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Summary

  1. Conservative candidate suspended over claims he schemed with the English Defence League to win votes
  2. Nigel Farage says he'll be "utterly ruthless" with UKIP election candidates who "step over the line"
  3. Alex Salmond backs a vote-by-vote arrangement with Labour if there is a hung parliament
  4. A deal is reached over the television election debates
  5. There are 46 days until the general election

Live Reporting

By Nick Eardley and Victoria King

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Signing off

That's it from the Politics Live team for today. It's been a busy Sunday, so here's a quick recap of what's happened:

  • Conservative election candidate Afzal Amin
    has been suspended over allegations he schemed with the English Defence League (EDL) to win votes
  • Mr Amin said the allegations were "completely untrue"
  • Former SNP leader Alex Salmond - appearing on the Andrew Marr Show -
    predicted a "vote by vote arrangement" between a minority Labour government and the SNP after the election
  • UKIP's Nigel Farage
    told Andrew Marr he will continue to be "utterly ruthless" in dealing with UKIP general election candidates who "step over the line"
  • He also ruled out any cut to the top rate of tax in UKIP's manifesto

We're back at 06:00 GMT tomorrow. See you then.

'Valedictory speeches'

Our parliamentary correspondent Mark D'Arcy,

in his weekly look ahead, says the final sitting of the Commons on Thursday will begin with Business, Innovation and Skills questions. "Any last minute tidying up of Lords amendments will be dealt with and then there will be what is delicately described as 'an opportunity for retiring members to make short valedictory speeches.' I'm told around 30 retiring MPs may decide to bid farewell..."

HS2 demand?

What role could HS2 play in any post-election discussions? The Guardian, in its write up of this morning's Alex Salmond interview on the Andrew Marr Show, says the SNP politician could demand that work on a high-speed rail line starts in Scotland as the price of backing a minority Labour government. More

here.

Lord Ashcroft, pollster and former Tory deputy chairman

@LordAshcroft

tweets: Average of the Sunday Polls LAB 34% CON 33% LDEM 8% UKIP 15% GRNS 5%

Afzal Amin response

Afzal Amin
BBC

Afzal Amin, the Tory candidate for Dudley North who has been suspended over allegations he schemed with the English Defence League (EDL) to win votes, has just

tweeted a link to his response over the claims.

He says recordings of meetings between himself and the EDL "are a gross misrepresentation of the reality".

He writes: "This was altruistic, community service work. Instead of these private discussions leading to something fruitful, [former EDL Leader Tommy] Robinson clearly wishes to further damage community cohesion instead of working to prevent conflict as he had originally presented himself as doing. I am saddened that the Mail on Sunday has furthered this agenda."

Northern Ireland pacts

Gerry Adams
PA

More on electoral deals in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein president Gerry Adam says the SDLP has made a "monumental blunder" in spurning a nationalist general election pact. In four constituencies, the DUP and Ulster Unionists have established a pact in an attempt to maximise representation. But the SDLP wasn't keen on doing the same with Sinn Fein.

Mr Adams said today: "The recently announced unionist electoral pact for the Westminster election is a negative alliance. It is aimed at preventing equality of citizenship, frustrating political progress and imposing a Tory austerity agenda.

"Unfortunately, the SDLP leadership has actively facilitated this by refusing to talk to Sinn Fein about how to counter the threat to pro-Agreement, progressive politics."

Alex Salmond warned

Sir Malcolm Bruce
PA

Veteran Liberal Democrat Sir Malcolm Bruce has predicted Alex Salmond will be "shaken to his foundations" when voters thwart his hopes of returning to Westminster. Sir Malcolm - who is standing down at the election - currently holds the Gordon seat, which Mr Salmond is contesting on 7 May. Christine Jardine is hoping to keep the seat for the Lib Dems.

