Launching the Conservative party manifesto, David Cameron, the party leader, told voters he wanted to ‘turn the good news in our economy into a good life for you and your family’. The Tories promised: to eliminate the deficit by the end of the parliament; to provide 30 hours of free child care a week for working parents of three- and four-year-olds; to grant a right for housing association tenants to buy their properties; to increase the inheritance tax threshold for married couples from £650,000 to £1 million (paid for by nobbling tax allowances on pension contributions for those earning £150,000); to raise the threshold of the 40p rate to £50,000 by 2020; to freeze rail fares in real terms until 2020; and to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.
In a speech launching the Labour manifesto, Ed Miliband, the party leader, said: ‘The deficit will be cut every year. The books will be balanced and the national debt will be falling.’ The 20,000-word manifesto promised a 50p tax rate on incomes over £150,000 a year, but no rises in VAT and national insurance; a one-year freeze in rail fares, paid for by delaying work on the A27 and A358; a £2.5 billion fund for the NHS largely paid for by a tax on houses valued at over £2 million; a cut in university tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000; and a requirement for people in the public sector working with the public to speak English (except perhaps in Wales). The smaller parties published manifestos by way of setting out stalls for negotiation in the event of a coalition.
The annual rate of inflation remained at zero in March, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index, and fell from 1 per cent to 0.9 per cent as measured by the Retail Prices Index. On his return from Erbil, the Kurdish city in Iraq where many thousands of Christians have taken refuge, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, said: ‘There is no way IS [the Islamic State] is going to walk away without being forced to do so.’ RAF Typhoons escorted two Russian Bear bombers which flew close to British airspace. Viv Nicholson, who exclaimed ‘Spend, spend, spend!’ after winning £152,319 on the football pools in 1961, died, aged 79.
Russia lifted a ban imposed in 2010 on supplying Iran with S-300 air-defence missiles. Germany said that it was bringing 100 mothballed tanks back into service, bringing its total to 328. Günter Grass, the German novelist who won the Nobel Prize in 1999, died, aged 87. Annegret Raunigk, a German primary school teacher aged 65, was reported to be in her 21st week of pregnancy with quadruplets. Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the French National Front, withdrew his candidature in December’s regional elections after criticism from his daughter, Marine Le Pen, the party’s leader. Turkey withdrew its ambassador to the Holy See after Pope Francis, during a Mass in St Peter’s in the Armenian Catholic rite, said, quoting words used by Pope John Paul II in 2001: ‘“The first genocide of the 20th century” struck your own Armenian people.’ On Mars the Curiosity rover sent by Nasa found that liquid brine could form near the surface.
Hillary Clinton said she would stand for the Democratic nomination as a candidate for the presidency. Senator Marco Rubio became the third contender for the Republican nomination, after senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. The Islamic State had lost more than a quarter of its territory in Iraq since a US-led coalition air campaign began last August, according to the Pentagon. The UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels in Yemen, a Shia group. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is also fighting the Houthis, said that its leading cleric, Ibrahim al-Rubaish, had been killed in a drone strike.
Fighting increased between Ukrainian government troops and Russian-backed rebels in east Ukraine. In Siberia, 23 people were killed by wildfires. Some 400 would-be migrants to Europe were drowned after their boat capsized off Libya; another 8,000 were rescued in six days. Jean-Claude Juncker ruled out any treaty negotiations on Britain’s relationship with Europe in the five years that he remained President of the European Commission, a post from which David Cameron had tried to keep him. Before a meeting with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed for talks, President Sauli Niinisto of Finland managed to skate seven miles along Abu Dhabi’s seafront on his rollerblades. CSH