned they would be punished if it was proven they broke rules.

"They are both highly intelligent, highly capable, highly experienced people. It may well be that errors of judgment have been made. If that is so, then they will cop it, they will face the music, they will suffer a penalty as a result," he said.

Louis Lavery

Politics live reader

writes: Natalie Bennett's brain fade was quite charming in a way. She's different, as she should be. And brave to keep going. Good luck to her. And let's face it, any thing's better than a "normal" politician.

Alex Massie defends lobbyists

The Spectator

On The Spectator website, Alex Massie has written in defence of lobbyists. He says they fulfil "an essential role" and argues that it "needs to be protected". You can read his piece

here.

Devolution of NHS powers

The £6bn health and social care budget for Greater Manchester is to be taken over by regional councils, the BBC understands. The move is part of the devolution of NHS powers. The agreement is expected to be confirmed by Chancellor George Osborne on Friday and will come into force from April 2016. Full story

here.

Fears over Welsh devolution

Kirsty Williams
PA

The leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats has raised concerns over progress on talks about the future of powers for the country. Later this week, an announcement is expected on new devolved measures. BBC Wales reports consensus is emerging on energy and electoral matters - but not police and criminal justice matters. Now, Lib-Dem leader Kirsty Williams says Welsh devolution risks being "held back". Full story

here.

BreakingBreaking News

Three-person babies

The UK is the first country to approve laws to allow the creation of babies from three people - and the first baby could be born as soon as next year. The change just passed its final legislative obstacle in the House of Lords. More

here.

Daily Mirror/Survation poll

A new Daily Mirror/Survation poll has just been published. On headline voting intention, it found the parties on (change based on poll on 27 January 2015): Labour 34% (+3) Conservatives 28% (-3) UKIP 19% (-4) Lib Dems 10% (+3) SNP 4% (NC) Green 4% (+1) AP 1% (NC).

The company also asked the following question: "The General Election is on 7 May 2015. Thinking specifically about your constituency and the parties and candidates likely to be in contention, how do you think you will vote on 7 May". It found the parties on (change since 27th January): Labour 33% (-2) Conservatives 29% (-2) UKIP 19% (-2) Lib Dems 10% (+3) Greens 3% (NC) SNP 4% (NC) AP 4% (+1).

Natalie Bennett 'shouldn't worry'

The Guardian

Over on the Guardian website, columnist Zoe Williams has some warm words for Natalie Bennett. Telling the Green Party leader not to worry about her much-discussed interview on LBC earlier, Williams writes: "People who are anywhere near voting Green will recognise that a far more profound change to the distribution of government spending will have to be undertaken if we want to reach a housing settlement than will ever be teased out for the first time in a five-minute radio segment." More

here.

Bennett apology video

Natalie Bennett's apology to Green Party members for her interview on LBC is

now online. "I didn't do a great job this morning, I had a brain fade, that happens," she tells BBC News. "What I'm aiming to do is face up to that, and then move on." You can also take a look back at the party's campaign launch
here.

Uh oh, not again...?

Channel 4

Put to her that the Green party's housing policy figures are wrong, Ms Lucas says she hasn't got those figures in front her. Oh no, is this about to go the same way as Ms Bennett's interview?

Pressed again, Ms Lucas adds: "It's not £42bn but, you know, I haven't got the analysis that you've got there," before saying the launch was not about detailed policy but the party's overall campaign, to reflect the fact it's standing in 90% of constituencies across the country.

"We will have a manifesto launch. When we do rest assured all of those figures will be in the right place," she adds.

'Proportion' needed

Channel 4

Asked about Natalie Bennett's much-reported "mind blank" earlier today, Green MP and former party leader Caroline Lucas concedes "it was not Natalie at her best" - but urges "proportion".

"It does happen to us all, we are all human," she adds, noting that a similar fate had befallen Labour leader Ed Miliband - when he forgot the deficit from his autumn party conference speech, and Ed Balls - when he couldn't remember the name of Labour's small business taskforce leader. "We need to be a bit more understanding and forgiving," she counsels.

Natalie Bennett's "mind blank"

Natalie Bennett's "mind blank" has been one of the big political issues of the day. But what effect do such moments have on political careers? Brian Wheeler

takes a look (featuring some other 'forgetful' political moments).

Nicky Morgan on Sir Malcolm

Channel 4

Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, says Sir Malcolm Rifkind's resignation is a decision for the former foreign minister himself. She tells Channel 4 News she is unaware of any discussions telling him to go.

Baroness Jones on Natalie Bennett interview

LBC

Natalie Bennett
Getty Images

After Natalie Bennett's "very bad" interview earlier, Green peer Baroness Jones has been defending her as an "amazing" leader. Baroness Jones said Ms Bennett had been ill and should have probably rested instead of doing interviews. But she added: "For the last nearly two years she's been our leader - she's been absolutely amazing". And she said there was no question over whether Ms Bennett should be leading the party into the election. More on

LBC.

Pickles warns councils on budgets

Eric Pickles, the communities and local government secretary, has warned local authorities to be prepared for more budget cuts if the Conservatives are in government again after the election. Mr Pickles, appearing before the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee, said local governments had done "exceedingly well", but added: "I still think there is money that we can get out of the system."

Politics live reader David McKay

writes on David Cameron's appearance before the Commons Liaison Committee earlier: Has anyone else noticed just what a male-dominated group Cameron is addressing. We all know that the Commons is dominated by men of middle age and older but this Committee is ridiculous in a society that believes in equality.

Janan Ganesh, political columnist at the Financial Times

@JananGanesh

tweets: Natalie Bennett's interview(s) won't hurt the Greens. Their voters aren't looking for an enarque to run Britain. It's a protest party.