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  1. Ed Balls said a future Conservative government would have to slash NHS spending or raise VAT to achieve its cuts targets
  2. HSBC bosses were grilled by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee
  3. Nick Clegg said the UK could become the 'powerhouse of Europe' under Lib Dem growth plans
  4. David Cameron unveiled plans for a big expansion in the number of free schools in England
  5. Government strategy for stopping violent extremism is "toxic", a former senior Muslim police officer said
  6. There are 59 days until the general election

Live Reporting

By Angela Harrison and Dominic Howell

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Recap: Monday round-up

A reminder of what happened today in election news:

  • The Prime Minister announced a Conservative victory would mean
    500 more free schools for England by 2020
  • Labour say the plan would divert money from other schools
  • Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said the Tories would make
    "extreme" cuts of £70bn over the next five years
  • The Conservatives say the claims are scare-mongering and the figure is less than half that
  • HSBC bosses have been accused of managerial incompetence in a grilling by MPs on the
    Public Accounts Committee about tax evasion
  • Committee chair Margaret Hodge said ex-HSBC figure Rona Fairhead should quit her post as chair of the BBC Trust
  • The Northern Ireland Assembly is said to be
    in crisis, after agreement over a key Bill fell apart
  • Former Ulster Unionist Party leader
    James Molyneaux has died aged 94
  • Thanks for following the Politics Live page tonight. We're off now and will be back at 06:00 GMT. Good night.

Warning from General Sir Peter Wall

Sir Peter Wall

Defence cuts have left Britain reticent to tackle Russia's interference in UK airspace and offshore waters, according to the former head of the Army. General Sir Peter Wall said the "consequences" of the squeeze on funding is now "playing out" in the UK's approach to dealing with Vladimir Putin.

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, he warned the West had been "caught napping" amid increasing threats from the Russian Federation and Islamic State.

Tomorrow's Guardian front page

#tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers



Proposals for a written constitution have been set out by a group of MPs that could end the Queen's reign by making the head of state a directly elected position. It's one of several possible options set out by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee to "stimulate further debate". Another suggestion was for prime ministers to be directly elected by voters in a two-round ballot.

Susan Hulme, BBC Parliamentary correspondent


tweets: #HSBC "incompetence" & "ruddy evasion" say MPs. Ella Fitzgerald causes sexism row, & #benefit sanctions @BBCRadio4 #TodayInParliament 1130pm

Tomorrow's Scottish Daily Mail

#tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers

Scottish Daily Mail
Scottish Daily Mail

Tomorrow's Times

#tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers

The Times
The times

Tomorrow's i


Negative campaigning

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30

Journalist Adam Boulton says he thinks this election campaign so far is akin to the campaign in 1992 when "there was a lot of negativity in the media". He said negative campaigning "only really works if you [the electorate] really trust the side being negative", and he said that the rise of parties like UKIP, the Green Party and the SNP shows that people don't trust the mainstream parties.

Negative campaigning

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas tells the programme that negative campaigning is nothing new, but "at the moment it is drowning out any kind of positive message". Journalist Adam Boulton concurred and said it was an "exceptionally negative" campaign thus far, and the reason for this was because the "main parties don't have a great deal to promise" in times of austerity.


BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30

BBC political editor of the programme Allegra Stratton says "fear is being used to force people back to main stream politics".

Newsnight now

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30

Tune in to BBC2 now if you want to watch Newsnight. The programme this evening looks at why the election campaign has become so negative.

Tomorrow's Daily Mail front page

#tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers


Tuesday's Express front page

#tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers


Telegraph front page

#tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers


Tomorrow's FT front page



Plaid Cymru on cuts

Plaid Cymru Treasury spokesman, Jonathan Edwards MP, has hit out at the two main parties, following Labour's attack on Tory spending plans in the next parliament. Mr Edwards said: "It is clear that the Westminster parties' economic plans boil down to a false choice between bad or worse.

"Welsh communities cannot take any more. Our public services are buckling due to underfunding by the UK Government and mismanagement by the Labour government in Cardiff."

James Rentoul - Columnist for Independent on Sunday

Tweets: SNP more unpopular as part of a coalition than UKIP: Ashcroft poll

Graph of poll
James Rentoul

Stormont crisis

Stormont is facing another crisis, according to Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, after a public row over welfare reform. BBC Northern Ireland looks at what is behind the dispute and

what is at stake.

'Optimistic about EU'

House of Commons


MPs should be optimistic about the future direction of the European Union as it is setting fewer rules for its member states and has people in powerful positions who want to strengthen national parliaments, the Europe minister has indicated. David Lidington said the presence of Dutchman Frans Timmermans as first vice president of the European Commission was a cause for optimism as he is someone who is sympathetic to strengthening national parliaments at the EU's expense.

Free schools analysis

The prime minister has said a Conservative victory in the election will bring 500 more free schools - state-funded but semi-independent schools - in England. BBC education correspondent Sean Coughlan looks at some of the

debate around why they have proved controversial.

Bill Gates aid praise

Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has praised the UK's pledge to guarantee to spend 0.7% of income on international development. The House of Lords approved the plan this afternoon; MPs had already done so. In a statement Mr Gates said: "I want to thank the UK for this phenomenal commitment to giving people in poor countries every opportunity to build strong families, communities, and economies. I hope other countries will follow this great act of global leadership."

