Merkel's UK speech: The exclusive club she is joining

Westminster Hall

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has addressed both Houses of Parliament, becoming the latest in a long line of dignitaries to do so since the first in 1939.

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23 March 1939: President of France Albert Lebrun
French President Albert Lebrun on state visit to UK
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21 October 1942: Prime Minister of South Africa Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts
Jan Smuts

South Africa's PM, who had served in Lloyd George's war cabinet during World War I, found his military expertise was again in demand in Churchill's war cabinet.

The future co-author of the preamble to the UN charter was invited to share his thoughts on war and peace with MPs and peers in Parliament's royal gallery, although the Commons library reports that it was not a "formal presentation".

Parliament itself had sustained severe damage by this period in the Second World War, and Smuts noted: "Irreplaceable treasures of a thousand years of almost uninterrupted progress and culture and peaceful civilisation have disappeared forever.

"But one thing is not lost; one thing, the most precious of all, remains, and has rather increased," he continued. "The soul remains."

He paid tribute to Sir Winston as "the embodiment of the spirit of eternal youth and resilience, the spirit of a great, undying nation in one of the greatest moments of history".

"The stage is set," he declared of the war, "for the last, the offensive phase".

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11 May 1944: Prime Minister of Canada Mackenzie King
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17 May 1945: King George VI
King George VI King George VI had visited arms factories during the war

The King celebrated victory in Europe with a trip to Parliament, telling MPs and peers of his gratitude to all of them and his subjects for their wartime service.

"There was visibly present in the royal gallery something immensely venerable and at the same time very much alive," reported the Times.

"The King in his Councils in his Parliaments, the organ that through the centuries has been the very heart of England, ceaselessly driving the life's blood of liberty through the veins and arteries of the nation."

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21 August 1945: King George VI

The King returned to Parliament to mark overall victory in World War II.

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9 March 1950: French president Vincent Auriol
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26 October 1950: King George VI

Opening the new House of Commons chamber, which had been destroyed in World War II, the King delivered a speech to MPs and peers.

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22 October 1954: Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie
Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, making a radio broadcast in 1954
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24 April 1956: Soviet PM Nikolai Bulganin and first secretary of the Communist Party Nikita Khrushchev
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7 April 1960: French president General Charles de Gaulle
General Charles de Gaulle and his wife Yvonne

In his Westminster Hall speech, President de Gaulle recalled how the UK, "heroic and alone, took upon herself the liberty of the world".

He expressed sympathy for the "wounds" of the German people, who he said were "yesterday our enemies but who are today a vital part of the West and our common ally".

But the focus of his speech was on disarmament, and he looked forward hopefully to a summit at which PM Harold Macmillan, President Eisenhower, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and he were to discuss the possibility of detente.

France "wishes, above all, stocks of nuclear weapons to be destroyed", he told MPs and peers.

It wasn't to be: the summit was cancelled after a US spy plane was shot down over Russia.

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22 June 1965: The Queen
The Queen

Queen Elizabeth II's first speech to both Houses of Parliament - besides those at the annual state opening of Parliament ceremony - marked the 700th Anniversary of the Parliament of Simon de Montfort.

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28 April 1966: U Thant, secretary general of the UN
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9 February 1967: Soviet PM Alexei Kosygin
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28 April 1969: Italian President Giuseppe Saragat
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3 March 1970: Chancellor of West Germany Willy Brandt
Willy Brandt

Chancellor Brandt assured MPs and peers in the royal gallery of his support for the UK's application to join the European Economic Community, which he predicted would be enriched by British traditions.

French president de Gaulle had thwarted an earlier UK bid to join.

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23 June 1976: French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing
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4 May 1977: The Queen

The Queen marked her Silver Jubilee with an address to Parliament.

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8 June 1982: US President Ronald Reagan
The Queen, US President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

President Reagan rallied Parliament's support for a crusade towards global freedom and democracy that "would leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history".

But the Cold War was not the only conflict coinciding with his visit: UK troops were closing in on victory in the Falklands.

"Those young men are not fighting for mere real estate," the president reminded MPs and peers in the royal gallery.

"They fight for a cause, for the belief that armed aggression must not be allowed to succeed, and that people must participate in the decisions of government under the rule of law."

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24 October 1984: French President Francois Mitterrand
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18 December 1984: Future General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher

After meeting communist chief Mikhail Gorbachev at Chequers, then Conservative PM Margaret Thatcher declared: "I like Mr Gorbachev. We can do business together."

The future Soviet leader went on to address an informal meeting of MPs and peers, declaring: "For all that separates us, we have one planet and Europe is our common home, not a theatre of operations."

But his remarks became less diplomatic after Conservative former minister Norman St John-Stevas asked him about Soviet oppression of religion.

"I could quote a few facts about human rights in the UK," he said. "You persecute entire communities and nationalities. You have got 2.3 million unemployed."

The Times reported that one MP later joked he wished unemployment was as low as that.

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23 January 1986: Prime Minister of Israel Shimon Peres
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28 April 1986: King of Spain Juan Carlos
Juan Carlos, King of Spain
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2 July 1986: President of West Germany Richard Von Weizsäcker
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20 July 1988: The Queen

The Queen marked the tercentenary of the Revolution of 1688-89 and the Bill of Rights with another speech to MPs and peers.

