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Summary

  1. The defence secretary said there is a "real and present danger" of Russia trying to destabilise the Baltic
  2. RAF fighters have intercepted two Russian bombers spotted off the coast of Cornwall
  3. The Electoral Commission published details of donations to political parties in the last quarter of 2014
  4. The Conservatives received £8,345,687, compared to Labour's £7,163,988
  5. UKIP leader Nigel Farage condemned "deeply racist comments" made by one of his Kent councillors
  6. There are 77 days until the general election

Live Reporting

By Nick Eardley and Brian Wheeler

All times stated are UK

Get involved

  1. That's a wrap

    And that's your lot from the politics live blog too. We'll be back at 06:00 GMT with a change of shift. Brian Wheeler and Nick Eardley are heading home for a well-earned rest. Things to look forward to tomorrow: The start of the Scottish Conservative conference, George Osborne and Boris Johnson outlining Tory plans to boost London's economy, the latest figures on the UK public finances and a Lords report on the EU and Russia. Labour's Frank Field will also be doing the rounds, speaking about the Jobseeker's Allowance sanction regime. And Green Party leader Natalie Bennett will be pressing the flesh in north London. Goodnight all.

  2. QT ends

    And that's your lot. The audience in Stockton seem genuinely disappointed that the Question Time debate has come to an end. Some fascinating stuff was revealed over the past hour, however. Not as much confrontation as usual but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Let us know what you think in the comment box at the top of this page.

  3. Lib Dem deal?

    Lord Heseltine predicts big tax rises if there is an SNP/Labour deal. Norman Lamb says the prospect of the SNP in government at Westminster "absolutely horrifies me". No SNP/Lib Dem deal then? This seems at odds with what Vince Cable was saying earlier this week about a "rainbow coalition".

  4. Labour deal?

    Nicola Sturgeon sets out her case for a "progressive alliance" at Westminster. She doesn't mention Labour by name but it's implied. Possibly one of the clearest indications yet that the SNP are open to a deal with Ed Miliband's party.

  5. SNP deal?

    QT

    "Every vote for the SNP is more likely to put David Cameron in government than it will Ed Miliband," says Caroline Flint. Some people seem to like that idea judging from the cheers. Norman Lamb - who has expressed his doubts about Mr Miliband in the past - seems to be enjoying that.

  6. Final question

    Tamara Pattinson asks "in the event of a Labour minority government, will Scotland be ruling Westminster?".

  7. Attention job seekers!

    Duncan Bannatyne

    Don't bother applying for a job with Duncan Bannatyne online. He likes people to come and knock on his door. That's how he used to do it when he was on the dole, he says. His headquarters are up the road from Stockton, in Darlington, by the way.

  8. Heseltine backs Cameron plan

    Lord Heseltine throws his weight behind David Cameron's plan to make the young unemployed work for the benefits - provided it is not a "blanket" sanction.

  9. 'Exploitation'

    Nicola Sturgeon says Tory plans for the young unemployed sound like "exploitation" and accuses them of being lenient on tax avoiders.

  10. Education problem

    Lord Heseltine identifies education as the key to improving the employment prospects of the young - saying underperforming schools should be given three months to improve their standards. He doesn't seem keen on commenting on the Tory plans for the young unemployed. Duncan Bannatyne says he didn't have a bank account until he was 30-years-old and couldn't hold down a job because he was "highly dyslexic" and that is not recognised in schools.

  11. 'Gimmicky' plan?

    Caroline Flint says she is all for people doing voluntary work before banging the drum for Labour's "jobs guarantee" for the young unemployed. Norman Lamb attacks the Tory plan as "gimmicky" and accuses them of slashing the education budget.

  12. 'Not enough work'

    Duncan Bannatyne is against the idea. Some people can't work for health reasons and it wouldn't be fair, he says adding that "you wouldn't find enough work for them to do anyway".

  13. Working for benefits?

    Moving on to a question from Ian Malcolm. Should David Cameron's proposed policy of 18 to 21-year-olds having to do community work be extended to all claimants?" This should provoke a bit of debate.

  14. 'Pretty bows'

    Lord Heseltine

    The former Royal Navy woman is taking Lord Heseltine to task over his suggestion that more reservists are the answer to boosting the strength of the armed forces. "It's a financial gain - let's not dress it up in pretty bows." Hezza seems suitably chastened but sticks to his guns.

  15. The Sun front page

    The Sun front page
  16. Faslane question

    QT

    Nicola Sturgeon is now coming under attack from a former member of the Royal Navy, who asks her if she would have closed the Faslane nuclear base and left Scotland undefended if she had won the independence referendum. Ms Sturgeon says she has always been opposed to nuclear weapons and at a time when public services are under pressure "is it really the right use of £100bn - £4bn a year over the next decade - to spend on nuclear weapons? That money could do so many more, better things." She says she would have turned Faslane into a conventional naval base. Duncan Bannatyne questions her figures. He'll be asking to see her business plan next.

  17. Lamb on Putin

    Norman Lamb

    "Putin's aim is to destabilise," says Norman Lamb, who calls for stronger sanctions against "this unpleasant man".

  18. Sanctions working?

    Sanctions are working, says an audience member: "you can't get bananas in Moscow" and ordinary Russians are turning against President Putin over such privations. She offers to site Trident in her back garden in the North East. Duncan Bannatyne likes the sound of that. "Putin's main aim is world domination," adds the Dragon's Den man, who supports Trident but also wants more troops on the ground.

  19. BBC Question Time

    @bbcquestiontime

    tweets: Which countries around the world have nuclear weapons? #bbcqt

    Map
  20. Flint attacks Sturgeon

    Interestingly, in the context of any post-election negotiations, Ms Flint boldly restates Labour's support for Trident. Nicola Sturgeon has joined forces with Plaid Cymru and the Greens to make scrapping Trident a "red line" issue that would prevent any deal with Labour. "I would really worry Nicola, if you were in charge of the defence policy of the United Kingdom," she tells the SNP leader.

