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Live Reporting

By Dominic Howell and Brian Wheeler

All times stated are UK

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  1. Recap

    Here's a quick recap of today's political stories:

    That's it for us for today. We'll be back with all the latest news and reaction from 06:00 GMT on Monday. Good night.

  2. Reckless 'feared he was followed'

    Another amusing titbit to emerge from UKIP leader Nigel Farage's memoirs - entitled The Purple Revolution - includes his recollection of the when former Tory MP Mark Reckless defected to his party.

    In extracts which are being serialised in the Daily Telegraph, he writes: "Mark turned up in dark glasses and a baseball cap so that the neighbours wouldn't recognise him. He was convinced that he was being followed, most likely by someone at Conservative central office."

  3. Osborne's bloopers

    The Spectator

    Spectator editor Fraser Nelson highlights some economic "bloopers" that won't be in Chancellor George Osborne's Budget Speech on Wednesday. Mr Osborne's pledge to abolish the deficit by the election is the "single biggest failure of his five years," writes Nelson. The speed of economic recovery, sluggish growth in average earnings and increasing government borrowing are also listed as fails - but it is not all bad news as the chancellor has presided over an increase in employment levels.

  4. Farron pledges allegiance

    Tim Farron

    Tim Farron - tipped as a future Lib Dem leader - has pledged his loyalty to Nick Clegg after criticising the party's performance in coalition under Mr Clegg's leadership. He was subsequently slapped down by former leader Lord Ashdown, who said he lacked judgement.

    Pressed for a reaction to Ashdown's comments, at the party's spring conference in Liverpool, he heaped praise on the deputy prime minister, saying he had delivered a "stonking speech" that had given the party the boost it needed to go into the general election.

    "From my point of view, the real point of us being here is get behind Nick, get behind the push forward," he told BBC News.

  5. MP claims wreath on expenses

    Sarah Champion

    Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, has come in for some criticism after she claimed £17 on expenses for the cost of a Remembrance Day poppy wreath. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) said MPs were not allowed to make such claims and was seeking repayment from Miss Champion. Campaign group The Taxpayers' Alliance described it as "downright low". Miss Champion has yet to issue a response. Get the full BBC story here.

    The news has also been provoking comment on Twitter with Professor Matthew Goodwin - author of a highly-regarded book on the rise of UKIP, Revolt on the Right - tweeting: This won't help Labour's fight in Rotherham

  6. Your views

    We have been asking for your opinions on the political stories of the day. Here are a selection of a couple of them. You can get in touch by click on the "Get Involved" tab above.

    Graeme Lowe:

    So Ed Balls says Labour 'don't need to do a deal with the SNP'. How else will they manage to form a majority government? 'It is as inevitable as night following day. 'Don't need to' is a million miles away from 'won't'. Decision made: Salmond with influence at Westminster is the stuff of nightmares - I won't be voting Labour.

    Barry Mylam:

    Dear BBC, Can all your interviewers please make politicians (from all parties) answer the question. Not go on about their twisted propaganda about what the other side will do. Try saying to them "if you won't answer the question we will end the interview now" and then do it. Or whenever they go on about what they think the others will do bleep it out. You would not have to do it for long before they changed their approach. Why don't politicians understand that they all look like evasive liars and this is one of the reasons people are getting fed up with the main parties and politics in general.

  7. Blair's 'education for open minds'

    Tony Blair

    Former Primer Minister Tony Blair has called for an "education for open minds" in tackling radicalisation among young people. The former UK prime minister said faith schools of all kinds needed to make sure pupils understood the beliefs of other religions. Get the full story here.

  8. Janan Ganesh, Financial Times

    @JananGanesh

    tweets: The coalition. It's *still* here. Even optimists assumed there would be a pro forma separation several months before the election.