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08 May 1989: President of Nicaragua Daniel Ortega
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24 October 1990: Italian President Francesco Cossiga
Francesco Cossiga

The Christian Democratic party's Francesco Cossiga used his address to MPs and peers in the royal gallery to "take Margaret Thatcher to task", according to the Times.

She was due to attend a European summit in Rome four days later, and President Cossiga urged her to adopt a "more idealistic approach" to the European Community, the paper added.

His advocacy was apparently unpersuasive. After the Rome summit, PM Thatcher reported back to MPs that she had not taken kindly to federalist Commission President Jacques Delors' aim to make the European Parliament the most powerful democratic institution in Europe, with the Commission working as the executive and the Council of Ministers acting as the senate.

"No! No! No!" she declared.

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10 November 1992: President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin
Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin
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28 April 1993: President of Portugal Mario Soares
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5 May 1993: Nelson Mandela
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7 December 1993: Mikhail Gorbachev
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6 May 1995: The Queen

The Queen marked the 50th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day with a speech to MPs and peers.

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29 November 1995: US President Bill Clinton
John Major and Bill Clinton

PM Sir John Major "appeared overcome with emotion" as President Clinton paid tribute to the Conservative's "peacemaking role and spoke of a Northern Ireland where 'the guns are quiet and the children play without fear'," according to the Daily Mail's coverage of his speech to MPs and peers.

"I applaud the prime minister for taking this risk for peace," he had said.

"It is always a hard choice, the choice for peace, for success is far from guaranteed, and even if you fail, there will be those who resent you for trying. But it is the right thing to do. And in the end, the right will win."

The Scotsman tried valiantly to resist the famously charismatic Clinton, describing him as a "purveyor of folksy pieces of meaningless wisdom".

"Mr Clinton said: 'The only way to abolish war is to make peace heroic.' True, but what does it mean?" the paper commented, before succumbing.

"In spite of the simplicity and embarrassingly cliched nature of most of it, it was a good speech," it reported.

"It was refreshing to hear someone speak of high principles... Mr Clinton got away with it, not only because it was novel but because his delivery was superb."

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15 May 1996: French President Jacques Chirac
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11 July 1996: President of South Africa Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela's speech in full

In his second speech to MPs and peers, President Mandela paid tribute to anti-apartheid British politicians.

Labour peer Lord Brockway "was as concerned about our liberty as he was about the independence of India", he said.

He also recalled ex-Conservative PM Harold Macmillan's historic visit to Cape Town in 1960 and his historic speech declaring: "The wind of change is blowing through this country."

"Let our peoples," the president concluded, "join hands to build on what we have achieved together and help construct a humane African world, whose emergence will say a new universal order is born in which we are each our brother's keeper."

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16 July 1996: The Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama

In an informal meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on Tibet, the Dalai Lama urged the UK to exert influence on China.

"The reality today is that Tibet is an occupied country under colonial rule. This is the essential issue which must be addressed and resolved through negotiations," he told MPs and peers.

"Tibet - an ancient nation with a unique culture and civilisation - is disappearing fast. In endeavouring to protect my nation from this catastrophe, I have always sought to be guided by realism, moderation and patience.

"However, it has now become clear that our efforts alone are not sufficient to bring the Chinese government to the negotiating table."

According to the Independent, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman responded: "By inviting the Dalai Lama to visit Britain and offering him a forum, the Tibetan group of the British House of Commons abets the Dalai's action to split the motherland. It will bring about adverse effects to the Sino-British relations."

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29 October 1998: Argentine President Carlos Menem
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6 July 2000: Prime Minister of Australia John Howard
John Howard

Marking the 100th anniversary of the Australian federation, PM John Howard addressed MPs and peers in the royal gallery with "a graceful speech saying what a great place Australia was", according to the Guardian's Simon Hoggart.

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30 April 2002: The Queen
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8 May 2007: Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan
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15 May 2007: Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair

"Let us consign arguments over the past to the annals of the past, as we make history instead of being doomed to repeat it," said Bertie Ahern, the first Irish Taoiseach to address both Houses of Parliament.

Mr Ahern may have been "lacking in suave elegance," reported the Independent, "but as usual that was more than made up for by his evident abilities and all-round political competence."

Labour PM Tony Blair described him as "a true friend of the British people, a man who is changing the history of his own country and of these islands".

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26 March 2008: French President Nicolas Sarkozy
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19 November 2008: Israeli President Shimon Peres
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1 April 2009: President of Mexico Felipe Calderon Hinojosa
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17 September 2010: Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI en route to Parliament

The Pope warned MPs and peers in Westminster Hall that religion - and Christianity in particular - was "being marginalised" around the world.

"There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere," he said.

"There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none."

BBC correspondent Peter Hunt described the speech at Westminster Hall as "a rallying call, and a plea - for religion not to be squeezed out by secular society".

Two and a half years later, Benedict XVI became the first pope in centuries to resign.

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25 May 2011: US President Barack Obama

President Obama's speech in full

The UK and US were at a "pivotal moment" in their relationship and "profound challenges" lay ahead, US President Barack Obama told MPs and peers in his Westminster Hall speech.