  21. 'Embrace Russia'

    Lord Heseltine calls for the West to "embrace Russia" in a new accord to stand against instability in the "Muslim world". Caroline Flint thinks some of President Putin's "bullish, aggressive behaviour" is related to problems "back in Russia" but the strength of Nato and the EU "will see us through".

  22. Hezza vs Sturgeon

    QT
    Image caption: Lord Heseltine clashes with Nicola Sturgeon
  23. Nuclear stand-off

    Former defence secretary Lord Heseltine hails Nato as "the most formidable defence alliance in human history" and says there is not "the slightest risk of a nuclear confrontation with Russia because we have a nuclear deterrent". Nicola Sturgeon warns about sending out the wrong message on nuclear proliferation. Heseltine says leaving France as the only nuclear power in Europe would be "reckless".

  24. Putin threat

    On to the next question, from Peter Baines. "Is Russia still a real threat and since these cuts in defence are we prepared? Nicola Sturgeon gets first go, claiming the Westminster government's "obsession" with Trident is entirely the "wrong priority".

  25. Hezza's advice for Ant and Dec

    Lord Heseltine

    "I can help these people, Ant and Dec", says Lord Heseltine: "Bash the oil companies, renationalise the railways and tax everybody who's got a big house. It's called 50 Shades of Red. A blockbuster by Ed Miliband". So he hasn't entirely given up on popular culture - and he still knows how to craft a cracking sound bite...

  26. BBC Question Time

    @bbcquestiontime

    tweets: Michael Heseltine has this message for @antanddec #bbcqt

    Lord Heseltine
  27. Ant and Dec who?

    Major Ant and Dec fail by Lord Heseltine. "I don't who they are," says the 81-year-old former deputy prime minister, "Should I?" In case any of you share his bafflement, Ant said he didn't know what Labour stood for any more and Dec said he couldn't picture Ed Miliband as prime ministers. They are Geordie light entertainers.

  28. Heseltine attacks SNP

    Nicola Sturgeon

    Lord Heseltine explains the rise of UKIP - comparing it to the SNP and France's Front National and other "protest" groups. SNP supporters will really hate that. Nicola Sturgeon doesn't look too impressed.

  29. SNP 'alternative'

    "Why isn't Labour heading for a landslide?," asks Nicola Sturgeon. "Because it doesn't offer an alternative," she argues, pointing to Labour's backing for Tory austerity plans. "That's ridiculous," says Caroline Flint. Are we witnessing a sneak preview of post-election talks here?

  30. Lamb bites

    Norman Lamb says HMRC needs to get tough on tax evasion - but this coalition has delivered, he argues. More people are in work now. Caroline Flint's not having that either. They are low quality jobs, she says.

  31. BBC Question Time

    @bbcquestiontime

    tweets: .@CarolineFlintMP say this is not a genuine recovery - and that's why it isn't encouraging anyone to vote Tory #bbcqt

    Question Time tweet
  32. The Independent front page

    Independent
  33. Point scoring?

    Let's not turn this into party political point scoring says Lord Heseltine, before suggesting that most tax scandals have a Labour beneficiary somewhere. He's still got it!

  34. Taxing matters

    Tax evasion gets its first mention. "Tax evasion is illegal, it is criminal and it should be hounded out," says Lord Heseltine and this government has done more than any other to crack down on it. Caroline Flint is not having that.

  35. 'Recovery for everybody'

    Labour's shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint accuses the government of being "out of touch" and says the recovery "has to be for everybody" not just a few at the top.

  36. Green shoots?

    Nicola Sturgeon goes first - people are not feeling the recovery, she argues. Former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine - who still puts in a shift for the Conservative Party, working on regional development policies among other things - says: "People have had a rough time". He adds: "Only now in the last month or so have real living standards started to rise." They will start to notice it soon, he says.

  37. BBC Question Time

    @bbcquestiontime

    tweets: UK inflation is at a record low

    Question Time graph
  38. Harry Cole blogger and writer

    @MrHarryCole

    tweets: First question to Michael Heseltine is about reasons the Tories will lose. His specialist subject.

  39. Tory landslide?

    With all this good economic news, why aren't the Conservatives heading for a landslide election victory? That's the first question.

  40. We're off

    Question Time

    Question Time is under way from Stockton-on-Tees (home of the widest high street in England!). Let's see if we can keep up with the debate.

  41. Daily Mail front page

    Daily Mail front page
  42. Question Time coming up

    Get ready for an absorbing edition of Question Time - Trident, Russia, austerity, dyslexia and Ant and Dec are among the subjects that get an airing (we get a sneak preview here). Some testy exchanges between Lord Heseltine and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon too. Labour's Caroline Flint, Dragon's Den star Duncan Bannatyne and Lib Dem care minister Norman Lamb are also on the panel, in Stockton-on-Tees.

  43. Cameron and Tusk hold Ukraine talks

    Donald Tusk

    Prime Minister David Cameron has been speaking to Donald Tusk - the president of the European Council - about events in Ukraine tonight. A Number 10 spokesperson said: " Both expressed deep concern that since the ceasefire Russian-backed separatists have continued to attack Debaltseve, forcing the Ukrainian army to conduct an orderly withdrawal, and that the separatists have violated the ceasefire in other locations in Donetsk and Luhansk. They agreed that the EU should make clear to Russia that the pro-Russian rebels must abide by the ceasefire."

  44. Guardian front page

    Guardian

    Tomorrow's Guardian leads with a Lords committee criticising "errors" made by the UK over the Ukraine crisis.