  9. Michael Crick, Channel 4 News

    @MichaelLCrick

    tweets: A senior Lib Dem source tells me Labour have been putting out feelers

  10. John Rentoul, columnist for Independent on Sunday

    @JohnRentoul

    Tweets: Predictions for Budget: 1 take from rich & give to those on low to middle incomes; 2 planned public spending/GDP won't go to 1930s level

  11. Recap

    Here's a quick recap of today's political stories:

  12. The New Statesman's elections site

    @May2015NS

    Tweets: Labour & the Tories have been exchanging leads in the polls for the past 3 months (5-day avg)…

    New Statesman
  13. 'No one will win'

    The Guardian

    Andrew Rawnsley at the Guardian has written a piece about what he believes will be the likely outcome after the general election. "The truth that dare not speak its name: no one will win on 7 May," he writes. He adds that David Cameron and Ed Miliband "look detached from reality" for not admitting it.

  14. Clegg's final election?

    Nick Clegg

    Many of Nick Clegg's senior colleagues believe he is preparing to fight his final general election, says BBC Political Correspondent Ross Hawkins.

    Several MPs have told Ross there is an unspoken assumption that he will stand down as Liberal Democrat leader in the next Parliament - whatever the result in May. Read the full piece here.

  15. Ross Hawkins, political correspondent

    @rosschawkins

    Tweets: Hug from Miriam, ovation, TV crew scrum, all the big speech choreography but it was an election rally (and weeks from election why not)

    and

    Tweets: A touch here of go back to your constituencies and prepare for a bloody fight with our coalition partners

  16. Can Clegg defy odds?

    Nick Clegg told the Lib Dem faithful they would "defy the odds" at the general election. But what about the odds of his own survival? Bookmakers William Hill reckon he is unlikely to be party leader by the end of 2015. They are offering 2/5 that he will have been replaced by then. Former party president Tim Farron is 8/11 odds-on favourite to succeed Mr Clegg as Lib Dem leader - and the Party is a 2/1 chance to be part of a coalition government following the general election. Mr Farron was earlier slapped down by Lord Ashdown for suggesting coalition would damage the party for a generation. Read more here.

  17. Clegg's finale

    Nick Clegg

    Mr Clegg waves to the crowd and hugs his wife as he finished his speech in Liverpool. He closed his speech by saying: "If you want a government that will create opportunities for everyone, vote Liberal Democrat. This is a fight for our future, for the decent values of our country - we can and we must win."

  18. 'Proved wrong'

    Clegg adds: "Five years ago we were told a hung parliament would be a disaster for Britain. We were told that without a clear majority for one of the old, establishment parties, Britain would collapse into chaos. We proved them wrong." He went on to say that the Lib Dems "proved that coalition can be strong, stable and successful".

  19. Lib Dem economy

    Mr Clegg says when the Lib Dems came in to government the "big question" was: "Could we rescue the British economy?"

    He adds: "Liberal Democrats, we have been tested and we passed the test. We rescued the economy. We held our nerve. And make no mistake, the recovery would not be happening without the Liberal Democrats."

    More audience applause.

  20. 'Threat to education'

    "The Conservatives are a threat to education," Mr Clegg says, adding "they will take billions of pounds away from existing schools in order to create 500 more free schools, regardless of whether or not they are actually needed at all."

    He adds: "And they will cut, drastically, the money that goes to nurseries, sixth forms and colleges.

    "...cows moo. Dogs bark. And Tories cut. It's in their DNA."

  21. 'Defensive crouch'

    Mr Clegg says Labour and the Tories "are in a defensive crouch, hoping to win by default, not because the British people share their vision but because they dislike them a little less than the other guy".

    The audience laugh when he says: "Look at the way David Cameron tried to dodge the leaders' debates by hiding behind the Green Party. It's the greenest thing he's done since he's been in government."

  22. Clegg bashes Labour and Tories

    Nick Clegg launches a scathing attack on his Conservative coalition partners and the Labour Party, which goes down very well with Lib Dem activists in the hall. "Everywhere you look there is blame and division," he says, adding: "It's in Theresa May's Go Home vans. In the glint in George Osborne's eye as he announces that the working age poor will bear the brunt of the cuts. It's in the red-faced bluster of the Tory right wingers who are determined to scrap the Human Rights Act and drag us out of Europe. It's in the 'us versus them' scaremongering of the Labour Party, as they condemn every decision to balance the books as a betrayal and then make wild predictions about mass unemployment or the death of the NHS that they know are not true."

