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Summary

  1. The Conservatives promise a law guaranteeing no rise in income tax, national insurance or VAT before 2020
  2. But Labour say Tory plans would mean cuts to tax credits totalling £3.8 billion
  3. The Lib Dems pledge to offer free schools meals to all children in England
  4. There are eight days left until the general election

Live Reporting

By Tim Fenton, Kristiina Cooper and Bernadette McCague

All times stated are UK

Get involved

What happened on Wednesday

And so the last day before the last week of campaigning comes to an end and still the polls show no sign of either Labour or Conservatives pulling away. Tomorrow, the party leaders face another round of questioning on BBC TV. Today they were out and about campaigning hard:

  • David Cameron promised to introduce a law guaranteeing no rise in income tax rates, VAT or national insurance if the Tories win the election
  • Labour said it was a "last-minute" gimmick and suggested the Tories had a secret plan to cut tax credits
  • The Liberal Democrats said voters would "simply not believe" the pledge unless the Tories spelled out where they would cut public spending
  • Russell Brand released his interview with Ed Miliband . The Labour leader told the comedian he was wrong to say that voting was pointless
  • UKIP leader Nigel Farage warned of an influx of Islamic extremists if Europe's doors were opened to large numbers of people fleeing conflict zones
  • Nick Clegg laid down another condition for considering a coalition - he wants a £12,500 personal tax free allowance
  • And the SNP could win all 59 Scottish constituencies, according to a new poll. Leader Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted Scotland's voice at Westminster to be "as loud and effective and as powerful as possible"

Tory reaction to Lib Dems' 'secret' plan claim

Responding to claims from the Treasury Minister Danny Alexander that the Conservatives came up with proposals to 'slash' child benefit and child tax credit, a Conservative spokesman told the BBC: "This is desperate stuff from Liberal Democrats who are now willing to say anything to try and get attention. We don’t recognise any of these proposals and to be absolutely clear, they are definitely not our policy.”

Snippets from the BBC's West country debate

Audience member: "people are...turned off by the male, pale and stale make-up of Westminster and the fact it's all punch-and-judy politics"

Vintage Rees Mogg: "I would prefer it if the Tories won 650 seats...with David Cameron being the Kim Jong-Un of the UK" #battleforthewest

An outbreak of consensus

Labour's Andy Burnham says during the BBC's Newsnight debate that Labour would get money flowing into the NHS through the mansion tax and by cutting the bill for agency staff. He says: "We have to recruit more staff." Meanwhile the Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb repeats his suggestions for a non-partisan commission to come up with a "new settlement" for the NHS. Jeremy Hunt and Andy Burnham, more or less, agreed.

Jeremy Hunt, Andy Burnham, Norman Lamb
BBC

'Secret' Tory plans to 'slash' child benefit

Danny Alexander
AFP Getty Images

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander says he is lifting the lid on what he calls "secret Tory proposals" to limit child benefit and child tax credit to two children. Mr Alexander says the change would have meant a cut of £3,500 in benefits for a family with three children. He says he blocked the plans and he lists the other policies he says the Conservatives were considering.

  • remove the higher rate child benefit from first child - an average cut of over £360 for every family with children
  • means test child benefit - cutting £1,750 for a two-child middle income family
  • remove Child Benefit from 16-19 year olds - a cut of over £1,000 for parents of a single child

Danny Alexander said:

It’s clear from our time in government that the Tories' target will be slashing support for families. I'm lifting the lid on this now because the Conservatives are trying to con the British people by keeping their planned cuts secret until after the election."

Newsnight debates the NHS

Newsnight
BBC

It's the turn of BBC's Newsnight to debate the health service, with the help of a panel of health professionals. A former neurosurgeon Henry Marsh says he can't see how the NHS can make a further £22bn in efficiency savings. Answering the questions are Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Labour's Andy Burnham and the Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb. Mr Hunt says he agrees with Mr Hunt that the £22bn target will be "hard". One way to get costs down, he says, is to treat people earlier in the community

Double the Sun

BBC Political Correspondent tweets

Sun both warns against and backs SNP depending which edition you buy (& guarantees bags of publicity)
Sun both warns against and backs SNP depending which edition you buy (& guarantees bags of publicity)

Sun both warns against and backs SNP depending which edition you buy (& guarantees bags of publicity)

Tomorrow's Guardian

Guardian front page
Guardian

Befuddled by the Sun

The BBC's North America editor tweets:

Ok. Am befuddled. Sun to back Tories 'to stop SNP ruining the country'. But Scottish Sun backing SNP. @rupertmurdoch help! #GE2015

Review of the polls

David Cowling, Editor BBC Political Research, says it's been a "quiet day" for GB-wide polls but not in Scotland where the pollsters are under pressure.

He says: "YouGov reported a one point Labour lead - 35% over 34% for the Conservatives with UKIP on 12%, the Lib Dems on 9% and the Greens 4%.