Tory attacks on SNP/Labour coalition

The Guardian

John Harris

in the Guardian has written a piece about the Tory attacks on a possible SNP/Labour coalition. "By scaremongering about a possible Labour/SNP government, the Tories have turned from champions of the union to its inadvertent saboteurs," he writes.

The 'North Korea' of Europe

Gordon Brown

Former prime minister Gordon Brown has said Britain would become the North Korea of Europe if it left the European Union. In an

article for The Guardian, he said such a move would leave the UK "out in the cold with few friends", "no influence" and "even less investment".

Nick Robinson, Political editor, BBC News


tweets: Just home from hospital in time to watch the big match. Not sure the next 90 minutes will be the rest the doctors ordered.

Uma Kumaran, Labour candidate


tweets: Have been in back to back in meetings and just seen that I'm on Buzzfeed. To be clear: Harrow East LP will be accepting the donation from TB

Devolution 'in jeopardy'

Northern Ireland Assembly

David Cameron's spokesman has said the prime minister is "very concerned" about the

political row in Northern Ireland over welfare reforms. The five main parties reached broad agreement on 23 December on a number of key issues, including welfare. But now Sinn Fein have withdrawn their support for the welfare programme and they and the DUP have accused each other of bad faith. The BBC's Chris Buckler says both sides agree however, "that devolution is once again in jeopardy".

Central Lobby


tweets: @vincecable says if Davies Commission backs Heathrow expansion "it won't happen" as some Lib Dems and Labour will oppose #LiveWorkLondon

O'Brien takes top UN job

A Conservative MP is standing down from parliament to take over

a top job at the United Nations. Former International Development Minister Stephen O'Brien is to become Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. He succeeds the Labour peer Valerie Amos, who has held the post for the last four years. He will stand down at the general election in his constituency of Eddisbury in Cheshire where he had a majority of more than 13,000. There was speculation that the UN job would go to the former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

'Legal highs' growing

Two new "legal highs" are identified in Europe every week, figures from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction show. Some 101 new psychoactive substances were detected by authorities across the 28 EU member states, plus Turkey and Norway, last year.

Nick Clegg - Lib Dem leader


Tweets: Very pleased that 0.7% uk aid commitment passes final hurdle to become law following @MichaelMooreBRS and @LibDems campaign #FairerSociety

What should happen in the event of a hung parliament?

David Cameron should remain in No 10 until a coalition deal appears to be on the table if there is a hung parliament in May, the cabinet secretary has urged. Ministers who lose their seat at the general election would also be able to remain part of any caretaker government, Sir Jeremy Heywood told MPs. Former prime minister Gordon Brown remained in Downing Street after the election in 2010 while negotiations to form a coalition were carried out but critics accused him of "squatting".

David Cameron - PM


Tweets: Since 2010 there are over 1m more children taught in schools rated good or outstanding, like the one I visited today.

David Cameron with school pupils

'Cigarette packets should not be plain'

Plain cigarette packets should not be introduced as it would take "forever and a day" for people to be served in shops, an MP has said. Tory Philip Davies - the MP for Shipley in west Yorkshire - said that because shop workers sometimes do not know a particular brand of cigarettes a customer ask for, they often have to be pointed out to them. Mr Davies also argued that the government's planned introduction of plain cigarette packs does not make sense when they are already hidden behind shutters at kiosks. He spoke as MPs debated the planned regulations in a committee away from the floor of the Commons. The regulations were agreed by the committee after 90 minutes of debate and will be put to the Commons later this week in a free vote.

Improved complaints system for armed forces

A new complaints system for members of the armed forces will improve operational effectiveness, a defence minister has argued today as reforms cleared the Commons. The Armed Forces (Service Complaints and Financial Assistance) Bill will now be returned to peers for scrutiny of Commons amendments and is expected to be law before the dissolution of Parliament at the end of this month. The Bill will create a new independent ombudsman to replace the Service Complaints Commissioner with the aim of handling complaints of bullying and harassment in the armed forces more quickly.

Cuts clash

More now on the cuts clash. Ed Balls has written to the Chancellor George Osborne, saying: "You now owe the British people some honesty and clarity over your extreme and risky plans. Will you proceed with £70 billion of cuts, which will have an unprecedented and deeply destructive impact on non-protected departments, or do you in fact plan to cut the NHS?" Earlier, the Tories said Labour hadn't "got a clue" - and accused the party of making up numbers "on the back of an envelope".

Tom Newton Dunn - Political editor of The Sun


Tweets: Ministers who lose their seats in #GE2015 will continue to serve until Govt disbands, says Jeremy Heywood (thinking about Nick Clegg phaps).

Fairhead defending

Rona Fairhead

Rona Fairhead defends claims that she should be sacked.

Juliette Garside, Guardian telecoms correspondent


tweets: HSBC campaigner Nicolas Wilson has just been ejected by police from the PAC for trying to put a direct question to Stuart Gulliver

Fairhead defence

Rona Fairhead - who chairs the BBC Trust - has defended her record as a non-executive director on the board of HSBC. She told MPs on the Public Accounts Committee - which is investigating allegations of tax avoidance and tax evasion at the bank - that it was reasonable for a non-executive director to rely on "the policies, the management structures in place and to rely on independent experts" to highlight issues. Rona Fairhead said the audit and risk committees at the bank were "unyielding if we discovered or thought or suspected any wrongdoing of any issues that weren't being addressed". Another member of the committee, Stephen Hammond, a Conservative, said he thought Margaret Hodge's comments to Rona Fairhead were unfair and said non executive directors were expected to act differently from executive directors.