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  1. Chancellor George Osborne promised a "no gimmicks" Budget on Wednesday and unveiled further relaxation of annuities rules
  2. Nick Clegg told the Lib Dem spring conference the party would "defy the odds" at the general election
  3. Ed Balls challenged George Osborne to a head-to head debate and got the chancellor to shake on it on the Marr show
  4. George Osborne rejected Nigel Farage's offer of a UKIP pact with the Tories as "nonsense"
  5. There are 53 days until the general election

Live Reporting

By Dominic Howell and Brian Wheeler

All times stated are UK

Get involved


Here's a quick recap of today's political stories:

That's it for us for today. We'll be back with all the latest news and reaction from 06:00 GMT on Monday. Good night.

Reckless 'feared he was followed'

Another amusing titbit to emerge from UKIP leader Nigel Farage's memoirs - entitled The Purple Revolution - includes his recollection of the when former Tory MP Mark Reckless defected to his party.

In extracts which are

being serialised in the Daily Telegraph, he writes: "Mark turned up in dark glasses and a baseball cap so that the neighbours wouldn't recognise him. He was convinced that he was being followed, most likely by someone at Conservative central office."

Osborne's bloopers

The Spectator

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson

highlights some economic "bloopers" that won't be in Chancellor George Osborne's Budget Speech on Wednesday. Mr Osborne's pledge to abolish the deficit by the election is the "single biggest failure of his five years," writes Nelson. The speed of economic recovery, sluggish growth in average earnings and increasing government borrowing are also listed as fails - but it is not all bad news as the chancellor has presided over an increase in employment levels.

Farron pledges allegiance

Tim Farron

Tim Farron -

tipped as a future Lib Dem leader - has pledged his loyalty to Nick Clegg after criticising the party's performance in coalition under Mr Clegg's leadership. He was subsequently slapped down by former leader Lord Ashdown, who said he lacked judgement.

Pressed for a reaction to Ashdown's comments, at the party's spring conference in Liverpool, he heaped praise on the deputy prime minister, saying he had delivered a "stonking speech" that had given the party the boost it needed to go into the general election.

"From my point of view, the real point of us being here is get behind Nick, get behind the push forward," he told BBC News.

MP claims wreath on expenses

Sarah Champion

Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, has come in for some criticism after she claimed £17 on expenses for the cost of a Remembrance Day poppy wreath. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) said MPs were not allowed to make such claims and was seeking repayment from Miss Champion. Campaign group The Taxpayers' Alliance described it as "downright low". Miss Champion has yet to issue a response. Get the

full BBC story here.

The news has also been provoking comment on Twitter with Professor Matthew Goodwin - author of a highly-regarded book on the rise of UKIP, Revolt on the Right -

tweeting: This won't help Labour's
fight in Rotherham

Your views

We have been asking for your opinions on the political stories of the day. Here are a selection of a couple of them. You can get in touch by click on the "Get Involved" tab above.

Graeme Lowe:

So Ed Balls says Labour 'don't need to do a deal with the SNP'. How else will they manage to form a majority government? 'It is as inevitable as night following day. 'Don't need to' is a million miles away from 'won't'. Decision made: Salmond with influence at Westminster is the stuff of nightmares - I won't be voting Labour.

Barry Mylam:

Dear BBC, Can all your interviewers please make politicians (from all parties) answer the question. Not go on about their twisted propaganda about what the other side will do. Try saying to them "if you won't answer the question we will end the interview now" and then do it. Or whenever they go on about what they think the others will do bleep it out. You would not have to do it for long before they changed their approach. Why don't politicians understand that they all look like evasive liars and this is one of the reasons people are getting fed up with the main parties and politics in general.

Blair's 'education for open minds'

Tony Blair

Former Primer Minister Tony Blair has called for an "education for open minds" in tackling radicalisation among young people. The former UK prime minister said faith schools of all kinds needed to make sure pupils understood the beliefs of other religions.

Get the full story here.

Janan Ganesh, Financial Times


tweets: The coalition. It's *still* here. Even optimists assumed there would be a pro forma separation several months before the election.

Michael Crick, Channel 4 News


tweets: A senior Lib Dem source tells me Labour have been putting out feelers

John Rentoul, columnist for Independent on Sunday


Tweets: Predictions for Budget: 1 take from rich & give to those on low to middle incomes; 2 planned public spending/GDP won't go to 1930s level

Budget predictions

For those that missed it, here's some analysis from political pundits on the BBC's Sunday Politics about

what might be in Wednesday's Budget.


Here's a quick recap of today's political stories:

The New Statesman's elections site


Tweets: Labour & the Tories have
been exchanging leads in the polls for the past 3 months (5-day avg)…

New Statesman

'No one will win'

The Guardian

Andrew Rawnsley at the Guardian has written a piece about what he believes will be the likely outcome after the general election. "The truth that dare not speak its name:

no one will win on 7 May," he writes. He adds that David Cameron and Ed Miliband "look detached from reality" for not admitting it.

