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Summary

  1. David Cameron said he would take part in only one televised debate ahead of the general election
  2. Other parties criticised the PM, accusing him of "acting like a chicken" and trying to "bully" broadcasters
  3. The BBC Trust rejected the Democratic Unionist Party's appeal to take part in the TV election debates, in a move described by the DUP as "unjust"
  4. Meanwhile, Deputy PM Nick Clegg toured Cornwall to mark St Piran's Day, the national day of Cornwall
  5. And the BBC learned that the Conservatives are considering limiting child benefit to three children
  6. There are 63 days until the general election

Live Reporting

By Dominic Howell

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Recap of today's events

That's pretty much it for this evening, and it has been an exceptionally busy day with party leaders from across the political divide coming together to voice their opinion on the saga of the TV election debates - which have dominated Thursday's headlines. Before we go, here's quick recap of today's events:

That's it for tonight folks, we'll be back with all the news, reaction and analysis to the big political stories of the day from 06:00 GMT tomorrow.

QT - A&E missed targets

Ruth Davidson - leader of the Scottish Conservatives - said the NHS is dealing with more people and that has created a strain on the system. But Labour's Kezia Dugdale argues that funding is the issue, she says "we want to tax people who have mansions worth £2m and use the money to get more nurses in Scotland".

QT - SNP and Labour deal?

Journalist Toby Young says the reason Ed Miliband has not ruled out doing a deal with the SNP is because "it's his best chance of becoming prime minister". "He is desperate to be PM," he exclaims. But deputy leader of Scottish Labour Party, Kezia Dugdale, says it was more about respecting what the voters say and then working out what government would be formed rather than "making deals in smoke-filled rooms".

QT - SNP popularity

#bbcqt

A large part of the Question Time debate tonight has focused on the strength of the SNP in Scotland, in light of a recent poll which shows that the party's popularity is growing. Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour Party, Kezia Dugdale, is met with groans from the audience when she suggests that the polls are good news for the Tories because a vote for the SNP will help the Conservatives and hinder Labour. The audience claps when MSP for Glasgow Humza Yousaf - who is a member of the SNP - says that "it's not a case of the people abandoning Labour it's Labour abandoning the people". He describes the Scottish Labour party as the "right side of the Tories and the wrong side of the Scottish people".

Shapps on debates

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30

Tory chairman Grant Shapps appears on Newsnight to say that he believes the broadcasters have had more than enough time to sort the issue of the TV debates. "The whole thing has not been covered with glory," he says. When specifically asked Mr Shapps says that Mr Cameron does want to debate with Mr Miliband one-to-one , and "he does so every week" in PMQs.

Question Time - TV debates

#bbcqt

TV debates and whether they should or shouldn't happen is unsurprisingly the first question from an audience member during Question Time. Ruth Davidson - leader of the Scottish Conservatives - describes the situation as a "complete horlicks from start to finish", while Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Liberal Democrat, Danny Alexander, says David Cameron needs to "man up and get involved in the debates" and describes the prime minister as "not very impressive". And this is a view shared by Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour Party, Kezia Dugdale, who says that Cameron is "just playing chicken". But MSP for Glasgow Humza Yousaf said that the reason Mr Cameron didn't want to have a TV debate and defend his government's record was because of the amount of people his government had put into poverty.

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30

Pub landlady Helen Ellwood from Macclesfield appears on Newsnight to say that she was in the audience during the 2010 TV debates and she described them as "enlightening". She urges David Cameron to think again.

Major on a Labour/SNP power share

The Daily Telegraph

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major has urged Ed Miliband to rule out governing with the SNP in order to protect the UK. The ex-Tory leader said the nationalists would enter any deal with the "overriding aim" of "prising apart" the union. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Sir John said he was speaking as "an Englishman with a profound admiration and respect for Scotland". He argued it was "shameful" that Labour have not already ruled out a power-sharing deal.