He praised the role of the UK in spreading the ideals of democracy around the world, quoting Sir Winston Churchill, who said the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, habeas corpus, trial by jury and common law "find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence".

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20 March 2012: The Queen

Highlights of the Queen's visit to Parliament

The Queen said she would rededicate herself to the service of the UK and its people as she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee.

She told MPs and peers in Westminster Hall that the commemoration of her 60 years on the throne was a chance "to come together in a spirit of neighbourliness and celebration".

The Queen also praised Prince Philip for being "a constant strength and guide" over the decades.

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21 June 2012: Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi's speech in full

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi urged the UK to support the shift towards democracy in Burma in her historic address to both Houses of Parliament.

"My country today stands at the start of a journey towards, I hope, a better future. So many hills remain to be climbed, chasms to be bridged, obstacles to be breached," she said.

"Our own determination can get us so far. The support of the people of Britain and of peoples around the world can get us so much further."

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20 March 2013: President of Malawi Joyce Banda
Malawi President Joyce Banda
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13 June 2013: Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper
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5 November 2013: South Korean President Park Geun-hye

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Politics Live

  1.  
    @robindbrant Robin Brant - BBC political correspondent

    Tweets: So it's Final offer v final offer in #ge2015 TV debates stand off

     
  2.  
    16:29: TV debates

    You will find more on the TV election debates here.

     
  3.  
    @montie Tim Montgomerie - columnist at The Times

    Tweets: The broadcasters' position is ridiculous: include Plaid Cymru but not the DUP?

     
  4.  
    Carole Walker, BBC Political correspondent

    tweets: Broadcasters appear to be standing by threat to hold debates - even without PM

     
  5.  
    16:15: Two seven-way debates, two hours long

    The broadcasters say "there needs to be two seven-way debates of a minimum of two hours each, within the election campaign, allowing time to properly represent the views of all parties, covering a broad range of subjects". This has been the position broadcasters have outlined in the past.

     
  6.  
    16:12: Full statement

    You can read the full letter from the broadcasters on the TV debates here.

     
  7.  
    16:10: Broadcasters' statement

    The statement says: "The broadcasters would like the prime minister to reconsider taking part in all of these debates. 22 million people watched the leaders' debates in 2010 and there is a public desire and expectation for them to happen again in 2015.

    "The broadcasters' proposals have come after extensive work over the last six months to ensure the public have the opportunity to watch televised election debates once more. The group have worked in an independent, impartial manner, treating invited parties on an equitable basis. They have listened to the views expressed by all parties and adapted the proposals to take into account electoral support.

    "The broadcasters will continue to work closely with all parties invited to take part in the televised debates to bring them to their millions of viewers across the UK. The heads of news of all four broadcasters would welcome the opportunity to meet Mr Cameron, or his representatives, to discuss the debates."

     
  8.  
    @joeyjonessky Joey Jones. Sky News deputy political editor

    tweets: Quite a confrontation between broadcasters and PM just before election. Right or wrong, @David_Cameron isolated. May get quite nasty.

     
  9.  
    16:08: More from broadcasters

    The broadcasters say the debates will go ahead on the following dates:

    • 2 April: ITV produce seven-way debate with the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, UKIP, the SNP and Plaid Cymru
    • 16 April: BBC produce seven-way debate with the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, UKIP, the SNP and Plaid Cymru
    • 30 April: Sky News and Channel 4 produce head-to-head debate between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition
     
  10.  
    @nick_clegg Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat leader

    tweets: Come on @David_Cameron you haven't got your own way so accept it and take part. #tvdebates

     
  11.  
    16:06: Analysis Alex Forsyth Political correspondent, BBC News

    This is a big decision for the broadcasters to take, because it runs the risk of allowing Ed Miliband the chance to get his message across unchallenged if David Cameron is "empty chaired".

     
  12.  
    16:02: Breaking News

    The broadcasters - which include BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 - have released a joint statement regarding the TV election debates. They have said that the debates will go ahead as planned, in the same format as originally proposed, and they have asked the prime minster to reconsider his position. The broadcasters intend to forge ahead with plans for three debates to take place on 2 April ITV 16 April BBC and 30 April (Sky News and Channel 4).

     
  13.  
    15:58: Look back

    Team change here and a good time to take a quick look back at some of the main stories of the day:

    • Some Scottish Labour MPs are urging Ed Miliband to rule out a coalition with the SNP after the general election
    • Free TV licences and bus passes for pensioners would stay under a Labour government, Ed Miliband has said, but winter fuel allowances would be taken from better-off pensioners
    • At the Green party conference, leader Natalie Bennett said the poorest in society had been "blamed for the mistakes of the wealthy" and called for a "peaceful political revolution" to end the "failed experiment of austerity"
    • Plaid Cymru demand equal funding for Wales and Scotland in any Westminster coalition talks after the general election in May
    • Researchers at Oxford University estimate the number of migrants settling in England increased by 565,000 in the past three years, with two-thirds coming from other EU countries
    • UKIP leader Nigel Farage says he will "do his best" to avoid personal attacks on his opponents during the general election campaign
    • Drivers in England will get 10 minutes' grace before being fined if they stay too long in council-owned car parking spaces, the government has said
     
  14.  
    15:47: Greens 'idealistic'
    Comres/ITV poll

    The Comres/ITV poll mentioned below also asked respondents the words or phrases they associated with the Greens, UKIP and the Lib Dems.

