Sebastian Payne

Campaign kick-off: 22 days to go

Campaign kick-off: 22 days to go
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Three manifestos down, two more to go. Yesterday, the Conservatives launched their plan for government and promised to be ‘the party of the working people’ while the Green Party promised to end the ‘disastrous policy of austerity’ and increasing government spending by £170 billion a year. Today, Ukip and the Liberal Democrats take their turns to explain what they'd like to do. To help guide you through the melée of stories and spin, here is a summary of today’s main election stories.

1. Believe in more spending

Ukip is returning to Thurrock for the second time this week to launch its 2015 manifesto. Aside from the usual promises we've come to expect — leaving the EU, much tougher immigration policies — the new two key pledges appear to be: ramping up defence spending and a ‘low-tax revolution’. First up, in the Telegraph today, Nigel Farage has penned an op-ed explaining why and how Ukip intends to take the Tories' place as the party of defence.

‘If we are to ask our men and women to serve in the defence of our country, then the least we can do is make sure they are well looked after when they return. And that’s what Ukip – as the new party of defence – intends to do…and that starts with honouring our 2 per cent Nato spending commitment, and exceeding it substantially for the remaining years of the parliament. Not just this year. But now and for the next parliament, and thereafter. And we’ve fully costed this, as you’ll see when our manifesto is launched.’

Today’s Daily Express also reveals that the Ukip manifesto will include a pledge to take those on the minimum wage out of income tax by raising the income tax personal allowance to £13k — going beyond the Tories’ proposal for those working up to 30 hours a week. Ukip will also pledge to introduce a new 30 per cent income tax band for earners currently on the 40p rate. These proposals will cost £18 billion a year by the end of the next Parliament, which Ukip claim are fully costed and will be funded by a commitment to leave the EU.

But Ukip being Ukip, a row has already broken out between the party’s migration spokesman Steven Woolfe and deputy chairman Suzanne Evans, who wrote the manifesto. Woolfe was overheard saying that Evans does not  ‘understand’ the party’s immigration policy. The Tories have seized up on this as being ‘beyond chaos'.

2. Believe in stability

The Liberal Democrats are launching their manifesto in South London this morning. The key message from Nick Clegg appears to be one being firmly in the middle ground. In an interview with the The Guardian, Clegg argues that his party is better than ‘a coalition of grievance’ and said the Lib Dems have are a ‘proven rock of stability, continuity and conscience’ compared to the alternatives:

‘Do you want David Cameron, accompanied by Nigel Farage, dancing to the tune of swivel-eyed rightwing backbenchers, or do you want a hapless Labour minority administration dancing to the tune of Alex Salmond?’

On the Today programme this morning, Lib Dem policy guru David Laws appeared to suggest that despite the grumbles, another coalition with the Tories is on the cards. He lambasted the Tories' in/out EU referendum pledge but said it wouldn’t be a ‘red line’ in future any coalition negotiations. The new key announcement from their manifesto appears to be education: Clegg will promise this morning to protect spending on education from two to 19 years old. But there hasn't been anything briefed out that is too new or radical — as you might expect.