Row over call to give more tax powers to English cities

Manchester Piccadilly gardens Manchester is among the cities that would get more tax powers under the proposals

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Boris Johnson has backed calls by a group of MPs to give English cities more control over tax money.

Leaders of cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and London should have the same power as politicians in Scotland and Wales, the local government committee said in a report.

The London mayor said ministers "could not ignore" the "excellent" findings.

But the government rejected it as "blinkered" and said its proposals would drive up taxes and destroy jobs.

All the main parties have said they want to grant more power and autonomy to the English regions in an attempt to end the dominance of London over the British economy and create more jobs.

The government has handed some control over the money raised by business rates - currently sent to the Treasury for distribution - to local authorities.

'Framework for devolution'

Labour has also pledged to give some local authorities more control over spending - and has said it would encourage councils to band together to form region-wide "economic powerhouses" to push through big infrastructure projects and boost investment.

But the select committee is calling for a "framework for devolution" that would gradually see all local authorities given power over business rates, stamp duty, council tax and other smaller taxes and charges.

Committee chairman, Labour MP Clive Betts, said: "If the citizens of New York, Frankfurt and Tokyo can be trusted with tax-raising powers, why not the people of London, Greater Manchester or the North East?

Boris Johnson

"Local areas know best how to stimulate their economies. With a wider range of revenue streams at their disposal, they would be able to invest in infrastructure and projects that mattered locally - without having to rely on or wait for handouts from central government.

"Local people would then reap the rewards through increased tax take, which could be reinvested in their areas. In the same vein, if local politicians failed to deliver, they wouldn't be able to hide behind Whitehall and Eric Pickles."

'Concentrating power'

Boris Johnson said "there was now growing and welcome cross-party consensus that recognises the economic benefits of giving greater control of taxes raised in English cities back to those cities, which is very difficult for the Treasury to ignore".

"The modest reforms that I and others have been campaigning for and that are endorsed in this report, would provide England's cities with the means, incentives and crucially the stability of funding to deliver much needed jobs, growth and infrastructure," added the London mayor.

Local Government Association (LGA) chairman David Sparks said there needed to be "a new constitutional settlement" for the English regions to define what local government should do and what should be left to Whitehall.

But Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis rejected the report's findings.

"We disagree with the calls in this report for higher council tax, higher parking charges, higher business rates and new hotel taxes. There is no public appetite for a barrage of new stealth taxes on hard-working people and local firms, which would force up the cost of living and destroy jobs," said the Conservative minister.

"This government has devolved down funding and powers down to local communities, from housing finance to business rates, whilst avoiding higher taxes.

"Contrary to this report's blinkered view in concentrating power in the most distant and unaccountable tiers of municipal authority, we believe in devolving power down to the lowest appropriate - to councils, neighbourhoods and most importantly, direct to local taxpayers."

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    David Cameron

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  9.  
    12:14: Breaking News

    David Cameron says he wants there to be a TV debate. He says that rather than trying to avoid a debate, he is trying to "unblock the logjam" that the "broadcasters helped to create", so "let's get on, let's have the debate that matters the most". By putting this proposal forward, he says, "we'll actually see one take place".

     
  10.  
    12:11: Shapps on debates Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    Grant Shapps

    Grant Shapps says the approach to debates has been messy. The debates at the last election sucked the life out of the campaign, he adds. There is still no clear sense of what broadcasters want, the Tory chairman adds.

     
  11.  
    12:09: 'Chaos and confusion' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, says there has been "chaos and confusion" over TV debates. He says "lots of people" haven't accepted the proposals.

     
  12.  
    12:05: Ed Miliband on Scotland

    During his earlier interview Mr Miliband was also asked about Scotland and polling which shows his party could lose a number of previously safe seats. The Labour leader said "the fight is on" in Scotland. He added: "I hope people who want to see the back of the Conservatives in Scotland will vote Labour."