    The Greens were most likely to be thought of as "idealistic" (41%), UKIP most likely to be seen as "dangerous" (46%) and the Lib Dems most likely to be seen as "middle class" (38%).

     
  15.  
    15:40: Mental health care

    The government is publishing a consultation paper on plans to give people with mental health conditions in England greater control of their care. Ministers promised changes after revelations about abuse at Winterbourne View hospital in Bristol. Care minister Norman Lamb says the changes would put people in charge of their care and promote community support as an alternative to hospital, admitting many families feel "their concerns are ignored".

     
  16.  
    15:33: Plaid Cymru conference
    Leanne Wood

    Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has told her party's spring conference in Caernarfon that she wants income tax powers to be devolved without any referendum. She told party activists: "The Westminster parties have entrenched Wales' funding disadvantage. They should be able to commit to the same funding per head for Wales as Scotland. An additional £1.2 billion for our public services and greater resources to strengthen our country's economic prospects and end Wales' fiscal dependency for once and for all." She also added that her party would create a drugs fund to boost access to new medicines.

     
  17.  
    15:26: Cameron 'cowardice' over debates
    David Cameron MP

    Labourlist has some robust criticism in response to David Cameron's refusal to participate in a head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband: "If he really thought he had a plan, he'd be willing to defend it on whatever TV format he could.

    "His cowardice shows the modern-day Tory party has no heart or soul. It, fundamentally, doesn't know what it stands for."

     
  18.  
    15:19: Ukraine

    The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has warned Russia of tighter sanctions over Ukraine. Speaking during a visit to Poland, Mr Hammond said the European Union was ready to take further measures and the conditions of the Minsk ceasefire agreement must be upheld.

     
  19.  
    15:11: DUP will not seek 'narrow party advantage'
    Peter Robinson

    The DUP has released a statement saying it will not align itself with the main parties to seek narrow advantage in any coalition negotiations - but will focus on delivering for Northern Ireland.

    DUP leader and Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson MLA said: "Our MPs will not be part of any government coalition. We will not be seeking any Cabinet seats or any narrow party political advantage. The DUP will use its influence to further the best interests of Northern Ireland and of the Union. Unlike other parties we are not ideologically tied to any one of the major parties at Westminster but can do business with either the Conservatives or Labour."

     
  20.  
    @MSmithsonPB Mike Smithson
    ComRes/ITV poll

    tweets: ComRes/ITV poll on public reaction to GRN party policies

     
  21.  
    @MichaelPDeacon Michael Deacon, Telegraph sketchwriter

    tweets: ‏THE WAITING IS ALMOST AT AN END. Green Party press officer says Fully Costed Manifesto will be published "towards the end of March"

     
  22.  
    @johnestevens John Stevens, Daily Mail reporter

    tweets: "Visual minuting" of Natalie's speech #greensurge #gpconf

    Green confernce
     
  23.  
    @TotalPolitics Total Politics

    tweets: Weekly polling review: Conservatives pulling ahead?

     
  24.  
    14:48: 'Vote for the party that cares'
    Green conference

    "I say to you very simply, vote for the party that cares", Ms Bennett tells her conference as she brings her speech to an end. "Vote for the common good. Vote for the politics of the future. Vote Green."

     
  25.  
    14:47: 'Change Britain'

    There are people who want to see business as usual, Natalie Bennett says. To counteract them, we need people use their votes, she adds. If we all vote Green, "we can change Britain".

     
  26.  
    ‏@rosschawkins Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Free social care paid for by wealth tax, higher taxes on those earning over 100k, tax avoidance, Robin Hood tax under Green plan

     
  27.  
    14:45: Young 'have it tough'

    Younger generations "have it tough", Ms Bennett says. That's not the fault of their elders, she adds. "We need to look out for each other."

     
  28.  
    ‏@SophyRidgeSky Sophy Ridge, Political correspondent, Sky News

    tweets: Financial transactions tax - "Robin Hood tax" - and more tax on those earning over £150k going down well in hall #GreenSurge

     
  29.  

    A financial transaction tax would be introduced by the Greens and those earning over £100,000 "should pay more, says Ms Bennett.

     
  30.  
    14:43: Care plan 'means jobs'

    Free social care for those over 65 would mean 200,000 new jobs and training places, Ms Bennett says. It will be a core pledge in their manifesto.

     
  31.  
    @rosschawkins 14:43: Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Natalie Bennett wants free social care for over 65s

     
  32.  
    14:42: 'New taxes are needed'

    The Greens will restore equal care for all - that principle should apply to social care too, Green leader Natalie Bennett says. "Those who have the most should contribute most - new taxes are needed."

     
  33.  
    14:41: Remove market from NHS

    That's why I'm delighted to work to introduce an NHS reinstatement bill that removes the market from the NHS, Natalie Bennett says.

     
  34.  
    14:41: Bennett - NHS

    In the NHS, the infiltration of the profit must be reversed, Ms Bennett says. The market "costs us big time", she adds.