  45. 'Football clubs should introduce living wage'

    The Huffington Post

    Rachel Reeves

    Rachel Reeves, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, has written a blog about the living wage for the Huffington Post. Urging football clubs to introduce the rate, she says such a move is "the right thing to do", would show good will and "makes good business sense". She cites examples of clubs like Chelsea and West Ham who have both introduced the living wage. Read her piece here.

  46. Telegraph front page

    Daily Telegraph

    The first of tomorrow's front pages are starting to come in. The Daily Telegraph front includes its story about Nigel Farage predicting David Cameron will be prime minister after the election.

  47. Kremlin 'needs regular reminders not to interfere'

    Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says Russia needs to be reminded regularly that it must not interfere with NATO members. Mr Hammond - who earlier warned Russia's President Vladimir Putin posed a "real and present danger" to three Baltic states - added that their membership of NATO was backed up by a collective defence guarantee. Mr Hammond said: "The Kremlin understand very well the distinction between the Baltic states, which are member states of NATO, member states of the European Union, and Ukraine which although partners of the European Union, are not members of the European Union, are not members of NATO. I think it's very important that we reinforce to the Kremlin at every opportunity, the red line that exists around the NATO member states."

  48. Telegraph responds

    The Daily Telegraph

    The Telegraph has published a piece responding to criticism it has faced since Peter Oborne's resignation from the newspaper. Mr Oborne - a senior political commentator -accused the paper of a "form of fraud on its readers" for its coverage of HSBC and its Swiss tax-dodging scandal. But in a "Telegraph view" piece published on its website, the paper says it "makes no apology for the way in which it has covered the HSBC group and the allegations of wrongdoing by its Swiss subsidiary". The piece adds: "No subject, no story, no person and no organisation is off-limits to our journalists. They will follow the facts without fear or favour and present the results of their work to you solely on their journalistic merits, according to their sound editorial judgment and no other consideration." You can read the full article here.

  49. Scottish Conservative conference

    Conservative Home

    The Scottish Conservative conference begins in Edinburgh tomorrow. Over on Conservative Home, Andy Maciver - a former head of communications for the Scottish Tories - explores what the party can do to ensure the future of Scotland in the UK. Despite the pro-union side coming out on top in the independence referendum, he writes that nationalist strategists quickly got back to work "planning the next leg of the journey". And he writes: "The most chilling aspect of the rise of the pro-independence movement post-referendum is that Downing Street doesn't appear to have noticed." More here.

  50. Fallen Adonis

    Lord Adonis

    The field of potential Labour candidates for London mayor continues to thin out. Lord Adonis - the man dubbed the "thin controller" when he was transport secretary in charge of Britain's trains - is the latest to drop out. He has thrown his slender frame behind Tessa Jowell (the bookies' favourite), according to the Evening Standard. Diane Abbott, Sadiq Khan, David Lammy and Christian Wolmar are the others still in the running although more may emerge.

  51. 'UKIP not for working people'

    Peter Baldwin

    More on Peter Baldwin, the electrician who took Ed Miliband to task earlier over Labour's refusal to offer working class voters an EU referendum. "Basically they are just not happy with Labour at the moment. The big thing with the working class man is immigration and Europe," he tells BBC News. But although his workmates are thinking of voting UKIP and he is not impressed by Labour, Mr Baldwin is not a UKIP man. He does not think the NHS would be safe in Nigel Farage's hands and he adds: "I don't believe UKIP is the party of working people."

  52. Keith Vaz backs Indian visa centres

    Keith Vaz - chairman of the Home Affairs Committee - says he is delighted the Indian government is opening 14 new visa application centres in the UK. Mr Vaz says: "This is a culmination of over a decade of campaigning and I am delighted that services required by tens of thousands of people of Indian origin will now be provided, including Visa services, OCI and Indian Passport Services. At a time when the British government is centralising our global visa services, to the detriment of many thousands of applicants in Mumbai, Dhaka and South America, the Indian government is leading the way in providing an efficient, targeted and localised visa service."

  53. Farage: Cameron looks like a leader

    The Daily Telegraph

    Which party will have the most MPs after 7 May? That will be the question on everyone's lips over the next few weeks. "I think right now the Conservatives will be the biggest party," UKIP leader Nigel Farage tells The Telegraph. "The reason I think the Conservatives will be the biggest party is because whatever he does politically, Cameron actually looks like a Conservative leader." More here.

  54. Question Time

    Question Time line-up

    A reminder of tonight's Question Time line-up. We'll bring you updates from the programme from 22:45 GMT, but we also want to know what you think. Contact us using the Get Involved tab on desktop, tweets us @bbcpolitics or email politics@bbc.co.uk

  55. Poll tax debt scrapped in Scotland

    Remember the poll tax? Well, legislation to end the collection of historic debts (from the early 1990s) has been passed by the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. The Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill effectively writes off £425m of the levy introduced by the Thatcher government which has never been paid. The proposals were brought forward by former SNP leader Alex Salmond after several councils said they would use the details of people who registered to vote in Scotland's independence referendum to recover outstanding debt.

  56. Labour 'dithering'

    The Guardian

    Has Labour done enough to highlight the potential impact of cuts promised by the Conservatives? Writing in the Guardian, Polly Toynbee suggests not: "Labour has dithered on running a full-on fear campaign against the [Chancellor George] Osborne plan. That's a bad error." More here.

  57. 'x pounds does not deliver y votes'

    BBC Radio 4

    On PM, Prof Justin Fisher - who has argued that there is not enough money in British politics - says free campaigning such as knocking on doors can prove more effective than spending big bucks. It's wrong to assume x pounds will deliver y votes, he explains.