     
  13.  
    12:04: Scottish FMQs

    In Scotland, First Minister's questions is under way. Follow it here.

     
  14.  
    11:53: Miliband: Cameron 'running away'
    Ed Miliband

    A bit more from Ed Miliband. He says it is "clear David Cameron is ducking the [head-to-head] debate". He adds: "He should stop ducking and weaving and name the date".

    Mr Miliband says he will take part in the seven leader debate, but continues: "We also need the debate between me and David Cameron". He says he is open to debate the prime minister at any time, in any place. And he adds that the public will no tolerate Mr Cameron "running away".

    On the possibility of a one-on-one debate with Nick Clegg, as suggested by Lord Ashdown, Mr Miliband says it is up to broadcasters.

     
  15.  
    11:47: Breaking News

    Ed Miliband has accused David Cameron of "cowering from the public" over the TV debates. The Labour leader says the British public "deserves" the debate. Mr Miliband says he is ready to debate "any time, any place, anywhere - he should stop ducking and weaving".

     
  16.  
    @BBCNormanS Norman Smith, BBC assistant political editor

    tweets: Ed Miliband accuses PM of "cowering from the public" over #tvdebates

     
  17.  
    Get involved 11:39: Politics Live readers on the TV debates

    Some more comments from Politics Live readers on the TV debates

    No meaningful mass media debate between the main party leaders? Just another example of politicians' disrespect for the population at large. They all think that the ONLY moment of accountability is at the ballot box and violently object to any other forum (unless it`s in their own particular interest).

    John Hyland

    Am I the only one who would be thankful if no debates took place at all? Televised Punch and Judy Politics can be seen every day on the news and in particular at Wednesday's Prime Ministers Questions. This is not informative nor even remotely entertaining.

    David Parker

    The problem is, the Conservative party have backed themselves into a corner. They have been banging on for the last few years how weak a candidate Ed Miliband has been and it's come back to haunt them.

    Expectations of Ed are so low, even an even debate would be a landslide victory for the Labour Party. From the Conservative point of view, it doesn't really make sense to give Labour the platform, where the best they could do is break even.

    Nicholas Williams

    It seems unlikely that any of the party leaders will win a majority in May. They are going to have to work together for the common good of an electorate tired of their silly and destructive adversarial politics.

    Let's make a reality TV show instead. It might be interesting if all the party leaders were shut in a plush stately home with plenty of TV cameras and given a task or do - agree a plan to build an environmentally sustainable economy in the UK would be a good one. There are many more tasks like that to be tackled.

    It would be tempting to make them stay in there until they agreed. In the real world we all need politicians to work together for the common good - something else they would have to agree on.

    It might even make good television. It is what Parliament needs to become after 7 May.

    Simon Court

     
  18.  
    @daily_politics BBC Daily Politics

    tweets: 'Britain now gives away an eye-watering £12bn a year' in foreign aid, says @StanburySteven in his film for Thu #bbcdp

     
  19.  
    11:37: TV debates: Lessons from history Brian Wheeler Political reporter
    John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960

    Nothing gets TV executives salivating - and political leaders quaking - like a live televised debate. Beneath the glare of the studio lights, a politician is at his most exposed. One stumble, a flash of anger, an inappropriate joke, a memory lapse or just a failure to bring your "A Game", and the whole shooting match can be over. The fate of nations sometimes hang in the balance. But the lessons are still there to be learned....

     
  20.  
    11:33: Where do we stand on the TV debates?