     
  35.  
    @LabourList LabourList

    ‏tweets: 12 target seats Labour are worried they might not win because of the Greens labli.st/1KxwLym

     
  36.  
    14:39: Greens: Power and wealth

    The current model of economics and society serves those with power and wealth, says Green leader Natalie Bennett. We must be citizens first and foremost - paying to common funds to look after the old, weak, poor and sick. This is what the politics of the future will look like, she adds.

     
  37.  
    14:38: No Tory deal

    "Just imagine a strong group of Green MPs", Natalie Bennett says. That group would never support a Tory government, she continues. They would have a huge say and could help develop that new politics she has been talking about, she says.

     
  38.  
    14:37: Climate change

    Speaking about climate change, Natalie Bennett says "we have to be up to the task". She says change has to come - the market is short-sighted and short-term. It is blind and senseless and works for the 1%.

     
  39.  
    @jameschappers James Chapman, Daily Mail political editor

    tweets: .@natalieben: "Noone should be worrying about a fracking drill burrowing into the heart of their community". Eh? #gpconf

     
  40.  
    14:36: Food banks

    Almost half jobs since 2010 are for self-employed people, but many of them are living in poverty, Natalie Bennett says. Individual charity isn't a substitute for collective justice, she says of food banks.

     
  41.  
    @rosschawkins Ross Hawkins - BBC political correspondent

    Tweets: Ed M last week "a society that works for all and not just a few"; Bennett today "society that works for the many not just the few"

     
  42.  
    @rosschawkins Ross Hawkins - BBC political correspondent

    Tweets: Bennett words almost identical to Miliband's — society that works for the many not just the few

     
  43.  
    14:35: 'Demand for change is louder'

    Up and down the country campaigns demanding new politics are growing, Natalie Bennett says: "The demand for change is louder and clearer, at last, the people are fighting back."

     
  44.  
    14:34: 'Green surge'

    The Green surge is more than a hashtag or numbers, Natalie Bennett says. It's the result of members' "commitment" and "hard work". The Greens are a "central player" in British politics, she says.

     
  45.  
    14:33: 'Nobody should live in fear'
    Bennett

    Nobody should live in fear of not being able to put food on the table or going into debt to pay for education, Natalie Bennett says. The politics of the future is not the politics of transaction, she says. That is the "old" and "failed" politics.

     
  46.  
    14:29: 'Politics of the future'

    The "politics of the future delivers for everyone" in our one planet, Natalie Bennett adds. "That's the politics of the Green Party."

     
  47.  
    14:28: 'Agents of change'

    "Britain could be a very different country on 8 May", Natalie Bennett tells delegates at the party's conference. The Greens can be the "agents of change" looking to the "politics of the future", she says.

     
  48.  
    14:27: Political revolution

    Natalie Bennett says voters will have the chance at the election to start "a possibility of a peaceful political revolution". People will be able to stop the poor being punished for the mistakes of the wealthy, she says. "We can deliver a Britain which delivers to all people - a Britain which cares", she adds.

     
  49.  
    @SophyRidgeSky Sophy Ridge, Political correspondent, Sky News

    tweets: Punchy speech from Caroline Lucas - now Natalie Bennett needs to make sure she's not upstaged by the warm up act

     
  50.  
    14:26: Natalie Bennett speech
    Natalie Bennett

    Natalie Bennett on her feet at Green conference now. She thanks Caroline Lucas for being "the stand-out MP" in the current Parliament. She's confident she will be in the next Parliament and beyond, too. It's been a momentous year for the party, putting it at the forefront of British politics and making it the third largest in England and Wales.

     
  51.  
    14:25: Politics without austerity

    Caroline Lucas says the party will defend politics without austerity, nuclear power or demonisation of those who need the welfare state or those who come from abroad.

     
  52.  
    @politicshome PoliticsHome

    tweets: .@CarolineLucas says "opposition to austerity" links @theSNP & @TheGreenParty, calling for a "progressive alliance" between the two #gpconf

     
  53.  
    14:24: NHS pledge

    It's the Greens who set the agenda on a number of issues, Caroline Lucas says. She says the party will champion the NHS reinstatement bill - to reverse "marketisation" of the health service.

     
  54.  
    ‏@rosschawkins Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Caroline Lucas supposed to be introducing Natalie Bennett in show of support. Risk she might simply upstage her

     
  55.  
    14:23: 'More MPs'

    "Just imagine what we can do if we elect more MPs", Caroline Lucas says, adding that leader Natalie Bennett is putting the Greens on course to do that.

     
  56.  
    14:22: Progressive alliance

    With the rise of the SNP and Plaid, we have the chance to form a "progressive alliance", Caroline Lucas, the Greens' MP tells the party's conference. They've worked before on their opposition to austerity and after the election, they could do more is her message. If Labour are a minority government, the Greens could stop them pandering to big business, she says, adding: "Support them when they do the right thing, block them when they're wrong".