Sir Malcolm said: "He says he wants to shake Westminster to the foundations. Yet, everything he came into politics to achieve has been rejected here in the north east and I believe local people will reject him too. He will be shaken to his foundations. I know for sure Christine will serve the people of Gordon far, far better than he ever could."

Lib Dem 'Budget'

Sky News

Danny Alexander
Reuters

Political journalist Andrew Pierce is scathing about Danny Alexander's alternative Budget, delivered 24 hours after the real thing. "Even Nick Clegg couldn't stomach it," and left the Commons chamber half way through, he claims. "I'm surprised the Speaker allowed it," he adds. Kevin Maguire, associate editor of the Daily Mirror, tries to be a bit more charitable. He says: "I see what he was trying to do, but it didn't work."

Farage's children 'forced to flee mob'

Nigel Farage says his children were forced to hide after anti-UKIP protesters invaded a pub where he was having a family lunch.

The party leader was apparently with his wife and two younger children at a pub in Kent when the incident took place. Dozens of demonstrators initially went into the George & Dragon, where Mr Farage has previously been pictured having a drink, before realising he was in the other pub nearby.

They are said to have gone into the Queen's Head, chased the Farages out and then jumped on the UKIP leader's car bonnet as he drove away.

Mr Farage said afterwards: "I hope these 'demonstrators' are proud of themselves. My children were so scared by their behaviour that they ran away to hide.

"At the time of writing this a relative has gone to look for them, and they are not yet at home. These people are scum."

Final days of this Parliament

Parliament
PA

Parliament will be dissolved this week ahead of the election. Mark D'Arcy, the BBC's parliamentary correspondent,

writes on his blog that the Palace of Westminster has emptied out since the Budget. But there could be a few attempts at pre-election point scoring before Thursday, he adds. And there's the final PMQs before 7 May.

Engaged electorate?

The Spectator

Most commentators seem to agree the Budget hasn't had a decisive effect on the polls. Over on the Spectator website, James Forsyth makes that point, and writes that the Tories don't think people will start to really engage in the election debate until after Easter. More

here.

Sturgeon on equality

Nicola Sturgeon
PA

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, has said she supports "system-wide approaches" to tackle the problem of the under-representation of women in politics. The SNP conference next weekend will discuss plans to return more female MSPs by creating a number of all-women shortlists for the selection of candidates in the 2016 Holyrood elections.

Scotland on Sunday reports today that Ms Sturgeon could face a rebellion on the issue.

Speaking earlier, Scotland's first minister said she 100%" that people should be selected for posts on merit, but that measures should be looked at to address the factors in society which are "holding women back".

She said: "People say to me, 'I don't want quotas, I don't want all women shortlists because I believe people should get on on merit'. I absolutely 100% believe in that, I think people should get on on merit.

"The problem is that's not what happens very often just now. If we had a system that was purely based on merit, we'd have gender balance because women are 52% of the population, and unless you think that women are somehow less capable, then if we had a merit-based system we wouldn't have these problems of under-representation of women."

Tim Wallace, senior reporter for City AM

@Tim_Wallace

tweets: I know what the Tories are going for, but this new Miliband/Salmond video is just bonkers. Deranged.

Coalition questions

In the Independent on Sunday, John Rentoul has been looking at the deals that could be done after the election. It is possible the Conservatives could be the biggest party, but Ed Miliband could be prime minister, he writes. The SNP would have no choice but to allow Mr Miliband to form a government, but could threaten to remove support at any time, he adds. More

here.

Michael Crick, political correspondent, Channel 4 News

@MichaelLCrick

tweets: Teenage candidates: Michael Burrows (Ukip, Inverclyde, 18) Solomon Curtis (Lab, Wealden, 18) George Aylett (Lab, SW Wilts, 19). Any more?

Northern Ireland pact

As we reported last week, the DUP and Ulster Unionists have agreed an election pact in some constituencies in a bid to increase unionist representation at Westminster. This morning, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt denied his party was getting less out of the deal than the DUP. Mr Nesbitt said the pact was part of his long-term strategy for the party. More

here.