  58. 'Targeted campaigning'

    BBC Radio 4

    On the PM programme, Prof Justin Fisher from Brunel university says the parties are spending more of their cash they raise in donations on things like direct mail, telephone canvassing and leaders' visits in key marginals (you will have noticed this if you live in one of them). "We've seen a shift away from things like mass billboards, national advertising in the newspapers and much more oaf a shift towards very tightly targeted campaigning," he adds. He says most money, however, is spent on simply "existing as parties".

  59. 'Nice guy' Ed

    "Don't just say Ed's a nice guy" and hope that Labour gets in - make sure you do something about it, says Ed Miliband in what is becoming a very familiar refrain as he wraps up his latest meet-the-people event in Lancashire. Apathy is always the enemy, especially, it is always said, for Labour which tends to suffer more when there's a low turnout.

  60. Labour says staff from PwC are junior and don't influence policy

    Ross Hawkins

    Political correspondent, BBC News

    "Labour has got over £300,000 of support from PricewaterhouseCoopers. It's not a donation. It's not cash. It's staff working in Labour frontbenchers' offices. It's interesting because a Commons committee - chaired by a Labour MP (Margaret Hodge) recently came to the conclusion, made the allegation, that PwC was promoting tax avoidance on an industrial scale. Tax avoidance - of course - entirely legal but Ed Miliband has made a big play about it, particularly after the HSBC scandal recently, talking about how unacceptable it is. The Conservatives say to make great long speeches about this and then to accept that much support amounts to hypocrisy. Labour say - and this is absolutely factually correct - that it's quite typical for oppositions to use this sort of support because they don't have access to civil servants. Therefore it's hugely useful to have very numerate people and they say, on the whole, it's pretty junior people from an accountancy firm like this and that they don't influence policy."

  61. Ed loves the pink bus

    Ed Miliband was very nearly tempted into criticising Harriet Harman's pink bus at his People's Question Time event. "I wasn't going to say that," when someone suggests the magenta machine might be the answer to boosting voter turnout among women. "Not that I have anything against the pink bus. I think it's great," he hastily adds. It is all about "Harriet Harman saying women's voices were going to be heard in this election" apparently.

  62. Greens call for state-funding of parties

    Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has given her views on donations after today's revelations. She calls for a move towards state-funding of political parties. She says: It is abundantly clear that urgent reform is required to restore confidence in our scandal-ridden funding system."

  63. Ed Miliband in Lancashire

    Ed Miliband

    In Lancashire, Ed Miliband has been hosting the latest of his People's Question Time events. The Labour leader says there will be difficult decisions to be made after the election, but he promises a "compassionate benefits system" and tells the audience we have "got to help those people in need".

  64. Labour responds on PwC

    Labour has responded to criticism of its relationship with accountancy giant PwC, saying the support its staff provide helps ensure scrutiny of government policy. A spokesman says: "PwC have provided long standing staff support to all three major political parties on a non-party basis, as happened for the Conservatives and Lib Dems before the last election. Given the complexity of government decisions and that opposition parties do not have significant access to civil servants - the support provided by organisations such as these helps ensure that there is better scrutiny of government policy. The secondments provided by these companies are often relatively newly qualified staff. Secondees do not influence opposition policy decisions. Where organisations provide staff to support research and analysis for opposition parties it is right that these are declared - as currently happens - in the Register of Members' Interests."

  65. 'Working man wants EU referendum'

    Peter Baldwin meets Ed Miliband

    Ed Miliband gained a possible insight into why his party is leaking support to UKIP in the North of England earlier, on a tour of BAE Systems' jet fighter factory in Lancashire. Peter Baldwin, an electrician and senior union shop steward, gave it to Mr Miliband straight. He doesn't feel much like voting Labour and the other blokes, chatting in the "brew room" earlier, are leaning towards UKIP: "The question on everybody's mind is the referendum. I know what you are going to say - but the working class man in here wants to have a say". Mr Miliband explained Labour's plans to restrict unskilled migrant workers but Mr Baldwin was not convinced. "Democracy means power to the people and Labour aren't giving us it," he added later.

  66. Farage condemns 'racist' councillor

    Nigel Farage

    Nigel Farage has condemned "deeply racist comments" made by one of UKIP's Kent councillors. Rozanne Duncan, who sits on Thanet District Council, was filmed as part of a BBC documentary, Meet the Ukippers, due to be broadcast on Sunday. She was expelled from UKIP in December for bringing it "into disrepute". Mrs Duncan maintains that she said nothing racist or derogatory. More here.

  67. Why Nick Clegg losing his seat is no laughing matter for the Tories

    The Spectator

    Conservatives who want David Cameron to be Prime Minister after the election should not enjoy the prospect of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg losing his seat, writes James Forsyth in the Spectator. He says that when he has talked to people in No. 10 Downing Street about Mr Clegg losing his Sheffield Hallam seat to Labour they have "just chuckled". Forsyth says they would be well advised to remember that every seat the Lib Dems lose to Labour makes it more likely that Ed Milband will become prime minister.

  68. Sarah Smith, BBC presenter

    @bbcsarahsmith

    tweets: How many of these SNP candidates will end up in Westminster? What will they do there? My @BBCNewsnight report tonight

    SNP election candidates
  69. Conservatives on Labour 'hypocrisy'

    The vice chairman of the Conservative party Bob Neill has given his thoughts on the donations to Labour from PricewaterhouseCoopers - managing to weave in one of his party's favourite attack lines against Ed Miliband into the bargain. He says "Labour's hypocrisy is laid bare. They are only too happy to publicly lambast companies but in private are happy to benefit from donations from them. Once again Labour say one thing and do another and its hardworking taxpayers who would pay the price for the chaos of an Ed Miliband government."

  70. 20,000 stop and search records lost

    STEPHEN HOUSE

    In Scotland, police have admitted they lost 20,000 stop and search records because someone "pressed the wrong button". The admission came as senior officers appeared before a committee of MSPs at Holyrood. Among them was Chief Constable Sir Stephen House, who said he had apologised for giving incorrect information to the police watchdog over stop and search statistics. Read the full story here.