     
  57.  
    @politicshome PoliticsHome

    tweets: .@CarolineLucas tells Green party activists at the #gpconf that leader @natalieben is doing a "fantastic job"

     
  58.  
    14:18: Caroline Lucas

    On the general election, Caroline Lucas MP says the Greens are challenging from "a position of strength". This election is different, she says because they have something to defend - her seat in Brighton and Pavilion. That victory has given the party a voice in Parliament, to show "you can be a force for good in politics without selling out your principles".

     
  59.  
    14:17: Caroline Lucas tribute

    Paying tribute to Natalie Bennett, Caroline Lucas MP says she is proud to call her a colleague and friend.

     
  60.  
    14:15: Green conference
    Caroline Lucas

    Green Party leader Natalie Bennett is introduced by the party's MP Caroline Lucas. Ms Lucas welcomes the party's new members. She says the party is "truly democratic". "Your votes count as much as mine," she adds.

     
  61.  
    @SophyRidgeSky Sophy Ridge, Political Correspondent, Sky News

    tweets: Love that the live prompter in front of the stage at Green Party conference leaves gaps for applause

     
  62.  
    @MichaelLCrick Michael Crick, political correspondent, Channel 4 News

    tweets: ITV, I'm told, NOT thinking of going it alone & accepting Downing St proposal for 7-person debate. TV cos to unveil united plans very soon

     
  63.  
    14:10: Natalie Bennett speech

    We're just about to get going with Natalie Bennett's speech to the Green Party conference in Liverpool.

     
  64.  
    @BBCEleanorG Eleanor Garnier, BBC correspondent

    tweets: Standing ovation for @natalieben and all she's done is walk onto the stage #GreenParty

     
  65.  
    @anntreneman Ann Treneman, Times sketchwriter

    tweets: It's very green here: now know what it's like inside a mange tout

     
  66.  
    13:57: NHS Bill to be debated
    NHS logo

    The BBC's health editor Hugh Pym reports that draft legislation which would repeal the Health and Social Care Act is to be debated in the Commons next week.

    Green MP Caroline Lucas is to introduce the National Health Service Bill, which attempts to restrict the role of commercial companies in the NHS, as a private members bill next Wednesday.

     
  67.  
    13:48: 'Pity poor Farage' The Independent

    Mark Steels uses his column in today's Independent to express 'sympathy' for Nigel Farage for the supporters his party attracts.

    He writes: "You have to feel for Nigel Farage, because all he set out to do was construct a party around the idea that Britain could only be great again if it won back its independence from meddling foreigners ... and for some reason this party seems to attract a few racists."

     
  68.  
    13:44: Bob Stewart's shock resignation offer Conservative Home

    Iain Dale has described the moment on his live radio show when Conservative MP Bob Stewart threatened to resign over defence spending cuts.

    In his conservativehome column, Mr Dale writes: "I put it to him that it was politicians, not generals, who make defence policy and that, as a member of the Defence Select Committee, perhaps it would be better if he took the lead and led by example. Much to my surprise, he took up the cudgels and said that not only might he resign from the committee but he was thinking of resigning his seat too."

     
  69.  
    13:42: Pickles' parking ticket 'bitterness' BBC Radio 4
    Eric Pickles

    Eric Pickles MP has described his harrowing experience of getting a parking ticket.

    The communities secretary told the World at One he had a ticket in his hand, stopped to speak to someone briefly but by the time he got back to the car he had been given a fine. "It made me a very bitter person and twisted my life," he said.

     
  70.  
    13:39: Greens on cars Eleanor Garnier Political correspondent

    A Green Party press officer has denied the party has ever had a policy to ban cars.

    The Green Party Spring Conference agenda has a section for discussion titled "Removing Our Policy to Ban All Cars". Lower down in the text it says the "current transport policy has a line that would ban almost all currently roadworthy cars" and goes on to add that "this would probably prove unattractive with the electorate".

    But a Green Party press officer said that it had never been party policy and the member who'd put the motion down had used his words cleverly to get his motion to the top of the agenda.

     
  71.  
    13:32: 'No possibility' of SNP deal BBC Radio 4
    Ian Davidson MP

    Scottish Labour are downplaying the prospect of a deal with the SNP.

    Speaking to the World at One immediately after SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie MP - who was far more optimistic - Glasgow MP Ian Davidson said he didn't think there was "any possibility" of a confidence and supply deal with the nationalists.

     
  72.  
    @TimReidBBC Tim Reid, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: [Labour MP Ian] Davidson:"There isn't any possibility of a confidence and supply motion" with SNP #wato

     
  73.  
    13:22: SNP: Trident "not necessarily" a deal breaker BBC Radio 4

    Deputy Leader of the SNP Stewart Hosie says the SNP's position on Trident doesn't "necessarily" rule out a deal with Labour.

    Asked whether disagreement over the issue would prevent a pact with Labour, Mr Hosie told the World at One: "Not necessarily - three quarters of Labour candidates back the SNP's position."

     
  74.  
    13:18: Referendum campaign "free advert" for SNP BBC Radio 4

    Professor and psephologist John Curtice has told the World at One that the independence referendum proved to be a "two-year free advert" for the SNP's vision of Scotland.

    But he added that he SNP's vote is very sensitive and the "tide doesn't have to be reduced by much" for Labour to hang on to its seats. But there is a desperately short time for Labour to turn things around. For the latest of play on the SNP and Labour read this.