Afzal Amin 'should stand down'

Afzal Amin
BBC

Dudley Conservative councillor Les Jones has been speaking about

the suspension of Afzal Amin - the local Conservative candidate for the general election suspended over allegations he schemed with the English Defence League to win votes. He said he was shocked when he heard the allegations and thinks it will reflect badly on the whole political process.

He called for Mr Amin to stand aside, saying: "I think it would be the honourable thing for him to stand down now."

Andrew Rawnsley

George Osborne
PA

In today's Observer, Andrew Rawnsley has been looking at the high approval ratings enjoyed by Chancellor George Osborne, despite him having missed a number of his key goals. Mr Rawnsley writes this is because Mr Osborne has controlled the narrative, been flexible and currently oversees an economy people are feeling increasingly positive about. More

here.

What do the polls tell us?

What are the polls telling us? Ben Page from Ipsos MORI was discussing just that with Andrew Neil and the Sunday Politics panel earlier. You can see the clip

here.

Scottish Labour 're-energised'

Daily and Sunday Politics

Alex Salmond wasn't the only Scottish politician doing the rounds this morning. Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy was also on a number of political programmes. He told Sunday Politics his party is "re-energised and pretty determined". You can watch his interview

here.

'Ideas and visions'

Ken Livingstone
Labour Party

Former Labour mayor of London Ken Livingstone tells The World This Weekend the gap between Labour and the Tories is "most probably bigger than at any time in the last 20 years but that isn't getting over to people". He thinks there's no shortage of big "ideas and visions" coming from political figures, but that's not apparent from the newspapers, which he says are owned by five millionaires pushing they own agenda. Mr Livingstone urges people to watch television and listen to the radio if they want to see the bigger picture.

Louise Birt, BBC Radio 4 assistant editor

@B1Lou

tweets: "Dudley isn't Kandahar" a senior Conservative tells @BBCShaunLey #AfzalAmin @BBCMarkMardell #tw2

'Hurts politics'

Les Jones, former Conservative leader of Dudley Council, has been speaking to the BBC's Shaun Ley. "We would have hoped to win the seat," he said. Labour had a majority of just over 640 at the 2010 general election. Mr Jones continued: "I think it hurts politics which is more important. Examples like this - if it's proven of course - make it harder for those of us who are honestly involved in the political process to be believed."

Nick Sutton, editor of BBC Radio 4's World at One and The World this Weekend

@suttonnick

tweets: @BBCShaunLey met @Afzal4Dudley on Friday when he chaired a hustings meeting. He's reporting live on #tw2 shortly.

Sean Lay and Afzal Amin
BBC

BBC Sunday Politics Midlands

@sunpoliticsmids

tweets: @Afzal4Dudley has told the BBC he will be responding to the allegations "shortly" he wouldn't confirm or deny if he was in Dubai

Conservative video

The Conservatives have produced

a new election video, taking their favourite theme of "Miliband in Salmond's pocket" to new, er, heights. Set to Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens - a strategic choice of tune no doubt - the graphic novel-style video features Ed Miliband quite literally dancing to a tune played by Alex Salmond. Here's a still to show you what we mean.

Still from Conservative election video
Conservatives

'Gender dynamic'

James Forsyth,

writing in the Mail on Sunday, has got the inside scoop on David Cameron's preparations for the TV debates. In mock versions of the contests, he says Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is playing Nick Clegg - as he did in 2010 - and George Osborne's "brainy aide" Rupert Harrison plays Ed Miliband. But apparently casting a Nicola Sturgeon was more difficult.

"She ended up being represented by Andrew Dunlop, Cameron's point man on Scotland," Forsyth writes. "There is a worry that having him play Sturgeon means Cameron, who has found it difficult to strike the right tone with female opponents, isn't prepared for the gender dynamic of debating with her."