"MORI published a Scottish poll that created quite a stir - with the SNP on 54% and Labour 20%. The pressure on the pollsters in Scotland must be the greatest of all. The big SNP numbers they regularly generate could well reflect political reality but the potential for error is considerable.

"ComRes published their latest battleground polls for ITV, sampled in 50 Conservative marginals where Labour is second. Their poll suggested a 3.5% swing to Labour since 2010 and their gain of 40 of the 50 seats sampled.

"Lord Ashcroft also published three constituency polls: in Nick Clegg’s seat of Sheffield Hallam suggesting a one point Labour lead; Thanet South which indicated Nigel Farage two points behind the Conservatives; and Swindon South where Labour were one point behind the Conservative incumbent."

Tomorrow's Sun

The Sun front page
The Sun

Scottish Sun backs...SNP

The Scottish Sun newspaper urges its readers to vote SNP: “a new hope for our country”. #ge2015

The Scottish Sun newspaper urges its readers to vote SNP: “a new hope for our country”. #ge2015

Regional TV debates

BBC One

Don't miss BBC debates covering the election campaign issues in your area tonight at 10.50pm on BBC One.

BBC Regions
BBC

Tomorrow's Financial Times

Financial Times front page
Financial Times

Nick Clegg's money-saving tips

How to improve Britain's finances is the big issue of the election so how appropriate for a party leader to meet the Wallet Watcher group. Nick Clegg had a question and answer session with the group (which aims to educate young people about money) on a trip to Greater Manchester. Asked for his own money-saving tips, he suggested shopping around online and switching energy provider.

Tomorrow's Daily Express

Daily Express
Daily Express

Lining up for a red

Snooker champion backs Clegg opponent

Ronnie O'Sullivan, much admired by snooker-loving Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has returned the favour. O'Sullivan, currently competing in the World Championships at the Crucible in Sheffield, has backed Labour's candidate in Sheffield Hallam. According to party website Labour List, O'Sullivan said of Labour candidate, Oliver Coppard:

I’ve known Oliver for a few years and I know he’ll do a great job for Sheffield. He’s a down to earth guy who will make fighting for this great city his number one priority

Ronnie O'SulllivanSnooker champion
Ronnie O'Sullivan
PA

Newsnight Index

BBC Newsnight Index

For the course of the general election campaign, Newsnight each evening will be publishing an exclusive Newsnight Index on the likely outcome, based on a sophisticated forecast model. It is produced by Professor Chris Hanretty from the University of East Anglia and his colleagues at electionforecast.co.uk. For more information on how the Index is produced, see here

Newsnight Index
BBC

Election confection

BBC political correspondent tweets:

Look what's just arrived in the BBC Election Newsroom #GE2015 #electionconfection:

Look what's just arrived in the BBC Election Newsroom #GE2015 #electionconfection:

Lawson criticises Tory campaign

The Spectator

The former Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, has told the Spectator magazine that it's been a mistake for the Tories to make a "flurry of promises". According to the Tory peer, they've detracted from a central message of economic recovery based on careful stewardship.

Lord Lawson does have kind words for his successor but five, George Osborne. He says Mr Osborne has done an "excellent job".

The 1974 election revisited

A @BBCNewsMagazine writer tweets...

I've just sat through the BBC's entire February 1974 election night coverage and I have a few things to share with you.

Jimmy "nae bevvying" Reid (Communist), conceding defeat, accuses the Scottish Labour party of Falangist tendencies.

Jimmy "nae bevvying" Reid (Communist), conceding defeat, accuses the Scottish Labour party of Falangist tendencies.

If you're a woman standing for election in Feb 74 you get referred to by your title in case no-one quite believes it.

If you're a woman standing for election in Feb 74 you get referred to by your title in case no-one quite believes it.

Legitimate government

In an interview with ITV Border's Representing Border programme broadcast tonight, SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon was asked repeatedly about the legitimacy of a possible SNP-influenced Labour government.

Presenter Peter MacMahon asked Scotland's First Minister if she thought previous Conservative-led governments with few or no Scottish MPs were legitimate north of the border.

Ms Sturgeon said: "They governed Scotland. Now, I've argued for Scotland to be independent so that we didn't have Tory governments we don't vote for.

"You know I've argued that we shouldn't have that situation but we do have that situation and they claimed legitimacy and they were able to govern.

Nicola Sturgeon
Getty Images

You can't now turn it round and say that (an SNP-supported government would be illegitimate), especially when these politicians spent the referendum saying Scotland should lead the UK not leave it. "Scotland has got a right to choose to make its voice heard in whatever way we want to make our voice heard."

Nicola Sturgeon

Northern powerhouse

Just heard: HQ of Square Kilometre Array, one of world's biggest science projects, won by UK at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire #NorthernPowerhouse

Major boost for UK science + Northern Powerhouse,which everyone from PM down has fought hard for against intense international competition.