  23. 'Immense admiration' for Norman Lamb

    Nick Clegg says that on average, three children in every classroom has a mental health condition. "You heard me right, three children in every classroom. In Britain. In 2015. That cannot be allowed to carry on," he says.

    He then left his script to note his "immense admiration" for ministerial colleague Norman Lamb, who he said had reacted with "dignity and courage" to "public scrutiny" this morning a reference to a Sunday Mirror story about Mr Lamb's son Archie (see below).

  24. 'Ending child illiteracy'

    Clegg says that one of the proudest moments of his time in government - so far - was at the end of last year, when the latest primary school results were published. "They showed children from the poorest backgrounds getting their best ever results and the gap between them and their better off classmates narrowing," he said, and argued that this was because of a Lib Dem government.

    "I want every child to leave primary school to be confident at reading - ending child illiteracy for good," he adds.

  25. Applause

    "A stronger economy and a fairer society, with opportunity for everyone. It's not just a slogan to stick on leaflets or adorn conference auditoriums, it's a destination. That is the sort of Britain I want us to be," Clegg says to rapturous applause.

  26. 'Get up'

    Nick Clegg is rallying the Lib Dem troops in Liverpool (with a possible nod to the old Chumbawamba hit): "We take our hits on the chin. When we get knocked down, we get up, brush ourselves off and carry on," says the Lib Dem leader, to applause from the hall.

  27. Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    @rosschawkins

    Tweets: Lord Ashdown on Tim Farron: "Tim's a very able guy but at the moment judgement is not his strong suit." (the audio sounds pretty damning)

  28. Clegg speech begins

    Nick Clegg
  29. Webb claims pension credit

    Steve Webb

    On the subject of Wednesday's Budget and the expected pledge to help pensioners cash in their annuities, the architect of the policy Lib Dem Pensions Minister Steve Webb - who grabbed headlines last year when he suggested pensioners could blow the money on a Lamborghini if they wanted to - is attempting to make sure his party gets due credit for it. He said: "As a Liberal I believe that today's pensioners should have the same freedoms as tomorrow's pensioners to spend their hard earned savings as they wish. That's why I proposed this measure and I am delighted to have secured it in this week's Budget."

  30. What Cleggs will be wearing

    All eyes on Liverpool now, as we get ready for Nick Clegg's big speech to his party's spring conference. Fashion lovers might like to know that Mr Clegg's wife Miriam will be wearing a Venus dress in bubblegum pink, brown shoes from Uterque and a pale pink coat from Zara (according to our resident fashion expert Paul Twinn). Mrs Clegg wore the dress at the interview with Red and to introduce President of Mexico Peña Nieto at the Canning House lecture. Mr Clegg will be wearing a Hackett suit an M&S shirt and black shoes.

  31. Balls: Osborne 'wriggling out of debate'

    Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has put out a statement after challenging George Osborne to a head-to-head debate. It says: "It's good that George Osborne shook hands on a head-to-head TV debate with me during the election campaign. But he's already trying to wriggle out of that by insisting on bringing his deputy along.

    "If George Osborne wants a debate with all the main parties, as well as a head-to-head debate, that's fine by me. But we need a head-to-head debate because there's a big choice between an extreme Tory plan which will put our NHS at risk and Labour's better plan which will put working families first and save the NHS."

  32. Clarke blasts UKIP

    Former Chancellor Ken Clarke has said he would be "fiercely opposed" to any deal with UKIP after the election. Speaking on Sky News, the Conservative veteran said it would be "an extraordinary thing to do, to enter into an agreement with a party that is just angry protest. It's not a party that any serious governing parties should enter into deals with."

  33. Lord Davey?

    Would Ed Davey accept a seat in the Lords, asks Andrew Neil, if he should lose his Kingston and Surbiton seat (majority 7,560) in the forthcoming general election. "Good hypothetical question," Mr Davey retorts "but the real question in people's minds is who is going to form the next government".