    Here's what the main players are saying:

    • David Cameron will only take part in one debate, his communications chief Craig Oliver has said. That debate must feature at least seven leaders and must be held this month. Mr Craig also criticised the "deeply unsatisfactory process" of organising the debates
    • Labour aren't happy. Alastair Campbell has accused Mr Cameron of making "pathetic excuses" to avoid the debates, which he says the prime minister is scared of losing
    • Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has offered to take Mr Cameron's place in the one-on-one debates. He says he would be happy to defend the government's record
    • But Lucy Powell, vice chair of Labour's election campaign, says the head-to-head should be between those who could be prime minister after 7 May
    • SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon says the prime minister is "clearly running scared of having to answer for his government's record of failure and incompetence"
    • A UKIP spokesman says Mr Cameron is "acting chicken"
    • Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood says Mr Cameron's behaviour is "unacceptable and arrogant"
    • The Democratic Unionist Party says broadcaster have made a "complete and utter mess" of plans to hold the debates
    • Publically, the broadcasters have said very little. But privately, they seem determined not to buckle, says our assistant political editor Norman Smith
     
  21.  
    11:27: No 10's briefing for political reporters Ben Wright Political correspondent, BBC News

    On TV debates the PM's spokesman referred all questions back to Director of Communications Craig Oliver's letter of last night. Asked if David Cameron was running scared the spokesman said "that is not a premise I would accept".

     
  22.  
    11:23: Shapps on Daily Politics Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

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  23.  
    11:05: Hague on debates
    William Hague

    William Hague has told MPs that the Prime Minister's offer for a television debate should be taken up. Speaking in the Commons this morning he said: "When I recall asking Tony Blair when I was leader of the opposition in 2001 for a television debate there was not even an offer of a debate from Tony, not even the pretence of a debate, there was a very clear 'no debate whatsoever'. And this prime minister is offering a debate and that is an offer that should be taken up that was never offered by Tony Blair in similar circumstances."

     
  24.  
    @patrickwintour Patrick Wintour, Guardian political editor

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  25.  
    @OfficeGSBrown Gordon and Sarah Brown office

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  26.  
    10:50: Expert view: Are debates dead? Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    So are the debates dead? Well, maybe not. But only if the broadcasters hold their nerve. In other words if they decide to press ahead with the three debates and empty chair the prime minister. It would be a huge decision - and many at Westminster remain sceptical that the BBC would be willing to do this.

    However, privately, the broadcasters' insist they will not buckle and will not allow one party to "dictate" the conditions. They insist the single 90 minute seven, or even eight party, debate proposed by the prime minister will "not cover the ground". And crucially, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats say they will still turn up for whatever debates the broadcasters' decide to hold. Ed Miliband will even take part in the head-to-head without David Cameron - and subject himself to a grilling from Jeremy Paxman. Senior Lib Dems say Nick Clegg would be ready to stand in for the prime minister in the final head-to-head, making it a Miliband v Clegg clash.

    The danger for the prime minister is that even if the debates lose their impact without him - he risks a backlash from voters for failing to take part. Downing Street's hope - that the broadcasters will buckle and either agree to his proposal or just scrap the whole idea of TV debates for this election.

     
  27.  
    10:46: Harvey Proctor

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  28.  
    10:41: Electoral reform society on debates

    Reaction to David Cameron's TV debate decision is coming in thick and fast. Electoral Reform Society Chief Executive Katie Ghose says: "This unseemly squabble over TV debates has to end now. In the run-up to an election that's too close to call, the British public expect to hear from all the party leaders. Everyone involved needs to recognise that fact and come to an agreement before it's too late.

    "Compared to other advanced democracies around the world, Britain has been extremely late to the party when it comes to TV debates. It would be a national embarrassment if we end up being the first to leave that party as well. No TV debates in 2015 would be a backward step in terms of our democratic development."

     
  29.  
    10:40: DUP on TV debates

    The Democratic Unionist Party says broadcasters have made a "complete and utter mess" of plans to hold pre-election TV debates. The party has begun legal action against the BBC for excluding it from its earlier proposal of two UK TV debates. Today, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster that the BBC and other broadcasters had "messed up big style" during the entire debates process.

     
  30.  
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  31.  
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  32.  
    10:30: Plaid Cymru on debates
    Leanne Wood

    Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood says she is "ready to debate the prime minister and the other party leaders at any time".

