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Summary

  1. Broadcasters pressed ahead with plans for three TV debates before the general election - even though the PM said he would only take part in one
  2. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett called for a "peaceful political revolution" at her party's conference in Liverpool
  3. The party's MP Caroline Lucas called for a "progressive alliance" with the SNP
  4. Former Tory prime minister John Major urged Labour to rule out a pact with the SNP after the election
  5. Ed Miliband said a Labour government would guarantee free TV licences and bus passes for pensioners and protect the value of the state pension
  6. Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood urged "Westminster parties" to promise Wales an extra £1.2bn a year
  7. There are 62 days until the general election

Live Reporting

By Dominic Howell and Angela Harrison

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Recap: Friday round-up

We're ending our coverage for the day now. Thanks for joining us - we'll be back on Sunday at 8am.

Newsnight

@BBCNewsnight

Tweets: Miranda Green tells us that a debate could change everything: "The 2 main parties are stuck neck and neck so something has to happen."

More from Baker

Here's a bit more from former Tory chairman Lord Baker who suggested the Tories might have to form a coalition with - wait for it - the Labour Party. (see previous entry 23:22 GMT)

He told BBC 5 live's Stephen Nolan show: "I'm not advocating there should be a coalition between Labour and Conservatives. What I would like to see is the two parties coming to some sort of agreement. First, I think there should be a constitutional convention to try to resolve how devolution should happen in our country. You can't have devolution just given by one part of our country - Scotland. You've got to take into account the effect of that on Wales, on Northern Ireland and on England itself, which seems to be left out altogether. That means separate parliaments and how voting should be conducted in parliaments.

"One of the real dangers is that the SNP would be led in the Commons by Alex Salmond, who is a very shrewd politician. He could secure even more levels of devolution. That would lead more to the break-up of the United Kingdom. I think it would be a considerable threat. "

The debate about debates

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30

The subject of the election TV debates once again featured on Newsnight tonight. Tony Blair's former speech writer, Philip Collins, said David Cameron was prime minister and he "should just get on with it" and have the debates. Journalist Mirander Green from Newsweek said she found Mr Cameron's "one-man block a bit reprehensible". But Tory peer Lord Finklestein said the debates would take " huge amount of time for everyone" away from the campaign trail - and that will also feature in Mr Cameron's decision as to whether he thinks it's advantageous to take part in them.

Tory-Labour grand coalition

A former chairman of the Conservative Party says a "grand coalition" between Labour and the Tories might be needed after the election to stop the SNP from holding the balance of power if no single party has a working majority. In interviews with the Independent and BBC Radio 5 live, Lord Baker (Kenneth Baker) says such a deal could be needed to "save the United Kingdom". Former prime minister Sir John Major has warned that the SNP would enter any deal with Labour with the "overriding aim" of "prising apart" the union.

Free school expansion

The Daily Mirror is reporting that

David Cameron is planning to expand the free school network if the Conservatives win the election. It says he is set to announce on Monday "plans for at least 153 new ones on top of the 255 already open". Free schools are funded by the state but are semi-independent.

Larges firms to reveal details of pay gap between men and women

In other news, large firms could be forced to reveal details of the gap between how much they pay male and female employees after the government agreed to implement the measure. The Liberal Democrats had been pushing for the policy in the face of Tory opposition, and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson said it was "fantastic news" that her party had won the "argument in government". The measure will be added to legislation currently going through parliament and could come into force within the next 12 months. The move will require firms with more than 250 employees to publish the difference between average pay for their male and female employees.

Tomorrow's Guardian

Guardian
The Guardian

Tomorrow's Times

Times
Times

Tom Newton Dunn, Political Editor, The Sun

@tnewtondunn

tweets: EXCL: David Cameron becomes first Tory PM to send his daughter to the local state
secondary school

Sun front page

#bbcpapers

The Sun
The Sun

FT front page

#bbcpapers

Financial Times
FT

Tomorrow's i

i
Inpho

Nick Sutton, Editor of BBC's World at One

@suttonnick

tweets: Saturday's Daily Mail front page: Exclusive - A mum, her son and THEIR baby #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers

daily mail
daily mail

Tomorrow's Daily Mirror

#tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers

Mirror
Mirror

'Gladiatorial contest'

Toby Young
BBC

Journalist Toby Young, who is the associate editor of The Spectator, told BBC News: "I don't think that a gladiatorial contest is the best way to assess the merits of the leaders.