Tight margins

Polling analyst, political gambler tweets

This battle is going to come down to party get out the vote ops on the day - the margins are so tight.

Ban smoking in parks - UKIP

A cancer expert who is standing for UKIP says the smoking ban should be extended to public parks.

Prof Angus Dalgleish said his stance sounded "paradoxical" given his party's support for "smoking rooms" in pubs.

UKIP said a park smoking ban was not party policy and that Prof Dalgleish, who is based at St George's hospital in London, was giving a personal opinion.

Get the full story here .

NHS reforms 'would not have won an award'

Daily Politics

Live on BBC Two

Health debate
BBC

The Coalition's controversial health reforms "wouldn't have won an award for the most popular health policy in history", the Health Secretary has said.

Jeremy Hunt, a Conservative, acknowledged that changes to the NHS "weren't very popular" but he insisted the laws had been guided by the "right principle".

The Health and Social Care Act passed into law in 2012, spearheaded by the former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Speaking on BBC Two's Daily Politics election debate on health, Mr Hunt said: "Well the principle, I think, is the right principle. We can all learn lessons in terms of the way we got the message across."

More reaction to Brand/ Miliband interview

Bloomberg correspondent tweets

“There’s these unelected, powerful elites that control things from behind the scenes. Not in a conspiratorial way.”bloom.bg/1JAGfr7

Shapps 'shocked' by Miliband

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps has criticised Ed Miliband's latest video. Asked about the video earlier today, the Labour leader said: "It was about what makes me tick. There's lots of times we talk about the deficit and those issues...This is more a personal film because I think what people want to know is, what do I care about?"

Mr Shapps said: ‘It’s official: securing the economy and creating jobs for working people just aren’t the things that make Ed Miliband tick. He’s right that people want to know what he cares about, but it’s shocking to discover that this doesn’t include our economic security."

Watch and decide for yourself here .

A middle-class kid at a comprehensive

As for all the blah about Ed's accent, thats what u get from being a mc kid at a N London comp, ability to speak 2 languages #Milibrand

More pandas than Lib Dems in Scotland?

Panda
PA

On the day that a poll predicts a huge SNP surge in Scotland, the BBC's Carolyn Quinn has been speaking to the Liberal Democrat Treasury Minister, Danny Alexander - who is fighting to retain his seat, Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey. The joke used to be that there were more pandas in Scotland than Conservatives. On BBC Radio 4's PM Carolyn Quinn asked Danny Alexander whether he thought there'd be more pandas than Liberal Democrats after the election. He replied:

Unless there's a sudden influx of pandas I think every one of our 11 Lib Dem seats can return a Lib Dem again."

Get involved

Text: 61124

Phil in Kessingland:

Less pledges and more policies would be helpful, to me.

Labour ahead in key marginals

ITV/ComRes poll

Labour is ahead in 44 out of its top 50 Tory target seats. That follows a 3.5% swing away from the Tories since 2010, according to a new poll from ITV/ComRes .

Does Labour need few seats to win?

Polling firm tweets

Peter Kellner: Here’s the bottom line – Labour needs fewer seats than the Conservatives to end up in power y-g.co/1zdCcNN

New Statesman delivers its verdict

The New Statesman says Ed Miliband has "never succeeded in inspiring the electorate" and shown "severe limitations". For all that, the left-wing magazine says a Labour victory was the best outcome for the country although it thinks Ed Miliband would "almost certainly be reliant on the support of a large nationalist bloc to govern". On a more positive note for Mr Miliband, the New Statesman feels he has "performed well" during the campaign. As for the Conservatives, the magazine says they are planning "extreme and almost certainly undeliverable spending cuts" and that David Cameron does not convey "any sense of moral mission".

New Statesman website
New Statesman

Add to the debate

Email: politics@bbc.co.uk

Iain Grant:

Could do better?

Westminster Correspondent for STV tweets

As an interviewer Russell Brand does not seem to have quite mastered the knack of asking open ended questions. Just sayin

More constituency poll stats

Former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party tweets

Voting intentions in my three latest constituency polls. See @ConHome, 4pm

Voting intentions in my three latest constituency polls. See @ConHome, 4pm

Campaign gallery

Click here for the best of today's pics

Samantha Cameron campaigning in Hounslow
Ben Stansall/APP

Clegg narrowing the gap

Ashcroft poll

The latest poll from Conservative peer Michael Ashcroft suggests Nick Clegg is closer to victory in his Sheffield Hallam constituency. According to the poll, Labour’s lead is down to a single point, compared to two in March and three in November. While 30% of 2010 Liberal Democrats in the seat say they intend to vote Labour next week, 31% of 2010 Conservatives say they will now vote Lib Dem. Lord Ashcroft comments: "Tory voters in the seat were also notably less likely than they are elsewhere to say that they rule out voting for Nick Clegg’s party. Their decisions could have more impact than most in determining the shape of the next government."