    She adds: "People want these debates to go ahead so that they have the opportunity to hear from the parties that they will be voting for in May. Plaid Cymru is ready for these debates and we look forward to setting out our plans for an alternative to Westminster's austerity agenda. The prime minister's efforts to manipulate the broadcasters are unacceptable and arrogant and it would seem that he is running scared of his record being open to scrutiny."

     
  33.  
    10:25: TV debates: A broadcaster's view BBC News Channel

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  34.  
    10:13: Scottish polling reaction
    Andrew Morrison and James Cook

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  35.  
    10:12: 'Cameron running scared' BBC News Channel

    The British public wants to see the TV debates, according to Labour's Lucy Powell. She says Ed Miliband debating Nick Clegg head-to-head, as suggested earlier by Lord Ashdown and the Liberal Democrat leader, is not the table at the moment. The debate should be between those who could be prime minister after the election and says David Cameron is "running scared".

     
  36.  
    10:11: Your say

    Some more of your views on the TV debates

    David Cameron gives Ed Miliband a thumping (metaphorically) every Wednesday at PMQs - I don't think for a minute that he's running scared or has anything to prove.

    D.Williams

    Politicians are there to serve us, not vice versa and television is a great medium to reach millions across the country, allowing us to hear how they propose to do that and get a measure of their leadership qualities.

    Garan Jenkin

    If Cameron can't be bothered to turn up for debates (plural) then I can't be bothered to turn out and vote.

    Colin Smale

    A pointless exercise overhyped by journalists with nothing better to do. The politicians will tell us what they think we want to hear. Far better to judge them on what they have done over the lat few years. Parliamentary question time is a disgrace by all parties

    Rob Whitrow

     
  37.  
    10:09: Alastair Campbell on debates BBC News Channel
    Campbell

    David Cameron is investing "pathetic excuses" over the TV debates, Alastair Campbell says. He is worried out losing them, and that is why he is not taking part, Tony Blair's former director of communications says. And it is an insult to the British people not to give them a chance to see a one-on-one debate, he adds.

    He admits he was "sceptical" of Tony Blair taking part in the debates previously, but the precedent has now been set, he says.

     
  38.  
    @LordAshcroft Lord Ashcroft, pollster

    tweets: Factors in voters' decisions between Con and Lab and how they've moved. Cons need points top right, Lab top left:

    Ashcroft tweets
     
  39.  
    09:51: Transport questions House of Commons Parliament

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  40.  
    09:50: Clegg on UKIP Call Clegg
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  41.  
    09:48: Clegg on spending Call Clegg

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  42.  
    09:47: Tony Blair donation

    A bit more on Tony Blair's decision to donate £106,000 in total to Labour candidates fighting the election. In a letter to candidates in key seats, the former PM says: "I know how hard it can be to raise money to fund a local campaign, but for you, in one of our 106 battleground seats, it is even more vital. This is where the election will be won for Labour and that is why I am making a donation to all 106 campaigns."

     
  43.  
    09:38: TV debates latest
    Leaders

    Here's our latest story on the TV debates, leading off with David Cameron's political opponents accusing him of running scared.

     
  44.  
    09:35: Clegg on eurostar Call Clegg

    Nick Clegg tells LBC the sale of Eurostar was a good deal and good value for the taxpayer. He says the state is not simply there to manage transport companies. But he says infrastructure - particularly HS2 - carries many benefits for the country. The line "is something which is long long long overdue", the deputy prime minister adds.

     
  45.  
    @AlexForsythBBC Alex Forsyth, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: So @David_Cameron seems to have unified political parties from across the spectrum in their response to his position on #debates

     
  46.  
    09:25: Clegg on drugs policy Call Clegg

    Meanwhile, over on LBC's Call Clegg phone-in, the deputy PM is talking about drug laws. Mr Clegg says the full force of the criminal justice system should be focussed on those criminals and gags who peddle illegal drugs and "profit from misery" of addiction. The comments come after news that the Liberal Democrats' manifesto will include a pledge to hand drugs policy from the Home Office to the Department of Health.