  34. Davey vs Farron

    Lib Dem Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey was grilled by Andrew Neil about former Lib Dem President Tim Farron's comment that their party would get "two out of 10" for their handling of the coalition. Mr Davey gave a spirited, if standard, defence of the coalition. Mr Farron and Mr Davey are both regularly tipped to be the party's next leader. Mr Farron - who also said the coalition would continue to damage the Lib Dems for decades - was earlier slapped down by Lib Dem former leader and election chief Lord Ashdown. "I think his well-known ambitions would be better served with a little more patience and a little more judgement," he told Pienaar's Politics. "Tim is a very able guy but judgement is not his strong suit."

  35. 1930s spending 'nonsense'?

    One of Labour's chief criticisms is that the Tories would cut public spending down to a similar level seen during the 1930s. Asked by Sunday Politics presenter Andrew Neil how much was spent in the 1930s Caroline Flint struggled to find answer. "A lot less," she begins to say before being interrupted by Mr Neil who calculates that in today's money to pare back spending to the level in that decade would mean the equivalent of a £650bn cut. You know that's a nonsense?, he asks.

  36. Flint on Sunday Politics

    Caroline Flint

    Andrew Neil presses shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint on why "business" is not mentioned on her election pledge card. She insists that business is something her party cares about. She says Labour if elected would push through plans to help businesses such as making sure young people have access to apprenticeships and that "small businesses benefit from a clock on their business rates".

  37. Northern powerhouse

    Political editor for the Sunday Times, Tim Shipman, tells the BBC's Sunday Politics that one thing we will hear about during Wednesday's budget announcement is the idea of a "northern powerhouse". "It sounds like a 1970s prog rock group", he quips, but says it is the Conservative's plan to claw back some north-west marginal seats in the M62 corridor.

  38. Norman Lamb on 'OCD son'

    The Lib Dem Health Minister Norman Lamb has started his speech at the Lib Dem Spring Conference with a reference to today's Sunday Mirror story about his music producer son Archie, who allegedly faced a blackmail threat after a video emerged of him appearing to take drugs.

    "My family has had its own experience of mental health problems. Our eldest son diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when he was 15. My family is not unique. Our experience has made me even more determined to bring mental health out of the shadows," he said.

    He thanked activists for their words of support for him this morning and received a warm round of applause from them.

  39. Salmond to 'shake Westminster'

    Alex Salmond

    Alex Salmond has said the SNP is preparing to shake Westminster "to its foundations" after the general election. With polls indicating a huge swing to the nationalists in Scotland, the former first minister said Labour would find it "very difficult" to refuse the party's support in the event of a hung parliament. He was speaking as extracts from The Dream Shall Never Die, his referendum diary looking back on the campaign for independence, were published in the Scottish Sun on Sunday.

  40. Ashdown on 5 live

    Quick interview with Paddy Ashdown on Pieenaar's Politics... Lord Ashdown says the party has a "rising cohort of extremely talented women" who are the "brightest and the best".

  41. Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    @ChrisMasonBBC

    Tweets: that handshake moment between Ed Balls and George Osborne was great telly #marr

  42. TV debates - 'constructive ambiguity"

    More from Pienaar's Politics on 5 live: Ed Balls shoehorns in a comment on the TV debate he has just challenged George Osborne to on the Andrew Marr show. "Are we not going to talk about the TV debates John? " he asks the presenter. And then adds that he thought George Osborne initially agreed to the debate, but "by the end of the handshake there was constructive ambiguity I think".

  43. 'So extreme'

    "He wants to do something so extreme that in the end I don't think it can be done," is how Ed Balls describes George Osborne's plans for the Budget. On the subject of Trident he said he would ask the question of whether the UK's defence security could be achieved with "three or four boats". Currently there are four nuclear submarines within the UK's Trident operation, with one permanently at sea.

  44. Surplus target

    Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls is now on On BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics, attacking George Osborne's Budget, due on Wednesday. He says "it would be a great irony" if the chancellor decided to back off on his commitment to have a £23bn surplus by 2019. The Financial Times is predicting Mr Osborne could increase his surplus target to £30bn.

  45. Debate or not?

    So will there be a head-to-head debate between George Osborne and Ed Balls? Here is what the two men said as they shook on it: George Osborne: "Well I'm happy to meet you in a debate." Ed Balls: "We should shake on it and go for it." GO: "Ed I'm not going to... we're going to see who else wants to be part of that. I've got a very effective chief secretary, who I think would also want to be part of that debate." EB: "If only David Cameron was up for a one-to-one debate like George but for some reason David Cameron is running scared."