Friday's Daily Mail front page

#tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers

Daily Mail
Mail

Friday's FT front page

#bbcpapers #tomorrowspaperstoday

FT
FT

Friday's Guardian front page

Guardian
Guardian

Metro front page

#bbcpapers

Metro
Metro

Friday's Daily Mirror front page

#tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers

Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror

Friday's i front page

#tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers

I front page
I front page

Telegraph front page

#tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers

Daily Telegraph
Telegraph

Budget video - It's a rap

Looking ahead for a second George Osborne is set to announce his budget later this month (18 March). To rouse a bit of excitement about the issue Sky News have

produced a video which, believe it or not, features politicians rapping.

Laura Kuenssberg - BBC chief correspondent and Newsnight presenter

@bbclaurak

Tweets: Labour wants to 'teach the Muslim community a lesson for voting for Galloway' - ouch! the shambles of Lab's Bradford selection on #newsnight

David Cameron - PM

@David_Cameron

Tweets: #HelpToBuy is helping families achieve their dream of owning their own home.
My video from Cannock Chase

'No one to blame'

Over at

conservativehome.com Paul Goodman has written a piece on the TV election debate saga, and argues that the broadcasters have "no-one to blame but themselves".

Friday's Morning Star front page

#tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers

Morning Star
Morning Star

Question Time

@bbcquestiontime

Tweets: So we gave our panel in Glasgow a #selfiestick .... #bbcqt

Question Time panel
Twitter

Umunna interview

Bit more on the Chuka Umunna interview with House magazine. In it Mr Umunna says he backs radical devolution, including the principle of the Manchester NHS deal, and he declares that "markets and business are a force for good", and that "business is the solution, it is not the problem". He also speaks for the first time about when he hastily left a Sky News interview after criticising presenter Dermot Murnaghan for asking him questions about Eric Pickles' letter to mosques in the UK - which he had not read yet.

James Landale - BBC deputy political editor

@BBCJLandale

Tweets: That TV election debate story in full:

2,3,4

7,7,2

1

=

0?

Chuka Umunna on business

Chuka Umunna
PA

Senior Labour frontbencher Chuka Umunna has said that business should be seen as a "force for good". The shadow business secretary said that a thriving commercial sector was the key to lifting people out of poverty. In an interview with Parliament's The House magazine, he warned that any discussion about greater fairness was "pretty academic" without firms generating profits, jobs and growth.

Question Time tonight

#bbcqt

For those political junkies out there Question Time will be aired tonight (22:45GMT) on BBC 1. The programme is in Glasgow this evening - here who's on the panel:

Question Time
BBC

Fancy taking part in a debate about health?

Do you want to talk to senior politicians live on TV and tell them what they need to do to win your vote? Victoria Derbyshire is holding a series of big debates during the general election. If you would like to take part in a debate, get in touch (see picture below).

Victoria Derbyshire
BBC

Philip Hammond - Foreign Secretary

@PHammondMP

Tweets: Positive talks with President @Poroshenko re situation on ground, #Minsk agreement & reform. Reaffirmed strong UK support for #Ukraine.

Video footage of Farage on TV debates

For those who missed what UKIP leader Nigel Farage said earlier about the TV election debates,

here's a video clip. He urged the broadcasters to "call Mr Cameron's bluff".

Graeme Demianyk - London editor of Western Morning News

@GraemeDemianyk

Tweets: You can't fault Clegg's enthusiasm for a photocall.
Here at Gweek Seal Sanctuary in Cornwall

Nick Clegg
Twitter

Norman Smith - Assistant political editor

@BBCNormanS

Tweets: BBC Trust say decision to bar DUP from #tvdebates not a breach of European Convention on Human Rights

More from Dodds

Here's a bit more from Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP, on the recent news that the

party's appeal to be included in the TV debates has been rejected by the BBC Trust.

He said: "The broadcasters really have a big question to ask of themselves now, having made a complete mess of this, and in my view this means that from now on in we should have an independent commissioner or such like looking after these events, the broadcasters and politicians should be left out of it."