    The system at the moment "just doesn't make sense", Mr Clegg says, but adds that drugs will still remain illegal and there will still be civil penalties for users.

     
  47.  
    09:22: Nicola Sturgeon on debates
    Nicola Sturgeon

    SNP leader of Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon is the latest politician to criticise David Cameron over his refusal to take part in more than one TV debate. She says he is "clearly running scared of having to answer for his government's record of failure and incompetence - and this arrogance in trying to lay down the law is all about getting out of debates, not taking part".

    "I will debate him anytime, anywhere, on any number of occasions. However we have accepted the broadcasters' proposals, and believe we should stick with that, rather than allow a Tory Prime Minister to dictate the terms of debate."

     
  48.  
    09:13: Deputy PM on debates Call Clegg

    Nick Clegg has told LBC he is prepared to stand up and defend the government in the TV debates if David Cameron doesn't take part. The deputy prime minister says he is "about the only person who is prepared to step up to the plate and actually defend the record of this government."

     
  49.  
    09:06: 'Down to the broadcasters ' Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    It all hinges on what the broadcasters do now. At the moment, they are saying nothing in public. But privately, they seem determined to tough this out.

     
  50.  
    09:05: Labour's Scottish challenge
    Ballot box

    There are other political stories today, even if the debate row is drowning out coverage. Prof John Curtice has been speaking to BBC Scotland about Labour's prospects north of the border at the election. He said there may be tough times ahead for the party after new polling by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft suggested big gains for the SNP at May's election.

     
  51.  
    @xtophercook Chris Cook, Newsnight policy editor

    tweets: I don't get why CCHQ doesn't just say "Last time, we think the debates were a distraction and we would rather run a traditional campaign"

     
  52.  
    09:03: Your say

    Politics Live readers on TV debates

    Mr Cameron, in effect, is the CEO of the United Kingdom. His duty is to abide by what the electorate requests or risk losing power, he has already lost face. He doesn't want to stand in front of his company's employees and explain his failures.

    Chris

    Either David Cameron or Ed Miliband will be obliged to form a (probably minority) government on 8th May so why is Cameron running scared of a 1 to 1 debate with Miliband?

    ... The public want to see an old fashioned 1 to 1 between the 2 potential Prime Ministers and if it doesn't happen it will be David Cameron's fault.

    Andy Kirkland

    If the conservatives think Ed Miliband is so weak why is David Cameron not willing to go head to head with him?

    Pat Pierce.

    Cameron is always going on about the achievements of this Government, how at all costs the good work being done should continue and not change course, the long term etc. If he speaks so passionately about this and how anything else would be utter chaos and doom, and he wants people to vote Tory, why does he not go all out in TV debate with Miliband and pull opposition apart and vice versa, so the voters get to see a real debate.

    K.Pearce

     
  53.  
    @IsabelHardman Isabel Hardman, assistant editor at The Spectator

    tweets: Tory MPs are in a mutinous mood over defence spending, dismissed as having "no votes". Me in today's Times

     
  54.  
    08:47: 'Thatcher would have debated' BBC News Channel

    Lord Ashdown tells the BBC he can't imagine Margaret Thatcher refusing to take part in debates - he says David Cameron's decision is "unbelievable". The former Lib Dem leader adds that broadcasters should go ahead with their plans and "empty-chair" the prime minister if needs be.

     
  55.  
    08:46: Greens on TV debates
    Nathalie Bennett

    The Green Party has just released a statement on the TV debate row: "This swerve by Cameron will further damage trust in our political system. Not only is Cameron's announcement cowardly but it also shows his contempt for the electorate.

    "People want to see a set of debates between all major party leaders, yet the Prime Minister is clearly scared of scrutiny.

    "Natalie is very much looking forward to debating with the other 6 party leaders. David Cameron must not be allowed to scupper these plans."