"You only have to look what happen in 1960 in America there was a great debate between Nixon and JFK and those who heard the debate on the radio thought that Nixon was the out-and-out winner, but those who saw the debate on television by an overwhelming majority thought JFK was the winner, and that's because JFK had just come back from a sailing trip and was beautifully tanned, beautifully dressed, was much better looking than Nixon - but is that really how we want to assess who the best prime minister is? Who's the best looking? I don't think it is."

Tomorrow's Independent

#tomorrowspaperstoday

the independent
Indep

Lord Baker, the former chairman of the Conservative party, says the Tories and Labour should consider forming a grand coalition "to keep the UK together", reports tomorrow's Independent.

Guido Fawkes, political commentator

@GuidoFawkes

tweets: ITV Hosting a Secret 'Leaders' Debate'
Next Friday

Sir Gerald Howarth, Conservative MP

@geraldhowarth

tweets: Who do the BBC/ other broadcasters think they are? Completely unaccountable, now want to rig the election by deciding #electiondebate format

Cameron 'slippery'

BBC Radio 4

Labour's shadow culture minister Chris Bryant has described David Cameron as "slippery" because he had argued in favour of the debates when he was in opposition, and now appears unwilling to get involved with them. He did however concede that former prime minister Tony Blair also rejected proposals to have a TV debate when he was in power.

Any Questions - TV debates

BBC Radio 4

Tory Mark Harper said the prime minister was in favour of the debates "but not cramming them into the election campaign". He accused the broadcasters of getting "themselves into a right old mess".

Net Migration

BBC Radio 4

The panel has moved on to issue of the UK's net migration figures. Leader of the Plaid Cymru group at Westminster Elfyn Llwyd described David Cameron's "no-ifs-and-buts" pledge as "the greatest faux pas in the last five years".

Abuse

BBC Radio 4

Minister for disabled people Mark Harper MP told Any Questions: "A number of professionals knew what was going on and significant numbers of children suffered significant abuse over a number of years. We need a dialogue [with professionals] but we need to take further steps to make sure children are protected."

Abuse

BBC Radio 4

The Any Questions panel have been talking about the government's plan to bring in legislation to make teachers and others in authority raise the alarm if they think a child is being abused. The idea is that this would be an extension of the crime of wilful neglect and it follows a report about the sexual exploitation of teenage girls and children in Oxfordshire. Leader of the Plaid Cymru group at Westminster Elfyn Llwyd MP said there were enough laws in this area already. "What we need is to ensure better training for professionals such as teachers, but we should not place a burden on them by making it mandatory," he said.

Radio 4's Any Questions

Political debate continues right now from Monmouth School in Wales with the President of the Liberal Democrats Sal Brinton, Labour's Shadow Culture Minister Chris Bryant, Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper, and the leader of the Plaid Cymru group at Westminster Elfyn Llwyd.

To listen live click here.

More from Elstein

Here's a bit more from former TV executive David Elstein: "The next step on this interesting chain of events would probably be going all the way round the second seven-way debate - the BBC one - all the way to the Sky and Channel 4 head-to-head with Miliband and if he [David Cameron] can drag that forward to the end of March, and the broadcasters willing, Ed Miliband says he's willing, it's actually a bit tricky then for Cameron to say well I'm still not going to do it.

"Me feeling is that he [David Cameron] is not going to do the second seven-way debate, I think that's pretty clear, so the BBC will have a rather awkward decision to make as to whether to make it a six-way debate. I don't think Sky and Channel 4 can possibly empty chair the prime minister in a two-handed debate; it then turns into an interview with Ed Miliband, and under the Ofcom code of conduct they would then have to offer Cameron his own 90-minute interview with or without an empty chair."

Tories 'might do deal with ITV'

David Elstein
BBC

Former TV news executive David Elstein said the game David Cameron and broadcasters were playing was "somewhere between tennis and chess".

He said: "Even as the broadcasters put out their fairly defiant statement, Sky and Channel 4 completely undercut it, by saying they were willing to move the head-to-head with Ed Miliband anywhere from 30 April right through to next week, that puts the ball back in David Cameron's court because what he has insisted is he is not going to do anything after 30 March.

"My guess is the way it will play out is this. The Conservatives will now try and unwrap the broadcasting cabal by going direct to ITV - who are scheduled to do the first seven-way debate on 2 April - and say look 'I'm willing to do it before 30 March you're trying to do it on 2 April why don't we compromise?' And given that the chairman of ITV happens to be a former chairman of the Conservative party you would have thought that was a conversation that might go reasonably well."

SNP doubles crowdfunding appeals

The Guardian

The

Guardian considers the health of the SNP's election war chest, following the party's use of the site Crowdfunder to fundraise. The paper's Scotland correspondent Severin Carrell has blogged that: "Has this crowdfunding appeal flagged up an unexpected issue for the SNP? Is it running short of money, for what is emerging as the biggest and most expensive general election campaign in its history?"