     
  75.  
    13:02: Miliband on minimum wage
    Ed Miliband

    Ed Miliband is taking questions from the public, including Labour Party members, in Redcar. He has just said Labour would look at increasing the minimum wage for young people - currently £3.50 an hour for 18 to 20-year-olds - but not by so much that it would "have an effect on young people's employment".

     
  76.  
    Coming up... BBC Radio 4

    The World at One coming up shortly on Radio 4. You can listen via our Live Coverage tab.

     
  77.  
    12:45: Green MEP on alliance Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    Molly Scott Cato

    Molly Scott Cato, the Green MEP, says her party wants a politics that moves beyond austerity - hence support for a "progressive alliance" with the SNP and Plaid Cymru, which could hold the balance power after May's election.

    She says she doesn't know anyone in the party who wants Caroline Lucas to replace Natalie Bennett in the TV debates (if they happen) - both are excellent performers, she adds (bookmakers are offering odds of 2-1 that Lucas will represent the party in any debates).

    The MEP says the party's housing policy - which led to Natalie Bennett's famous "brain fade" in a live LBC radio interview - would cost £19.5bn over the next parliament. The party is "committed to the principle" of the citizen's incomes and will open the figures up for debate soon. She claimed earlier that there was a "great sense of sisterhood" among the Green Party's leaders.

     
  78.  
    12:35: Plaid Cymru leader Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    Leanne Wood

    Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru's leader, admits her party has "some way to go" before Wales has a referendum on independence - "we've got a challenge", she tells Andrew Neil. But she says there is no doubt there is increasing support for more powers.

    Ms Wood, speaking from her party's spring conference in Caernarfon, says she would not prop up a Conservative government after the election. From Labour, she would want a end to "the politics of austerity" and a new devolution deal for Wales. Follow the party's conference here.

     
  79.  
    12:32: English nationalism Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    Robin Tilbrook

    English nationalism is always seen as something negative, unlike Scottish and Welsh nationalisms, says Julia Hartley-Brewer. The panel are discussing the role of the English Democrats with the party's leader Robin Tilbrook, who says he wants England as a single, independent nation - not broken up into constituent parts, but standing alone.

     
  80.  
    @George_Osborne George Osborne

    tweets: 1 month until biggest reforms to pensions in a century come in. Your money, your choice #pensionfreedoms

     
  81.  
    12:30: 'Can't go preaching' on defence Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    We can't "go around preaching" to other NATO countries that they should spend 2% of their GDP on defence and not do it ourselves, says Bob Stewart. But he says he won't resign from the Conservative Party on the issue. Journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown suggests the UK needs a "different kind" of defence.

     
  82.  
    12:21: Miliband's vow to pensioners
    Ed Miliband

    Ed Miliband is in Redcar, on the Yorkshire coast, to set out his offer to pensioners at the general election. "Even in these tough times," he says, "we will strengthen the protection for pensioners." The party would cut the winter fuel allowance for better-off pensioners, but all other benefits, including TV licences for the over 75s and bus passes, would be untouched if Labour wins power. Full details here.

     
  83.  
    @tnewtondunn Tom Newton Dunn, political editor of The Sun

    tweets: I hear ITV contemplating going unilateral and hosting a 7 way debate as per No10 offer, as they have 1st one. Would send BBC/Sky apoplectic.

     
  84.  
    12:14: Bob Stewart on defence Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    Bob Stewart MP

    Colonel Bob Stewart, the Tory MP, says he feels "horror" at the prospect of defence spending falling after the election. The former British Army officer says defence is the first priority, and we are already "down to the bare minimum". He disputes the idea there are no votes in defence, saying the public cares about the issue. Debate is raging in the Conservative Party over whether defence spending should be ring fenced at 2% of GDP.

     
  85.  
    12:08: 'Everything to play for' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    Daily Politics

    On the subject of a possible Labour/SNP deal after the election, journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says Ed Miliband should not rule out a possible pact - it would "be a mistake", she thinks. Julia Hartley-Brewer agrees - "everything is to play for", but Mr Miliband should set out what his red lines are and what deals he might do.

    But is it a nationalist trap to facilitate the break-up of the UK? "One should not be automatically suspicious" says Alibhai-Brown. Nicola Sturgeon is different from Alex Salmond, she adds, praising the SNP leader as "very appealing" (and as having "beautiful nails").

     
  86.  
    @bbc5live BBC Radio 5 live

    tweets: Just how crumbly is the Palace of Westminster?

    @JPonpolitics went through the keyhole

     
  87.  
    11:55: Tories on Labour/SNP

    Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps has been speaking about a potential Labour/SNP deal after the election. He says such a deal would "mean more debt than our children could ever hope to repay, higher taxes on hardworking people and economic chaos for our country."

    He adds: "Ed Miliband and the SNP have signed the pre-nup and are now half-way up the aisle.

    "Day after day, vote after vote in Parliament, Ed Miliband would be forced to negotiate with Alex Salmond - the man who tried to break up Britain - about how to run Britain."