     
  56.  
    @jimwaterson Jim Waterson, BuzzFeed UK deputy editor

    tweets: Happy to host a seven-way leaders' debate over Twitter group DMs at a time that suits the parties.

     
  57.  
    08:40: What's happened so far?

    It's been a busy morning in Westminster. Here's a quick recap for those of you heading to work or just arriving at the office:

    There's bound to be plenty more to come. We'll bring you all the latest news and analysis. Don't forget to let us know your views; emails is politics@bbc.co.uk or tweet @bbcpolitics.

     
  58.  
    @kayburley Kay Burley, Sky News presenter

    tweets: So @campbellclaret says he's been prepping @Ed_Miliband for #TVdebates by 'playing David Cameron' Now there's a thought...

     
  59.  
    08:27: Harvey Proctor BBC Radio 4 Today

    "The police wish to interview me", Mr Proctor says. He wants it to happen "at the earliest opportunity", he adds.

     
  60.  
    08:25: Harvey Proctor BBC Radio 4 Today

    Harvey Proctor says he was a discreet man and he would not have discussed his sexuality with senior colleagues in the Commons. He tells Today he did not know about alleged sex abuse. He says he is "sure" some of the allegations are true, but others are not.

     
  61.  
    08:24: Harvey Proctor on claims BBC Radio 4 Today

    Former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor is speaking to Today after his house was searched by police. The police have told him they are investigating historical sex abuse allegations going back to 1970s and 1980s, he says. The offences he committed in the past would no longer be offences - they related to the age of consent, he adds. He denies ever attending sex parties of being part of any "rent boy ring" with high profile figures.

     
  62.  
    08:21: Debate fallout BBC Radio 5 live
    Lord Carlile

    Reaction to the debates row is pouring in. This is from Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile:

    "I think we should found our debates on the system we've got, upon a credible approach and treating the public as intelligent people and the Prime Minister I'm afraid is running scared from it because he knows how well Nick Clegg did at the last election so he doesn't want him in the debates."

    On plans for a seven-party debate, he adds: "I most certainly will not be watching a bun fight of that kind because I think it will be extremely uninformative. I think the public should be treated with respect in this controversy and the public expect that this will be resolved on the basis of the election system we have, like it or not."

     
  63.  
    08:19: Lord Ashdown on debates BBC Radio 4 Today

    The biggest losers from this are the British people, says Lord Ashdown. He accuses the prime minister of "cowardice" and suggests the debates could become a right for the British people.

     
  64.  
    08:16: Lord Ashdown on debates BBC Radio 4 Today

    Lord Ashdown asks "why on earth" should David Cameron be allowed to "veto" debates? He says the Lib Dems will take part in whatever debates take place. He says Nick Clegg will be happy to debate Ed Miliband on the government's record if Mr Cameron won't.

     
  65.  
    08:15: Lord Ashdown on debates BBC Radio 4 Today
    Lord Ashdown

    Lord Ashdown, chairman of Liberal Democrats election campaign, says David Cameron is frightened of "defending his own position" during the TV debates. The peer says what the prime minister is proposing is "ludicrous" and highlights it would come out before the Conservative election is published.

     
  66.  
    @georgegalloway George Galloway, MP

    tweets: How pathetic must a PM be that he is "frit" to debate with Ed Miliband....?

     
  67.  
    Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    tweets: Ed Miliband met BBC boss Tony Hall last night to urge broadcasters to stand firm over #tvdebates

     
  68.  
    @tnewtondunn Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun political editor

    tweets: "Cameron accused of running scared on TV debates..." is the headline on BBC bulletins, who stand to lose out considerably by No10's offer.

     
  69.  
    08:07: Devolution for Cornwall
    Cornwall flag

    The Liberal Democrats want to offer the people of Cornwall a legislative assembly with powers to run local services. The option of a Cornish Assembly would be put to a referendum under the party's plans. Nick Clegg - who is in Cornwall today - says the reform would mean housing, healthcare and transport decisions were taken locally.