  71. UK prime minister's office

    @Number10gov

    tweets: UK-wide employment up by 1.75m & nearly 200k more people in work in East of England since 2010 #LongTermEconomicPlan

    David Cameron tweet
  72. Ken Reid, UTV political editor

    @KenReid_utv

    tweets: Peter Robinson to meet the BBC in London next week as Judicial Review over leaders debate decision edges closer.

  73. Sign off

    Dominic Howell and Matthew Davis

    It is time for a political pit stop while the afternoon team take over. It's been busy day thus far, but not even President Putin's Russian Bear bombers will be able to stop Nick Eardley and Brian Wheeler bringing you all the news and analysis for the rest of the day. Watch this space.

  74. TV debates

    The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has said it will seek a judicial review of the BBC's decision not to include the party in the pre-election TV debates. The DUP says decision was unlawful and irrational and in breach of the BBC's duties of impartiality. Last month, BBC director general Tony Hall rejected the DUP's request to be included. More here.

  75. Mike Holden

    Politics Live reader

    writes: The Tories slate Labour as being in thrall to the unions. Unison has 2.3 million members. 31% of Tory funding comes from 42 people, some of whom are non-doms or actually don't live in the UK. Which party is more representative of "hard working Britons"?

  76. Farage: Putin 'very worrying'

    On his tour of Sandwich in Kent, UKIP leader Nigel Farage was asked about his views on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr Farage has previously said he admired the Russian leader. But today he told the press his actions were "very worrying". He said: "I mean the defence secretary has made it clear he's very worried about Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and about Russian intentions. Those three countries are members of NATO and we have to be very clear they will be defended." He added: "I thought over Syria in particular his [Putin's] role was useful in us not going to war in Syria. Now clearly since all the provocations on both sides in the Ukraine he 's started to act and behave in a way that's very worrying."

  77. More from Miliband on EU

    Here's a bit more from the open letter Ed Miliband has sent to David Cameron on Europe. The Labour leader writes: "You should not expect to get through the coming election without letting businesses and voters know the details of a plan which risks jobs, exports and inward investment. You should not go through this election campaign without saying which side you would be on in a referendum." We'll bring you the PM's response when we get it.

  78. Russia 'not suicidal'

    Russia is "not suicidal", Estonia's defence minister has said. He was speaking after UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters Russian President Vladimir Putin posed a "real and present danger" to the Baltic states. Sven Mikser said his country and its allies would deter any aggression from Moscow. Whilst he said said Mr Putin was "not afraid" of using military action, he added that he did not think Russia would attack a Nato ally as it is "not suicidal".

  79. Miliband writes to Cameron on EU reform

    Ed Miliband

    In an open letter to the prime minister, Ed Miliband has urged Mr Cameron "to make good on your commitment to set out in detail a reform agenda for the EU". He also says Mr Cameron's government is "causing a great deal of uncertainty" for businesses.

    He writes: "More than two years have passed since you promised to set out in detail your plan to renegotiate Britain's relationship with Europe.

    "But you have still not given any more than the broadest of hints what reforms you want, how you expect to achieve them, or what people would be voting on in a referendum for which for you have set an arbitrary deadline of 2017."

  80. Post update

    The Spectator

    Tweets: Identity politics has created an army of vicious, narcissistic cowards says Brendan O'Neill

  81. Labour on political funding

    Labour Party analysis of the Electoral Commission data suggests that donors associated with hedge funds gave the Tories almost £2m in the period, Labour claims. Almost £4 million came from donors who had attended private dinners with the prime minister or other senior ministers, Labour said.

    Shadow cabinet office minister Jonathan Ashworth said: "The Tories are now the political wing of the hedge fund industry. The Tory election campaign is increasingly reliant on those who dine exclusively at the prime minister's top table and a select few from the world of finance. While this Government has made working people worse off, hedge funds and millionaires have been given a tax break by David Cameron."

  82. Post update

    The Daily Telegraph

    tweets: Ed Miliband's failure to offer EU referendum will cost party votes, major donor says tgr.ph/19C7AtR

  83. Clegg on party funding

    Nick Clegg

    Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said a deal to "clean up party funding… once and for all" should be signed within six months of the next government being formed. He called on all party leaders to sign up to a new agreement, saying it would be one "silver lining from the latest controversy on party funding". He was speaking at the Foreign Office earlier where he outlined his party's plans to improve childcare provision. Donations to the Lib Dems totalled £3,038,500 - giving the party an annual record total for 2014.

  84. Farage on tax avoidance

    Nigel farage

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage has given his views on tax avoidance while speaking at a visit to a market in Sandwich, Kent. Mr Farage said: "There is nobody in this market today who voluntarily pays more tax than they should - nobody." The UKIP leader also supported comments made by a party donor Stuart Wheeler, who has given almost £100,000 to help fund UKIP's general election campaign, and who has previously said "not all tax avoidance is bad".

  85. Defence spending call

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Presented by Martha Kearney

    Martha Kearney has been talking to Rory Stewart MP, chair of the Defence Select Committee, who has urged all parties to make long term defence spending commitments to send a message to Russia's President Putin, arguing "the world has never been so dangerous".

    "Without a two percent commitment it's going to be very difficult for Britain to play the kind of active role in the world we need to play," he told the programme.

  86. Harriet Harman

    Labour Deputy Leader

    Labour bus

    tweets: "Woman to woman" bus at the seaside in Hastings half term! #pinkbus @UKLabour

  87. Russia reacts to Fallon

    Sarah Rainsford

    BBC News, Moscow

    Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich has reacted angrily to comments by British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon warning of a "real and present" Russian threat to the Baltics and possible repeat of Ukrainian scenario there.

