10pm ToryDiary: No change in Tory poll rating over last 24 hours as Labour drops back a point 

6.15pm Mark Wallace on CentreRight on the absurdity of having political leaflets confiscated by the parliamentary authorities

4.15pm ToryDiary: Cameron welcomes the agreement on election debates

1pm LeftWatch: Former Labour leader Michael Foot has died

Open thread for PMQs

11.30am Lawrence Kay on CentreRight: Escaping the poverty trap

HELMER ROGER11am Roger Helmer MEP on CentreRight: Thanks for the coal, WWF

9.15am ToryDiary: After the Ashcroft affair, Cameron must end the role played by big money in politics

ToryDiary: The Tories will force BBC to publish top stars' pay as part of bid to squeeze better value out of licence fee

WIll Burstow on Platform: The TV debates will place too much power in the hands of whoever becomes Prime Minister after the election

On Local government:


Tory lead 5% in YouGov/Sun daily trackerYesterday evening's ToryDiary

Michael Gove promises "non-selective grammar schools" as part of his Swedish-style supply revolution

GOVE MICHAEL NW "He told the Daily Mail: 'An overwhelming majority are simply unhappy with the quality and provision of local education. They think the standards aren't high enough. They want something more traditional and rigorous. 'Most of them tend to want what has been called a non-selective grammar school, a comprehensive grammar. That's the preferred model the ones we have talked to have in mind.'" – Daily Mail

"[The IPPR] has cast doubt on the effectiveness of “pupil premium” proposals outlined by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, which are central to both parties’ education policies in the run-up to the general election. The pupil premium is an extra amount of money given directly to each state school for every pupil from a disadvantaged background whom they admit. Its advocates argue that it would improve the results of the poorest children." – FT

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: Michael Gove promises to restore confidence in 'A' levels, increase the freedom of Academies and reduce the inspection burden on top-performing schools

David Cameron welcomes election debates in an article for Sun readers

"For the first time the three main party leaders will take part in live TV debates before the election.
I first called for this in May 2007. Since then I've kept the pressure up. No one should doubt how big a deal they are, transforming how we campaign, getting the whole nation thinking about politics. It's not exactly The X Factor. We're not classic prime-time entertainment. But I believe they will energise politics." – David Cameron writing in The Sun

"The debates will be strictly controlled as broadcasters meet the rigid demands of balance between the three leaders. The audiences will also be carefully selected. I can guarantee now that if one questioner gives Brown a hard time another will give Cameron an equally tough ride. Scope for spontaneity will be limited. The BBC, never knowingly under-managed when preparing for set piece events, will have an army of executives involved for their allocated debate on the economy, overstaffing that can lead to stifling caution or the other extreme, a shrill, but contrived populism. The leaders risk being over-rehearsed too as they seek to please, and above all, not to make a mistake. The level of preparation and control might fuel voters' cynicism rather than address it." – Steve Richards in The Independent

ICM will pick an audience of 200 for each election debate – FT

> Tim Montgomerie on why election debates are bad for British democracy and a gift to the Tories' electoral opponents

Ken Clarke laughed as he spoke of a Tory leadership whose members were young enough to be his childrenGuardian

Do you really believe Labour will fix the things they broke?, asks Ann Widdecombe

WIDDECOMBEinGARDEN "Do you want a larger or a smaller State? Do you want your pension to be robbed year after year or gradually strengthened? Do you want the emphasis on families or on fracture? Do you want clean hospitals? A-level grades which mean what they say? More support for our armed forces? Tougher immigration control? If the Government says it can do all these things after 13 years of not doing them then treat it with a pinch of salt and make a genuine change." – Ann Widdecombe in The Express

Simon Heffer predicts trouble if the Notting Hill set do not deliver a big victory

"What conclusion should Conservatives come to? That the party failed to get a strong mandate (or any mandate) because it was too Notting Hill? Or because it was not Notting Hill enough? To judge from conversations I have had in recent days with Tory MPs of all shades, most of whom were feeling decidedly flat, any attempt to push the second of those lines would lead to civil war. Factionalism is only just below the surface. Unity is being maintained because of the imminence of the test. Anything less than a full-throated victory that enables a solid five-year mandate is going to cause serious problems internally, never mind in trying to govern Britain." – Simon Heffer in The Telegraph

Nick Clegg attempts to calm markets' fears of hung parliament chaos

Clegg-Nick-On-Newsnight "The Liberal Democrats have attempted to calm nervous financial markets by a promise not to use their pivotal position in a hung parliament to plunge Britain back into another general election. Nick Clegg, Lib Dem leader, told the Financial Times that his party would act as the “guarantors of fiscal stability” if the next election were to produce no clear victor." – FT

The Daily Mail: Why the money markets are worried about Labour

"Whatever Chancellor Alistair Darling might wish to do left to his own devices, his Pre-Budget Report in December was a disastrous cop-out, which simply ignored the scale of the problem. Mr Clarke is right to warn that unless an incoming government has credible plans for controlling the deficit, not only will sterling fall, but interest rates are bound to rise, making mortgages more expensive and putting the recovery at risk." – Daily Mail leader

Tensions between Catholic Church and Scottish Labour

"Jim Murphy, the Scottish Secretary, himself a Catholic, made a speech intended to lure back the lost sheep and was promptly smacked down by Cardinal O'Brien, leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland. The Cardinal has also told Iain Gray, Labour leader in the Scottish Parliament, that when the Pope visits next year, he hopes His Holiness will "really give you hell for what you have done to our country over 10 years, demeaning family and married life"." – Alan Massie in The Telegraph

It's a bit rich for Labour to feign moral outrage about Lord Ashcroft… they've been pocketing millions from foreign tycoons for years – Stephen Glover in the Daily Mail

Ian Paisley to stand down as MPBBC

More than half of young people eligible to vote are not registered to do so BBC

Nigel Farage was yesterday fined £2,700 for launching a prolonged personal attack on Europe's new President Herman Van RompuyDaily Mail

And finally… Danny Finkelstein argues that voters don't believe anything politicians say

"The cynicism about politics is so pervasive that it embraces almost all political activity. Use a statistic? It’s a lie. Cry on television about your dead child? It’s an election gimmick. Attack your opponents’ policy? You would say that, wouldn’t you. And this cynicism extends to the media and our coverage. So not only politics, but news about politics, is seen as a fiction inside an untruth wrapped in a piece of spin." – Daniel Finkelstein in The Times


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