     
  70.  
    07:58: 'Rule out SNP pact'
    Scottish Labour

    The Scotsman reports this morning that Labour's Scottish MPs are demanding a deal with the SNP is ruled out before the election. The newspaper says the call came yesterday at a weekly meeting of party MPs from north of the border. There were "no dissenting voices" when the issue was raised by Edinburgh MP Ian Murray, the report adds.

     
  71.  
    07:50: Former MP's home searched

    The home of Harvey Proctor, the former Conservative MP who left Parliament in the 1980s, has been searched by police investigating historical allegations of child abuse and murder or manslaughter. Our home affairs correspondent Tom Symonds says the move is part of Operation Midland, launched after a man in his forties alleged he was abused by a group of "prominent individuals" in the 1970s and 1980s.

     
  72.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: If parties invited to debates insist they happen & broadcasters stand by plan to press on whoever turns up, this will be an almighty scrap

     
  73.  
    07:39: Blair Labour donation
    Blair

    The Times is reporting this morning that former prime minister Tony Blair has donated £106,000 to Labour candidates around the UK. The money, from Mr Blair's private fortune, will be divided between 106 of Labour's target seats, the newspaper says.

     
  74.  
    07:32: Your say

    A selection of comments from Politics Live readers on the TV debates

    Rather than what broadcasters or what political parties want regarding debates, what about what the electorate wants?

    The debates at the last election and the Scottish referendum debates were widely watched and helped reconnect the public with the political process. They took leaders out of their ivory towers and made them more accountable to the people they are supposed to lead.

    Cameron refusing to take part in debates shows his contempt for this process and a fear of public scrutiny. I really think the Tories have made a major error of judgement here, the electorate will not be gentle.

    Ged Roddam

    The prime minister has stated he only wants one debate. It is not the broadcasters who should pressurise otherwise. They need to respect his position on this, as do the other parties who are name calling.

    Broadcasters would not be pressurising the CEO of a large company on how to run their business...

    Sara Brewer

    Do you agree? Email is politics@bbc.co.uk with your views.

     
  75.  
    @rosschawkins Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Lib Dem view on debates is they'll do them even if not happy about format. Will broadcasters - as they've suggested - go ahead without PM?

     
  76.  
    @PickardJE Jim Pickard, Financial Times

    tweets: Alastair Campbell is outraged by Cameron wriggling from TV debates. Reminded he blocked Blair from doing so in 1997 he tells #today: "True."

     
  77.  
    07:22: One man debate? BBC Radio 4 Today

    Asked if Ed Miliband should offer to take part in a debate alone, Alastair Campbell says it's a "tactical judgement", but Mr Miliband should "probably" press ahead without David Cameron. It's the interest of both the Labour Party and the country as a whole that an Ed Miliband v David Cameron takes place, Mr Campbell adds.

     
  78.  
    @Kevin_Maguire Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror associate editor

    tweets: TV election debates are important in principle. If we adopt a written constitution, put them in alongside secret ballots and spending caps

     
  79.  
    07:15: Campbell on TV debates BBC Radio 4 Today

    Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former director of communications, says David Cameron's decision to only take part in one TV debate is "democratically wrong and morally cowardly". He says Mr Cameron should be honest about why he doesn't want to take part - "he just doesn't want to do them", Mr Campbell says.

     
  80.  
    07:11: One-on-one debate? Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Is it possible for a "one-on-one" debate to go ahead with just one person? Labour thinks so, our political correspondent reports. The party will insist the plan is credible and could lead to Ed Miliband taking part in a debate with a presenter.

    "If that were to happen, David Cameron would be pursued by a man in a chicken costume throughout the campaign, I'm certain of that", our correspondent adds.