  46. 'Fighting for a majority'

    Here's a bit more detail about when Ed Balls was asked about a potential SNP deal with Labour. Asked by Andrew Marr to say the words "I rule it out", Mr Balls replied: "Ed Miliband said it's nonsense. It's not part of our plans. You know Andrew, you've been covering politics for 30 years, parties, large parties at this stage say we're fighting for a majority and we are. I'm not going to get involved in speculation about post-election deals. We're fighting for a majority."

  47. The handshake for 'head-to-head debate'

    Ed Balls George Osborne
  48. George Eaton, The New Statesman

    tweets: Balls outplayed Osborne on the Marr sofa with that handshake trick. #Marr

  49. Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    @rosschawkins

    Tweets: Symmetrical Marr - Balls won't rule out SNP deal, Osborne won't rule out UKIP deal

    and

    Tweets: Stand by for an election campaign defined in part by politicians keeping their options open on alliances (& prob on cuts too)

  50. Chancellor TV debate?

    Ed Balls challenges George Osborne to a head-to-head TV debate and gets him to shake on it. Mr Osborne says he wants Lib Dem Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander to be part of it.

  51. Chris Mason, BBC News

    tweets: George Osborne: "no giveaways, no gimmicks," on the budget, but appears to duck specific question on whether it'll be fiscally neutral #marr

  52. Osborne on UKIP offer

    George Osborne describes Nigel Farage's offer of a pact with the Tories as "just total nonsense". "Voting for Nigel Farage makes Ed Miliband the likely prime minister," he says and that would mean no EU referendum. He is pushed to categorically rule out a deal with UKIP. But, like Ed Balls on the SNP, he does not quite get there. He says Nigel Farage is "not a credible participant" in the election.

  53. Northern powerhouse - Osborne

    Creating stronger links with cities in the north is something Osborne says he wants to do. "[The] northern powerhouse is something we have got to build in the country," he says. He said "what is exciting at the moment is there are more jobs being created" in those cities. But he also said he wanted to "create greater transport links and invest in science and manufacturing".

  54. Osborne on message

    George Osborne is sticking closely to his script - talking about his "long term plan" and saying Labour would create economic "chaos". He's not giving much away about any surprises he might be planning to announce on Wednesday.

  55. 'Borrowing too much'

    "I have an economic plan which is breathing jobs into the country," Osborne says on The Marr Show. But asked about whether he agreed with the Institute for Fiscal Studies assumption that his planned cuts were "colossal". He said: "We still have to make difficult decisions... this country is still borrowing too much."

  56. The Andrew Marr Show

    tweets: George Osborne: We still have to make difficult decisions...the plans we have set out are the plans we intend to follow through #marr

  57. Post update

    Andrew Marr and Ed Balls
  58. 'No giveaways'

    "No giveways no gimmicks, a Budget for the long term." That's how George Osborne's sums up Wednesday's Budget.

  59. Post update

    Andrew Marr and Ed Balls
  60. Norman Smith, BBC News

    @BBCNormanS

    Tweets: I can't sign up to keeping 2% defence spending but not have defence cuts as deep as Tories - @edballsmp @MarrShow

    and

    Tweets: Ed Balls - we have no plan, no need, no desire to have a deal with @theSNP @MarrShow

  61. Defence cuts

    "We will not have defence cuts as big as the Tories," says Ed Balls. But that does not mean there will be no cuts - Labour would carry out a strategic defence review. He ducks the question of whether Labour would stick to Nato's target of 2% of GDP to be spent on defence.

  62. 'Sensible spending cuts'

    Ball says that under his plan he would impose "sensible spending cuts as well fair tax rises at the top". He says his party could save "£500m from local government", "£250m from policing", "£70m from the courts". He says George Osborne's plan is an "ideological assault on the state".

  63. SNP/Labour deal?

    "It's not part of our plans"..... "It's nonsense". Ed Balls is pushed repeatedly to rule out a post election deal with the SNP. He does not categorically rule it out but repeats the phrases used by Labour leader Ed Miliband.