Look ahead

Mark D'Arcy

Parliamentary correspondent

In his

look ahead to next week in Parliament, Mark D'Arcy says we will see "the (likely) final Commons speeches of Gordon Brown and Jack Straw, the completion (or maybe defeat) of a myriad of private members' bills - plus a series of tussles between ministers and backbenchers over plain packaging of cigarettes, EU issues and defence spending".

Salmond: We'll call the tune in Westminster

Alex Salmond
Getty Images

Scotland will be able to "call the tune" at Westminster after the general election, working with Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, Alex Salmond has said. The former First Minister predicted "neither Tory or Labour will win an overall majority - neither are fit to govern". Speaking in Aberdeenshire, he said: "It is also clear that Scotland is swinging behind SNP candidates the length and breadth of the country. In that situation Scotland can call the tune in the next Westminster Parliament."

Your views

We have been asking for your views on today's political events, here's a selection of some of them:

Jamie Page:

Talk about the BBC getting too high an opinion of itself. Very unedifying. Do not pretend you are pushing ahead with your debate plans on my behalf because you most categorically are not.

Jim Quaife:

There is a fundamental question. When did it become acceptable for the media to call the shots? In the current climate of openness one is sometimes reluctant to go against a trend because it might appear to be negative, but regretfully on past performance the level of debate is uninspiring - more akin to a "television show" than serious debate.

Richard Le Vesconte:

Cameron and Milliband. Neither of them would say anything worthwhile. How about two empty chairs?

Keith Davey:

Cameron's bluff called - imagine he will now pull out entirely. Not a satisfactory way to treat the 22 mlln [sic] people who had enough commitment to the democratic process to watch last time. Tories showing contempt for the electorate if they think people are so gullible to believe their justification for just one debate - just running scared - more honest to say so. Suggest viewing PM Questions each week if you need further examples of contempt for the democratic process and valid questions simply ignored if raising inconvenient issues - see immigration target pledge and PMs response earlier this week.

You can get in touch by clicking on the "Get Involved" tab above.

Greens on childcare

Ross Hawkins

Political correspondent, BBC News

The Green Party has voted to support free universal education and childcare for children aged one to six. The policy was proposed in a motion from the leader Natalie Bennett at the party conference in Liverpool. Despite her support, it does not automatically become a manifesto commitment - instead it will be one of the party's long term aims listed on its website.

Any Questions

BBC Radio 4

Stay with the Politics Live page for the latest political news and comment. At 20:00, we'll be tuning in to Any Questions. Jonathan Dimbleby will be at Monmouth School in Wales with:

  • President of the Liberal Democrats Sal Brinton
  • Labour's shadow culture minister Chris Bryant MP
  • Minister for disabled people Mark Harper MP
  • Leader of the Plaid Cymru group at Westminster Elfyn Llwyd MP.

Broadcasters' reaction

Jonathan Levy, speaking on behalf of the broadcasters, said: "The debates will go ahead with the leaders that turn up and the invitation will remain open to the prime minister should he wish to reconsider his position."

He added that the group would welcome the opportunity to discuss its proposals with the prime minister.

TV debate

If you've just joined us, a key story which broke an hour ago is that the

broadcasters say they will press ahead with their plans for three TV election debates even though David Cameron has said he will only take part in one. Downing Street says it's "disappointing" the broadcasters have rejected its proposal for the prime minister to debate with six other party leaders. BBC political correspondent Carole Walker says there is a "tense stand-off" between the Conservatives and the broadcasters, "with neither side willing to step down".

More from Ed Miliband

The leader of the Labour party said: "I think these debates should happen whether David Cameron agrees to them or not, but I think it will be judgement day on the prime minister if he refuses to turn up to these debates because I think people will conclude that he's running from his record, that he can't defend what he's done in government, he can't explain what his future plans are and he's a Prime Minister running scared."

'Above their station'

BBC Radio 4

Philip Davies
BBC

"I think the broadcasters are getting above their station," according to Tory MP Philip Davies. He told Radio 4's PM: "I think the broadcasters have got to be responsible here, and given that we don't have a presidential system in this country... I don't really see why the broadcasters should turn it into one." He also said that he would be happy to debate with Ed Miliband, saying "No more empty chairs".

PM: Free vote on hunting ban

The Last Tally Ho?
BBC

The

Countryside Alliance magazine's spring issue will
reportedly include a piece by David Cameron which includes a pledge that: "The Hunting Act has done nothing for animal welfare. A Conservative Government will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government Bill in government time."