    Lukashevich said the comments went "beyond diplomatic ethics" and used "unacceptable terminology" and reminded him of earlier comments by US President Obama describing Russia as one of the three key threats to the USA.

  88. Cameron on 'protecting UK'

    Bear bomber

    More from David Cameron on the two Russian bombers spotted off the Cornish coast:

    "I want to reassure people -- when this happens what we do is we launch our Typhoon aircraft and they escort these planes out of the UK area of interest and when this happened most recently at no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into UK sovereign airspace.

    "I think what this episode demonstrates is that we do have the fast jets, the pilots, the systems in place to protect the UK."

  89. Greek debt talks

    Germany has rejected a Greek request for its loans to be extended, without the accompanying austerity conditions. Greece had sought a six-month assistance package, rather than a renewal of the existing deal which comes with tough austerity conditions. But German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said it was "not a substantial proposal for a solution".

  90. 'Big money in politics'

    More from Darren Hughes, the deputy chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, on the donations report which was published an hour ago.

    He said: "In the last couple of weeks, we've seen a fairly horrific series of headlines about the nature of big money in politics and the truth is these things will keep on happening while no action is taken by the parties. We know political parties aren't very good at regulating their own industry but I think the public need to say we want an election that's based on good solid ideas and we want a transparent funding system for that."

  91. Cameron on bombers

    David Cameron

    David Cameron is in East Anglia today, giving a speech on the economy pressing the argument that a Conservative government would bring up to 250,000 more jobs to the region.

    Asked about the two Russian bombers spotted off the Cornish coast, the PM said: "I suspect the Russians were trying to make some sort of a point. I don't think we should dignify it with too much of a response."

  92. Clegg on Putin

    The deputy prime minister told LBC: "Vladimir Putin is rewriting the rules by which civilised nations conduct their affairs in Europe." There is no evidence yet that Mr Putin is making an effort to destabilise the Baltic states, he also pointed out. But he added: "Clearly, when the leader of a powerful nation like Russia starts throwing their weight around, there is a need to be vigilant. It is extremely worrying and it is essential that we stand together in the face of that sort of provocation."

  93. 'Most expensive election'

    BBC News Channel

    Darren Hughes

    Darren Hughes, deputy chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society said: "The figures show that the arms race is well and truly on. It does look as though we'll be heading towards possibly the most expensive election we have seen to date.

    "We face an election where is could be the contest of the cheque book, when really what we want it to be is the contest of ideas."

  94. Donations context

    Ross Hawkins

    Political correspondent, BBC News

    Speaking on the BBC News Channel, Ross said the donations were higher than normal because we're in a run-up to an election. There have been £75m of donations for political parties in 2014. "There are still plenty of people out there who want to give their hard-earned cash to the parties," he says. The latest release of donation information comes amid a political row between Labour and the Tories over the tax affairs of party supporters, with Ed Miliband having accused David Cameron of being a "dodgy Prime Minister surrounded by dodgy donors".

  95. Kate Devlin, The Herald

    @_katedevlin

    tweets: .@LordAshcroft's latest constituency poll suggests if Cameron cd make voters more optimistic about the economy he cd stop them going to Ukip

  96. Lord Ashcroft, Conservative peer and polling specialist

    @LordAshcroft

    tweets: All the data from my latest round of Con-UKIP constituency polling is now at Lord Ashcroft Polls:

  97. Donations published

    As you will have spotted, the Electoral Commission has just published the latest party political donations, covering the final quarter of 2014. With the election around the corner, these figures are sure to be much-discussed, and we'll bring you all the analysis as it comes in.

  98. Who got most

    The five political parties to report the most in donations in the final quarter of 2014 were:

    • Conservative Party - £8,345,687
    • Labour Party - £7,163,988
    • Liberal Democrats - £3,038,500
    • UK Independence Party (UKIP) - £1,505,055
    • Green Party - £248,520
  99. BreakingBreaking News

    Eight political parties registered in Great Britain reported a total of £20,326,862 in donations between 1 October and 31 December 2014, according to new figures published by the Electoral Commission, the independent party funding watchdog. Check out the full report here. The commission goes on to show that this quarter saw political parties accept over £5m more than in the previous quarter of 2014 and £10m more than the same quarter in 2013.

  100. Post update

    The Times

    Conservative party support for gay marriage "turbocharged" Anglican disillusionment with politics, as figures showed that tens of thousands of Christians were preparing to ditch their support for the Tories, The Times reports.

  101. Lib Dems on childcare

    Clegg

    Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has repeated his party's plans for childcare. Should they win the election the Lib Dems have pledged 15 hours a week of free childcare for all children of working parents aged between nine months and two years. He will also promise to extend the existing entitlement of 15 hours a week free childcare to all two-year-olds. And he will restate the long-term ambition of the party to increase free childcare provision to 20 hours a week for all two, three and four-year-olds and for children aged between nine months and two years of working parents.

  102. Analysis: Russian bombers

    Ross Hawkins

    Political correspondent, BBC News

    "I've just come off the phone with the Department for Transport which says they haven't had any records of disruption to civil aviation."

    "But it is a show of strength from the Russians. These things are done with political intent."

  103. MoD on Russian bombers

    An MoD spokesman said: "RAF Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon fighter aircraft were launched yesterday after Russian aircraft were identified flying close to UK airspace.

    "The Russian planes were escorted by the RAF until they were out of the UK area of interest. At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into UK sovereign airspace."

  104. BreakingBreaking News

    RAF Typhoon fighters were scrambled to escort two Russian Bear bombers spotted in international airspace off the coast of Cornwall, the Ministry of Defence has said.