Clegg's final election?

Nick Clegg

Many of Nick Clegg's senior colleagues believe he is preparing to fight his final general election, says BBC Political Correspondent Ross Hawkins.

Several MPs have told Ross there is an unspoken assumption that he will stand down as Liberal Democrat leader in the next Parliament - whatever the result in May.

Read the full piece here.

Ross Hawkins, political correspondent


Tweets: Hug from Miriam, ovation, TV crew scrum, all the big speech choreography but it was an election rally (and weeks from election why not)


Tweets: A touch here of go back to your constituencies and prepare for a bloody fight with our coalition partners

Can Clegg defy odds?

Nick Clegg told the Lib Dem faithful they would "defy the odds" at the general election. But what about the odds of his own survival? Bookmakers William Hill reckon he is unlikely to be party leader by the end of 2015. They are offering 2/5 that he will have been replaced by then. Former party president Tim Farron is 8/11 odds-on favourite to succeed Mr Clegg as Lib Dem leader - and the Party is a 2/1 chance to be part of a coalition government following the general election. Mr Farron was earlier slapped down by Lord Ashdown for suggesting coalition would damage the party for a generation.

Read more here.

Clegg's finale

Nick Clegg

Mr Clegg waves to the crowd and hugs his wife as he finished his speech in Liverpool. He closed his speech by saying: "If you want a government that will create opportunities for everyone, vote Liberal Democrat. This is a fight for our future, for the decent values of our country - we can and we must win."

'Proved wrong'

Clegg adds: "Five years ago we were told a hung parliament would be a disaster for Britain. We were told that without a clear majority for one of the old, establishment parties, Britain would collapse into chaos. We proved them wrong." He went on to say that the Lib Dems "proved that coalition can be strong, stable and successful".

Lib Dem economy

Mr Clegg says when the Lib Dems came in to government the "big question" was: "Could we rescue the British economy?"

He adds: "Liberal Democrats, we have been tested and we passed the test. We rescued the economy. We held our nerve. And make no mistake, the recovery would not be happening without the Liberal Democrats."

More audience applause.

'Threat to education'

"The Conservatives are a threat to education," Mr Clegg says, adding "they will take billions of pounds away from existing schools in order to create 500 more free schools, regardless of whether or not they are actually needed at all."

He adds: "And they will cut, drastically, the money that goes to nurseries, sixth forms and colleges.

"...cows moo. Dogs bark. And Tories cut. It's in their DNA."

'Defensive crouch'

Mr Clegg says Labour and the Tories "are in a defensive crouch, hoping to win by default, not because the British people share their vision but because they dislike them a little less than the other guy".

The audience laugh when he says: "Look at the way David Cameron tried to dodge the leaders' debates by hiding behind the Green Party. It's the greenest thing he's done since he's been in government."

Clegg bashes Labour and Tories

Nick Clegg launches a scathing attack on his Conservative coalition partners and the Labour Party, which goes down very well with Lib Dem activists in the hall. "Everywhere you look there is blame and division," he says, adding: "It's in Theresa May's Go Home vans. In the glint in George Osborne's eye as he announces that the working age poor will bear the brunt of the cuts. It's in the red-faced bluster of the Tory right wingers who are determined to scrap the Human Rights Act and drag us out of Europe. It's in the 'us versus them' scaremongering of the Labour Party, as they condemn every decision to balance the books as a betrayal and then make wild predictions about mass unemployment or the death of the NHS that they know are not true."

'Immense admiration' for Norman Lamb

Nick Clegg says that on average, three children in every classroom has a mental health condition. "You heard me right, three children in every classroom. In Britain. In 2015. That cannot be allowed to carry on," he says.

He then left his script to note his "immense admiration" for ministerial colleague Norman Lamb, who he said had reacted with "dignity and courage" to "public scrutiny" this morning a reference to a Sunday Mirror story about Mr Lamb's son Archie (see below).

'Ending child illiteracy'

Clegg says that one of the proudest moments of his time in government - so far - was at the end of last year, when the latest primary school results were published. "They showed children from the poorest backgrounds getting their best ever results and the gap between them and their better off classmates narrowing," he said, and argued that this was because of a Lib Dem government.

"I want every child to leave primary school to be confident at reading - ending child illiteracy for good," he adds.


"A stronger economy and a fairer society, with opportunity for everyone. It's not just a slogan to stick on leaflets or adorn conference auditoriums, it's a destination. That is the sort of Britain I want us to be," Clegg says to rapturous applause.

'Get up'

Nick Clegg is rallying the Lib Dem troops in Liverpool (with a possible nod to the old Chumbawamba hit): "We take our hits on the chin. When we get knocked down, we get up, brush ourselves off and carry on," says the Lib Dem leader, to applause from the hall.

Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent


Tweets: Lord Ashdown on Tim Farron: "Tim's a very able guy but at the moment judgement is not his strong suit." (the audio sounds pretty damning)

Clegg speech begins

Nick Clegg

Webb claims pension credit

Steve Webb

On the subject of Wednesday's Budget and the expected pledge to help pensioners cash in their annuities, the architect of the policy Lib Dem Pensions Minister Steve Webb - who grabbed headlines last year when he suggested pensioners could blow the money on a Lamborghini if they wanted to - is attempting to make sure his party gets due credit for it. He said: "As a Liberal I believe that today's pensioners should have the same freedoms as tomorrow's pensioners to spend their hard earned savings as they wish. That's why I proposed this measure and I am delighted to have secured it in this week's Budget."

What Cleggs will be wearing

All eyes on Liverpool now, as we get ready for Nick Clegg's big speech to his party's spring conference. Fashion lovers might like to know that Mr Clegg's wife Miriam will be wearing a Venus dress in bubblegum pink, brown shoes from Uterque and a pale pink coat from Zara (according to our resident fashion expert Paul Twinn). Mrs Clegg wore the dress at the interview with Red and to introduce President of Mexico Peña Nieto at the Canning House lecture. Mr Clegg will be wearing a Hackett suit an M&S shirt and black shoes.

Balls: Osborne 'wriggling out of debate'

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has put out a statement after challenging George Osborne to a head-to-head debate. It says: "It's good that George Osborne shook hands on a head-to-head TV debate with me during the election campaign. But he's already trying to wriggle out of that by insisting on bringing his deputy along.

"If George Osborne wants a debate with all the main parties, as well as a head-to-head debate, that's fine by me. But we need a head-to-head debate because there's a big choice between an extreme Tory plan which will put our NHS at risk and Labour's better plan which will put working families first and save the NHS."

Clarke blasts UKIP

Former Chancellor Ken Clarke has said he would be "fiercely opposed" to any deal with UKIP after the election. Speaking on Sky News, the Conservative veteran said it would be "an extraordinary thing to do, to enter into an agreement with a party that is just angry protest. It's not a party that any serious governing parties should enter into deals with."

Lord Davey?

Would Ed Davey accept a seat in the Lords, asks Andrew Neil, if he should lose his Kingston and Surbiton seat (majority 7,560) in the forthcoming general election. "Good hypothetical question," Mr Davey retorts "but the real question in people's minds is who is going to form the next government".

Davey vs Farron

Lib Dem Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey was grilled by Andrew Neil about former Lib Dem President Tim Farron's comment that their party would get "two out of 10" for their handling of the coalition. Mr Davey gave a spirited, if standard, defence of the coalition. Mr Farron and Mr Davey are both regularly tipped to be the party's next leader. Mr Farron - who also said the coalition would continue to damage the Lib Dems for decades - was earlier slapped down by Lib Dem former leader and election chief Lord Ashdown. "I think his well-known ambitions would be better served with a little more patience and a little more judgement," he told Pienaar's Politics. "Tim is a very able guy but judgement is not his strong suit."

1930s spending 'nonsense'?

One of Labour's chief criticisms is that the Tories would cut public spending down to a similar level seen during the 1930s. Asked by Sunday Politics presenter Andrew Neil how much was spent in the 1930s Caroline Flint struggled to find answer. "A lot less," she begins to say before being interrupted by Mr Neil who calculates that in today's money to pare back spending to the level in that decade would mean the equivalent of a £650bn cut. You know that's a nonsense?, he asks.

Flint on Sunday Politics

Caroline Flint

Andrew Neil presses shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint on why "business" is not mentioned on her election pledge card. She insists that business is something her party cares about. She says Labour if elected would push through plans to help businesses such as making sure young people have access to apprenticeships and that "small businesses benefit from a clock on their business rates".

Northern powerhouse

Political editor for the Sunday Times, Tim Shipman, tells the BBC's Sunday Politics that one thing we will hear about during Wednesday's budget announcement is the idea of a "northern powerhouse". "It sounds like a 1970s prog rock group", he quips, but says it is the Conservative's plan to claw back some north-west marginal seats in the M62 corridor.

Norman Lamb on 'OCD son'

The Lib Dem Health Minister Norman Lamb has started his speech at the Lib Dem Spring Conference with a reference to today's

Sunday Mirror story about his music producer son Archie, who allegedly faced a blackmail threat after a video emerged of him appearing to take drugs.

"My family has had its own experience of mental health problems. Our eldest son diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when he was 15. My family is not unique. Our experience has made me even more determined to bring mental health out of the shadows," he said.

He thanked activists for their words of support for him this morning and received a warm round of applause from them.