     
  81.  
    07:06: Telegraph on debates The Daily Telegraph

    The Telegraph has penned an editorial which says the televised discussions are good for democracy. The paper argues the debates would "inject some much-needed spontaneity and excitement into the stage-managed, safety-first election campaigning". The piece says broadcasters now need to work together to make sure "some sort of debate" does take place.

     
  82.  
    Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    tweets: Labour say Ed Miliband will still take part in Ch4//Sky head to head debate without the PM

     
  83.  
    @NickyMorgan01 Nicky Morgan, minister for women

    tweets: Looking forward to today's #CWIB2015. Bringing together ambitious business women for masterclasses and mentoring. #womensday

     
  84.  
    06:55: 'Move Parliament to Manchester' The Guardian

    Earlier this week, we reported Commons Speaker John Bercow saying the Houses of Parliament may have to be "abandoned" within 20 years without extensive repair work. There have been a number of suggestions on possible alternatives. Today, Simon Jenkins writes in the Guardian that Parliament should be moved to Manchester, arguing it would be good for democracy.

     
  85.  
    06:51: Broadcasters 'pressing ahead' Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    "Talking to some of those involved last night, my impression at the moment, is the broadcasters are intent on toughing this one out... They do not think that one 90-minute debate involving eight parties in the next fortnight or so is acceptable. They do not think it is acceptable one party should have the power to veto what goes ahead. As things stand they are intent on pressing ahead with the debates as currently scheduled."

     
  86.  
    06:42: Cameron's debate plans Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    Our correspondent has been analysing last night's big debate news.

    The effect is to swing a huge wrecking ball in the direction of the broadcasters' plans for these TV debates, he says. It may demolish all hopes for a debate to be held, or may leave one "paltry" 90-minute debate later this month.

    The clear view of Downing Street is that this is the fault of broadcasters, who they accuse of coming forward with proposals without consultation, to a timetable that was never going to be acceptable, and of failing to get the parties to get together for meaningful negotiations, our correspondent says.

     
  87.  
    06:39: TV debate reaction
    HuffPo

    There is plenty of reaction around to Downing Street's one-debate proposal. Including this, which leaves little doubt as to where the Huffington Post stands on the issue.

     
  88.  
    06:30: Scotland Ashcroft poll

    In other political news you may have missed from last night, a poll suggested the SNP could win Gordon Brown's seat - Kircaldy and Cowdenbeath - at the election in May. The poll by Lord Ashcroft also suggested Charles Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader, could also lose his seat to the nationalists. It's the latest polling which suggests the SNP could make significant gains on 7 May.

     
  89.  
    06:25: The papers
    Daily Telegraph front page - 05/03/15

    Downing Street's announcement that the prime minister will only take part in one TV debate ahead of the election features in several papers, with The Daily Telegraph describing it as an "ultimatum" to broadcasters. The BBC's Alex Kleiderman has the full round-up of the nationals here.

     
  90.  
    06:20: Child benefit changes? BBC Newsnight BBC Two, 22:30

    The BBC has learned the Conservatives are considering limiting child benefit to three children. As Newsnight reported last night, the Treasury has "softened" to the idea, which could save an estimated £300m a year.

     
  91.  
    06:15: Debate bombshell
    Leaders

    In case you missed it, there was a significant development last night on the TV leaders debates, after Downing Street wrote to broadcasters to make a "final offer" of only one debate with seven, possibly eight, leaders. Other parties criticised the PM, accusing him of "acting like a chicken" and the broadcasters have said they will respond to the proposal in due course. Expect more reaction on this story this morning.

     
  92.  
    06:10: Good morning

    Hello and welcome to a fresh Thursday's political coverage. Nick Eardley and Matthew Davis will bring you all the action, reaction and analysis in text and you'll be able to watch and listen to all the main BBC political programmes, from Today and Breakfast through to Newsnight and Today in Parliament. Don't forget you can get in touch by emailing politics@bbc.co.uk or via social media @bbcpolitics. Here's how Wednesday unfolded.

     

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