Beth Rigby, FT's deputy political editor

@BethRigby

tweets: Running thru my Twitter feed post #bbcsp - clear that viewers very underwhelmed by Murphy's tap dancing around matter SNP/Lab post May

'Austerity nimbies'

Northern Ireland has reached a watershed regarding decisions on public sector cuts, the

Ulster Bank's chief economist has said. Richard Ramsey said people in Northern Ireland had "almost been guilty of being fiscal austerity nimbies", and while large public sector bodies should be seen as positives, restructuring was needed.

Alex Salmond

The Andrew Marr Show

If you missed Alex Salmond with Andrew Marr this morning, his full interview is

online now.

Andrew Sinclair, political correspondent for BBC East

@andrewpolitics

tweets: Lovely Quote on sunday politics east from a ukip official on where they campaign: "where there's a wimpy there's a winning chance"

Lunctime recap

It's been a busy morning in the political world. As you tuck into your Sunday roast - and we scoff our sad little sandwiches - here's what's happened so far:

  • Afzal Amin - a Conservative candidate at the general election -
    has been suspended over allegations he schemed with the English Defence League to win votes
  • Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond
    predicted a "vote by vote arrangement" between a minority Labour government and the SNP on the Andrew Marr Show
  • Mr Salmond also confirmed Nicola Sturgeon would lead any post-election negotiations
  • UKIP leader Nigel Farage
    told the programme he would continue to be "utterly ruthless" about dealing with any of his general election candidates who "step over the line"
  • Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy didn't rule out an informal deal with the SNP after the election, but said a vote for the party would make a Conservative government more likely

Alex Salmond also made us smile with

this.

Bernard Aryeetey, head of policy at charity Shelter

@BernieAryeetey

tweets: On #GE2015 debates agree with @BethRigby that Tories have seemingly played a blinder on the format finally agreed. A gamechanger? Doubt it.

Salmond interviews

The Daily Telegraph

Here's the Telegraph's take on Alex Salmond's interviews this morning. The newspaper writes that the former Scottish first minister claimed he will help write Ed Balls' first Budget after the general election.

More from Tommy Robinson

Some quotes in full from former EDL leader Tommy Robinson on the Sunday Politics. Asked about

the Afzal Amin story, he said: "Things started off great, I was introduced to Afzal and he ticked all the boxes. I was introduced to him as one of the Muslims who could solve this country's problems.

"And then I became insulted, quite quickly, when he clearly wanted to buy me. And not just buy me, but put offers forward that could buy the English Defence League.

"He wanted us to set up a fake demonstration. It was completely his campaign. He wanted to use us. He wanted to use us for his own gain."

Mr Amin says the allegations are untrue.

More to come

And that's all from Sunday Politics. But stick with this for the next few hours - we'll be posting some more analysis and commentary on the big politics issues and recapping a busy morning.

Money offered

Daily and Sunday Politics

Afzal Amin's "minder" offered money to Tommy Robinson and made it clear he would be looked after, the former EDL leader tells the Sunday Politics.

Suspended candidate

Daily and Sunday Politics

Tommy Robinson
Getty Images

Tommy Robinson, the former English Defence League leader, tells the Sunday Politics Afzal Amin was introduced to him as a Muslim who could "solve this country's problems". But it became clear he wanted to use the EDL and set up a fake demonstration. Background to the story

here.

Election debates

Daily and Sunday Politics

It feels like "game, set and match" to David Cameron on the TV debates, Nicholas Watt says. But it's not a total victory. The real danger for the prime minister now is that in the final interviews on 30 April on the BBC, Ed Miliband will mock Mr Cameron relentlessly. Beth Rigby says the Tories have played a "blinder" in negotiations.

Miliband 'nicer'

Daily and Sunday Politics

Ben Page, from Ipsos Mori, says the Tories are seen as mean, but efficient. Ed Miliband is seen as nicer, but not necessarily competent with the economy, he adds.