  105. Greece debt talks

    Mark Lowen

    BBC News, Athens

    The wording is careful: Greece has requested an extension for six months of the 'Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement'. This is the formal name for Greece's international loan and would only be disbursed if conditions are fulfilled. It's not yet clear whether that will satisfy demands in Brussels and Berlin for Athens to stick to the terms of the original bailout. If the request is accepted by the Eurozone, talks will go ahead possibly as early as Friday to rubber-stamp the agreement. But Greece will still try to reach a compromise on the spending cuts and tax rises that the first bailout programme demanded.

  106. Siraj Datoo

    Political reporter, Buzzfeed

    tweets: Let the games begin pic.twitter.com/U1IVk0lD4Q

    Twitter
  107. Greece debt talks

    News agencies are reporting that Greece has now formally asked the European Union for a loan extension which would buy the cash-strapped nation time to work on new anti-austerity reforms. "The request has been sent" to Brussels, a Greek government source told AFP.

  108. Clegg on cannabis

    LBC

    MS sufferer phones in to say "I want legal access to cannabis" because it relieves painful symptoms for him. "Where there is a proven medicinal use for cannabis we should make it easier for people to have access to it," Mr Clegg replied.

  109. Clegg - Tuition fees

    LBC

    If Clegg were to win the next election would he make the same commitments in reducing tuition fees as he did in the 2010 general election, asked an LBC radio listener.

    "Once bitten twice shy," Clegg jovially replied.

    He also added that he believed the biggest pre-occupation of students today is not the repayment of loans "but is the day to day living costs", and he said a future government would look to do more to increase the amount of grants available.

  110. 'Post-war pact buffer zone'

    Tank

    On the big story today about Defence Secretary Michael Fallon's warning over President Putin's intentions, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander has said he too has "very real concerns" about the situation. Mr Alexander told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "The Russian-backed separatist revolt in eastern Ukraine is part of Moscow's larger grand strategy. Putin knows that Russia was invaded not just by Napoleon and Hitler but also by the Swedes, the Poles and the Lithuanians and so Russia seems to be seeking a post-war pact buffer zone in central and eastern Europe."

  111. Clegg on Islamophobia

    LBC

    In response to a question from a listener about the rise of "Islamophobia" since the attacks and killings by the extremist group Islamic State (IS), Nick Clegg describes the group's actions as a "medieval perversion" of faith. He said different communities were "feeling increasingly insecure" and that any future government should continue the funding to protect Jewish faith schools, but Mr Clegg also said that this protection should be also be extended to Muslim faith schools too.

  112. Alastair Campbell

    Former No 10 spokesman

    tweets: blog: 10 more things @chelseafc can do on Saturday to show we are serious about Kicking Out racism - http://www.alastaircampbell.org

  113. Post update

    @bbckamal

    Kamal Ahmed

    Business editor

    Tweets: Centrica to close two gas fired power stations - Killingholme and Brigg. Iain Conn tells me making profits in power generation is tough

  114. Theresa May interview

    Theresa May

    Home Secretary Theresa May is in Washington at an anti-extremism summit, and and she has spoken to the BBC's north America editor Jon Sopel. On the subject of Britons travelling to Syria to take part in acts of extremism she said: "...we have seen a number of young people being attracted and women as well as men travelling over there. But I think this is why it is so important for us not to just look at the issue of terrorism, but to look at the whole question of the ideology that is driving these actions. The ideology that is leading people to take this course of action. That is why I think it is important - and we as governments are very clear - we need to look at extremism across the whole spectrum and that's why we are working on an extremism strategy."

  115. Councils 'planning new charges'

    Councils in England are planning to impose new charges on services such as public toilets, parking and green waste disposal to make up for shortfalls in funding, a report has warned. A survey found more than half thought they would not have sufficient funding in 2015-16 to carry out their statutory duties. Of the 90 councils that responded to the survey, 80% said they will have to increase existing charges to balance their budgets, while a "significant proportion" were said to be making plans to introduce new charges.

  116. 'Vulnerable to abuse'

    Woman

    In other news, a parliamentary watchdog says the government's flagship welfare scheme could leave women vulnerable to domestic abuse. The Joint Committee on Human Rights said the universal credit benefit could expose women to abuse that sees men limit their partners' access to money. The benefit is paid to couples through a joint account, with other options for those concerned about access. The government said it was committed to supporting those affected by abuse. Universal credit, which began being rolled out nationally on Monday, combines six working-age benefits, including JSA, tax credits and housing benefit, into one payment.

  117. Fallon warning on Russia

    Iain Watson

    Political correspondent, BBC News

    "It's tough talk but it's in line with some other statements from government ministers (see 08:09)... This is particularly worrying because Michael Fallon is not simply talking about the situation in Ukraine and Crimea, he is talking about this clear and present danger to Baltic states...

    "You could be very cynical about this. You could say that we are months away from a general election and whoever forms the next government has to find spending cuts: So in a time of international crisis perhaps people will re-examine whether defence ought to be in the firing line, so to speak.

    "But there is some evidence for what Michael Fallon is saying."

  118. 'Russian-backed rebels' - PM

    David Cameron

    On the today's main story about Defence Secretary Michael Fallon's warning regarding President Putin, it's interesting to be reminded of David Cameron's stance on the issue. When he was addressing employees at Rolls Royce in Sussex yesterday he said: "Those Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, they are using Russian rocket launchers, Russian tanks, Russian artillery. You can't buy this equipment on eBay, it hasn't come from somewhere else, it's come from Russia and we know that.

    "So we have to be very firm and strong about the sanctions and say to Vladimir Putin 'what you are doing is unacceptable and it will have economic and financial consequences for many years to come if you do not desist with your behaviour."

  119. 'Internet election'

    Professor Tim Bale, who is chairman of politics at Queen Mary University of London, has posted an article on conservativehome.com and poses the question: "Will this be the first internet election?"