'Wrong and unjust'

BBC News Channel

Nigel Dodds,
BBC

Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP, has told BBC News the BBC Trust's decision to exclude the party from the TV debates "defies belief". He said it was "wrong, irrational and unjust".

Analysis

Norman Smith

BBC Assistant Political Editor

Norman Smith
BBC

"I think potentially this could be another nail in the coffin of the television debates. The DUP have made very clear they believe they have a cast iron legal case to seek a judicial review challenging the BBC's decision, and potentially bring these TV debates to a grinding halt. The BBC Trust take the view that they are perfectly entitled to exclude the DUP from these debates because Northern Ireland is a distinct political landscape, different to Wales, England and Scotland. The BBC too are concerned that if the DUP were allowed into these debates, then they would have had to allow Sinn Fein, the Alliance Party, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and the debates would have just become unwieldy and totally unmanageable."

BBC Radio 4

On PM, Roger Mosey, the former editorial director of the BBC, says the broadcasters should "stand firm" in the row over the election TV debates. He supports Nick Clegg's offer to debate against Ed Miliband in place of David Cameron. But ex-Conservative MP Tim Collins thinks that clash would attract few viewers and doubts it would "do either party much good".

DUP appeal rejection

The BBC Trust has rejected the Democratic Unionist Party's appeal to take part in the TV election debates. The move is now likely to trigger a judicial review by the DUP over their exclusion from the debates. A DUP spokesman described the decision by the BBC Trust as "a farce".

YouGov reaction to TV debates

Joe Twyman
BBC

YouGov spokesman Joe Twyman said: "A lot of people want debates, over three quarters of the population say they would like to see them in this election. But if they didn't take place would it actually make a difference? I imagine probably not, particularly if the decision was made now in the next couple of weeks it would probably be forgotten by the time the campaign came round, because the party machines would just get on with it."

He conceded that the TV debates would only influence public opinion severely if one of the parties made it into a campaign theme, and the issue gained more momentum. But even then he warned: "The blame game will fly in every possible direction and it's unlikely to stick on one particularly person even though it's very clear David Cameron does not want these debates in a million years."

Tea towel politics

Brian Wheeler

Political reporter

Labour tea towels
Other
Labour aims to clean-up with its vintage tea towel offer

Is Ben Elton sending you emails? You must be on a Labour Party database. All the parties are using tricks learned from direct marketing to sell merchandise - including novelty tea towels and fridge magnets - and raise funds. I cast an eye over the best and worst efforts

in this piece.

Ban on MPs' dinner expenses

MPs will be banned from claiming expenses for dinners, TV licences and pre-23:00 taxis after the general election - even if their 10% pay hike does not go ahead. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) proposed a raft of curbs to perks in 2013 as part of a wider package that included salaries rising from £67,000 to £74,000. But the watchdog has now confirmed that politicians' expenses will be cut from 8 May, even though the pay rise is still subject to review and David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have signalled they may block it.

'Farage is a feminist issue'

House of Lords

Parliament

Baroness Crawley
BBC

Across in the House of Lords a debate is ongoing about women's economic empowerment. Baroness Crawley - the former chairwoman of the Women's National Commission, and now Labour peer - has focused on how it might be affected if the UK were to leave the EU, and she warns that "Farage is a feminist issue". She argues that leaving the EU would hurt women's economic empowerment. "The EU is not only the UK's largest economic market, it's also the union that helped establish standards for working men and women for their rights at work," she tells peers. "I would not want to see women in the UK miss out on future rights for work by leaving the European Union."

More from SNP on TV debates

Stuart Hosie
BBC

Deputy leader of the SNP Stewart Hosie said: "What David Cameron is doing is giving a very good impression of actually running scared from having his record held up to scrutiny." He adds: "What we cannot have is one politician - however important - dictating the terms of the debates for everyone else."