  64. 'Fair alternative'

    Mr Balls says George Osborne's plan for the economy goes "way beyond" what is required. He instead proposing a "fair and balanced" alternative.

  65. Balls on Marr

    Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls hits back at criticism from the SNP that he has signed up to Conservative austerity plans. Mr Balls says it's "completely wrong and irresponsible" to not worry about the country's deficit and not want to balance the books but he would not go as far as the Conservatives.

  66. Defence cuts?

    There is much debate ahead of Wednesday's Budget around possible defence cuts, the BBC's business editor Kamal Ahmed says. He said there is a story in the Sunday Times today which claims that "senior generals in the armed forces are considering leaving, such is the pressure on resources".

  67. 'Tax cut'

    BBC's business editor Kamal Ahmed tells the Marr show that one of the ideas rumoured to be in Wednesday's Budget include "a tax cut by raising the threshold".

  68. Balls on Marr

    Ed Balls
    Image caption: Ed Balls is also playing the waiting game
  69. Osborne on Marr

    George Osborne
    Image caption: George Osborne is waiting to be grilled about his Budget on the Marr programme
  70. Robin Brant, BBC political correspondent

    @robindbrant

    Tweets: blimey, whatever the politics, @George_Osborne and @edballsmp in it together; both got a lot of make up on this morning for marr #ge2015

  71. Post update

    The Andrew Marr Show is now on BBC One, guests set to be interviewed include Chancellor George Osborne and shadow chancellor Ed Balls, ahead of Wednesday's Budget.

  72. Jim Pickard, chief political correspondent for the Financial Times

    @PickardJE

    Tweets: Heseltine: Enoch Powell more "intelligent" than Farage but "had the same irresponsible instinct - to mix up race relations with immigration"

  73. Clegg speech to conference

    Nick Clegg

    Later on today (13:00 GMT) Nick Clegg will attempt to rally his embattled troops at the Lib Dem spring conference by telling them the party is "here to stay", and will defy poor poll predictions in the general election. He will say: "It is because of our resilience that we have been able to achieve incredible things. And it is because of that resilience that we will defy the odds and win again this May. So when people tell you we can't, tell them where to go. I have a message for all those who are writing us off once again: the Liberal Democrats are here to stay." Get the full story here.

  74. Farage's offer to Tories

    Nigel Farage

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage's autobiography continues to be serialised in the Telegraph today. Mr Farage said that UKIP would do a post-election deal with a potential minority Conservative government if there is an EU referendum in 2015. In his memoirs - entitled The Purple Revolution - the UKIP leader ruled out a formal coalition, saying voters would see it as "selling out". But he said he would agree to a pact to prop up a Tory government in return for an EU referendum before Christmas. On Saturday Mr Farage made headlines yet again after he said that he was "almost killed" by the National Health Service, when he had testicular cancer as a young man, and said people should pay for private health care if they can.

  75. Pensioners 'able to cash in annuity'

    Allowing pensioners to cash in an existing annuity is expected to be included in George Osborne's Budget on Wednesday. The changes, which are not expected to come in before April 2016, could affect five million people. Reforms announced last year that allow working people to cash in their pension savings will take effect on 6 April. BBC political correspondent Alex Forsyth said these measures had "an obvious political point - to attract older voters". Get the full story here.

  76. 'Broken promises'

    Ed Balls

    Among the political stories making heading headlines today is shadow chancellor Ed Balls's article in the Sunday Mirror where he warns that when George Osborne delivers the budget on Wednesday he "won't be able to run away from five years of failure and broken promises".

    "Working people are worse off. Independent experts at the Institute for Fiscal Studies say that tax and benefit changes since 2010 have cost families an average of £1,127 a year," he adds.

  77. Good Morning

    Morning and welcome to the campaign countdown live page. It is now just 53 days until the election. We'll be bringing you rolling coverage of all the latest news, reaction and analysis to the main political stories on what looks set to be a busy day. First up is Chancellor George Osborne being grilled about Wednesday's Budget on The Andrew Marr show. Here's how Friday played out.