     
  88.  
    11:51: Democrats 'flying the flag' BBC News Channel
    Robin Tilbrook

    Robin Tilbrook of the English Democrats has been speaking about the difference between his party and UKIP. Asked whether his policies are the same as Nigel Farage's party he said he "didn't know about that" and described Mr Farage as having torn up his own party's manifesto in a "fit of pique".

    Mr Tilbrook went on to set out the English Democrats' hopes for the election: "I don't think we will win a seat to be fair, we're not aiming to do that what we are aiming to do is to fly the flag for England."

     
  89.  
    11:43: Major "embarrassing" Labour
    Stewart Hosie at party conference

    Stewart Hosie MP has labelled John Major's comments on a potential Labour/SNP deal after the election as "embarrassing" for Labour.

    The SNP Deputy leader said in a statement: "For a former Tory prime minister to tell Labour what to do on the eve of their conference in Scotland is hugely embarrassing for Jim Murphy.

    "John Major wants the Tories to be re-elected in May, and therefore he wants Labour to rule out an agreement with the SNP, because that would stop the Tories. There are no circumstances in which the SNP would put the Tories into government - the question is if Labour have the same commitment, with a number of senior Labour figures promoting voting Tory in Scotland, and even the idea of a 'grand alliance' between the Tories and Labour.

    "A strong team of SNP MPs elected in May means a powerful voice for Scotland - and that is really what the Westminster establishment, Labour and Tory, are really scared of."

     
  90.  
    11:35: Greens gunning for Bristol West BBC News Channel
    Molly Scott Cato

    Green MEP Molly Scott Cato has just been setting the Greens' electoral ambitions. She told the BBC's Eleanor Garnier electoral success would mean holding former leader Caroline Lucas's Brighton Pavillion seat and gaining Bristol West

    She said the now notorious Natalie Bennett LBC interview was just a case of the leader having an "off day", which no one outside Westminster is talking about. And she suggested the media now moves on.

     
  91.  
    11:27: Games fail

    Another politician has been caught playing on their tablet during a meeting. Lib Dem councillor Martin Elengorn was snapped by a Tory rival playing a sneaky game of Scrabble during a town hall meeting in Richmond, South London, reports the Evening Standard. The incident has put him off the game for life, apparently.

     
  92.  
    11:20: Labour 'at war' over resources The Scotsman

    According to today's Scotsman, there is a row in Scottish Labour over where to concentrate resources ahead of the election. The paper says several MPs have "demanded" the party gives up on trying to save the west of Scotland, with one even saying they should abandon Glasgow - previously a hot bed of Labour support, but which voted in favour of independence at the referendum. This comes after a poll suggested Labour could lose most of its seat north of the border. More here.

     
  93.  
    11:11: Sing-a-long-a-UKIP You Tube

    For those looking for something to make their Friday lunchtime go with a swing, here's UKIP candidate for Stockton Mandy Boylett singing her cover version of Abba's Chiquitita, with rewritten lyrics tackling the government's record on immigration and criticising her electoral opponent, Labour MP Alex Cunningham.

    All together now...

     
  94.  
    @TheGreenParty The Green Party

    tweets: .@TheGreenParty welcomes over 1,300 attendees to @ACCLiverpool for the Party's largest ever Conference. #gpconf

    AND

    tweets: .@TheGreenParty membership stands at almost 56,000 #gpconf #GreenSurge

     
  95.  
    11:02: Immigration-led cuts in services The Daily Telegraph

    More on immigration, with the Telegraph reporting that population increases fuelled by immigration have helped to contribute to cuts of almost 50 per cent cut in council services in parts of the country.

    The paper cites IFS analysis that shows councils which had big influxes of immigrants were among those hit the hardest by cuts to local authority budgets.

     
  96.  
    @LBC LBC

    tweets: Nigel Farage's response to the woman who called him the Messiah is hilarious!

     
  97.  
    10:46: Lab/SNP pact would 'save' union

    Amid all the calls for Ed Miliband to rule out a coalition with the SNP, an alternative take on politics.co.uk. The piece argues that ignoring SNP electoral success would push Westminster further from Scotland, whereas Ed Miliband and Sturgeon arm-in-arm would send a powerful "better together" message.

     
  98.  
    @Plaid_Cymru Plaid Cymru

    tweets: "The vision I've got for Wales is one where no individual is left behind & more autonomy is how we can achieve that" Leanne tells students

     
  99.  
    10:29: SNP 'hurts Labour'
    Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy MP and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon MSP

    More comment on a possible Labour/SNP coalition from Phil Collins in today's Times (subscription required).

    He writes: "Give or take a few Lib Dem seats, the rise and fall of the SNP and Labour is a zero-sum game. The SNP hurts Labour and benefits the Conservatives. This is a split in the left that will surpass the damage that UKIP can do to the Conservatives south of the border."

    He calls for Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy to, therefore, rule out a coalition with the SNP.

     
  100.  
    10:23: Labour to set out pensioner offer
    Labour leader Ed Miliband MP

    Ed Miliband is to set out his party's offer to pensioners at a campaign event in Yorkshire later today.

    The Labour leader will pledge to maintain the 'triple lock' on the state pension and guarantee free bus passes and free TV licences to all those currently eligible. But he will say he will take away winter fuel payments from the richest five per cent of pensioners.

    More here.

     

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