  120. Labour's speed camera pledge

    Motorway

    Speed cameras would be painted yellow to make them more visible to motorists under Labour proposals to reform the transport system, according to politicshome.com. Shadow Transport Secretary Michael Dugher said that cameras should be a safety mechanism, not a "cash cow for ministers". Although some cameras are already painted yellow, some on motorways are still grey coloured. The story has also been reported on MailOnline.

  121. Shock therapy

    New Statesman

    The shock of losing to Ed Miliband could awake the Conservatives from their dogmatic slumber, writes George Eaton of the New Statesman. He says "the Conservatives are struggling to win this election because they failed to win the last one".

  122. Did you know?

    Ballot Box

    Election facts: Sunderland City Council has won the race to be first to declare a result at every general election since 1992.

    In 2010 the winner was the boundary change Houghton and Sunderland South constituency where the count was declared 52 minutes after close of poll.

    From 1992 until 2005 the race was won by Sunderland South. To ensure ballot boxes got quickly into Sunderland's count centre in 2010 school pupils were employed to pass them down the line.

  123. Centrica woes

    Gas hob

    After a "very difficult year" Centrica is cutting its dividend, costs and investment, chief executive Iain Conn said in a statement with the 2014 results. The owner of British Gas reported an adjusted operating profit of £1.746bn last year, a 35% drop on the previous year.

  124. 'Systemic negligence'

    The Independent

    The Independent has sparked interest with its exclusive story that claims that Downing Street has been accused of "systemic" negligence in its approach to the handling of sensitive information - by the body charged with keeping threats to national security out of the media.

    According to The Independent, the secretive DA Notice Committee has alleged that the name of an ex-SAS man was deliberately given to The Sun newspaper in direct contravention of rules governing the identification of present or former members of the Special Forces. No 10 has denied being the source of that information.

  125. Eurozone woes

    BBC Radio 4 Today

    flags

    In the midst of negotiations between Greece and the EU over Greece's loan, Gerard Lyons, economic adviser to mayor of London Boris Johnson, tells the Today programme that the situation in the eurozone should concern the UK. "The big problem globally is Europe. While Greece is the current focus of tension, the real issue in the eurozone is that the eurozone is suffering from a lack of demand, a lack of lending, and a lack of confidence."

  126. More Telegraph concerns

    BBC Newsnight

    Despicable Me 2

    More fallout from Peter Oborne's dramatic resignation from the Telegraph. Newsnight's policy editor Chris Cook has been speaking to more current and recent journalists from the paper who have confirmed Mr Oborne's concerns that the newspaper has a particular problem maintaining the "Chinese walls" that most newspapers keep between their advertising departments and the work of their journalists.

    In one bizarre case, the review for children's film Despicable Me 2 (above) was bumped up from a two-star rating to three stars for commercial reasons, our correspondent says.

  127. Centrica results

    Another interesting titbit happening shortly (07:00GMT) involves the energy company Centrica which will report its full year earnings. The owner of British Gas is expected to reveal a dramatic slump in profits as it underlines the damage caused by the collapse in the oil price.

    Yesterday we learned from initial evidence from a competition inquiry into the "Big Six" energy companies that the dual-fuel customers have missed out on big savings by not switching suppliers. If you missed it, catch up on yesterday's announcement from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) here.

  128. How different is UKIP?

    BBC Radio 4 Today

    Grimsby

    UKIP is the new breakthrough force in British politics, boasting a new kind of politics and politician. And yet the party is led by a public school educated former stockbroker and its two MPs used to sit on the Conservative benches. So how different is it? Matthew Price reports from two neighbouring constituencies - Great Grimsby (above) and Cleethorpes - where one of the UKIP candidates used to be a Tory and the Tory MP was rumoured to be on his way to the ranks of UKIP.

  129. Political parties' funding

    The other main story for this morning which is gaining traction focuses on comments made by the little known Committee on Standards in Public Life.

    The committee - which aims to advises the Prime Minister on ethical standards across the whole of public life in the UK - said there is "large scale public scepticism" about the way political parties are funded.

    Its chairman Lord Bew, told the BBC there was "major difficulty" reforming the system because of dissent from the two main parties and public opposition to state funding. The latest figures on donations to political parties will be published this morning, we'll be bringing you the updates as and when they come in. Read the full story so far, here.

  130. 'Subversive techniques'

    Eleanor Garnier

    BBC political correspondent

    Michael Fallon

    Just sticking with the Putin story for a second, the BBC's political correspondent, Eleanor Garnier says: "This tough language from Mr Fallon underlines a concern that Russia's seizure of the Crimea and the recent fighting in Ukraine are more than just a temporary crisis between Russia and the West." She added that Mr Fallon had told "reporters there was a very real and present danger that President Putin could use subversive techniques including undercover forces and cyber attacks against one of the former Soviet states".

  131. Fallon's warning about Putin

    Papers

    The top political story this morning centres around the comments made by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon who has warned that there is "a very real danger" Russia's President Putin could attempt to de-stabilise other former Soviet states such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Earlier this month it was revealed the UK would play a lead role in a new Nato rapid reaction force that would include 1,000 British soldiers. It was a move designed to deter a perceived Russian threat and reassure the Baltic States. Read the full story here.

  132. Front pages

    papers

    Morning everyone, before we kick off why don't you have a quick scan of today's newspaper front pages.

  133. Good morning

    Alex Hunt

    Politics editor, BBC News Online

    Hello and welcome to another action-packed Politics Live day. It may be recess in Parliament and the half term break for many schools, but there's little sign of a let-up in the pace of campaigning as we move closer to the 7 May election. Matthew Davis and Dominic Howell will bring you all the action, reaction and analysis throughout the day in text and you'll be able to watch and listen to all the main BBC political programmes on this page. Here's how Wednesday unfolded.