Nick Clegg will unveil a "green" Liberal Democrat manifesto today amid growing signs that his party could forge a post-election deal with Labour in a hung parliament.
The latest ComRes survey for The Independent and ITV News shows that Labour has cut the Tories' lead from seven to five points, suggesting that Labour may have received a boost from its manifesto launch on Monday. Labour would be the largest party in a hung parliament, enjoying a slim overall majority if it won the support of the Liberal Democrats in key Commons votes.
The poll puts the Tories at 36 per cent, Labour at 31 per cent, the Liberal Democrats at 19 per cent and others at 14 per cent. If repeated on 6 May, that would give Labour 283 MPs, the Tories 281 and the Liberal Democrats 53.
ComRes found little public confidence that any of the three main parties would tackle the deficit in public finances. Asked which party had the most realistic plans, 25 per cent said the Tories, 23 per cent Labour and 11 per cent the Liberal Democrats. But 24 per cent replied "don't know", 15 per cent "none" and 2 per cent named another party.
Although Mr Clegg will play down speculation about a post-election pact today, the Liberal Democrats and Labour launched almost identical attacks on the Tory manifesto unveiled yesterday, claiming David Cameron's party had not changed. Some Labour strategists are advocating an unofficial "non-aggression pact" in which the party does not criticise the Liberal Democrats.
There is little prospect of Mr Clegg reciprocating. Today he will accuse both Labour and the Tories of downgrading the environment. In an attempt to outflank them, the Liberal Democrats have put the fight against climate change at the heart of their programme. Every chapter in the manifesto has a "green" section to ensure the environmental impact of key policies is assessed.
Mr Clegg told The Independent last night: "Climate change is the greatest challenge facing this generation. The old establishment parties offer warm words but weak, compromised solutions. The Liberal Democrats are the only party putting the battle against climate change front and centre."
The Liberal Democrats call for a "carbon-neutral" Britain by 2050 and a 40 per cent cut in emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. They want 40 per cent of Britain's electricity to come from clean, sources by 2020.
They propose a big expansion of renewable energy; a huge programme of home insulation; new ways for people to make their homes more energy efficient and a pledge to block an expansion of coal-fired and nuclear power stations.
The Liberal Democrats list "creating jobs by making Britain greener" as one of their four key manifesto themes. The others are fair taxes, a fair chance for every child and cleaning up politics. The manifesto pledges to end the detention of children in secure units or young offenders' institutions and to take 500 of the most mentally ill people out of prison into secure treatment.
In his foreword, Mr Clegg writes: "We've had 65 years of... the same parties taking turns and making the same mistakes, letting you down. It is time for something different... Liberal Democrats are different. When it's come to the big decisions – on the banks, on the environment, on the war in Iraq – we are the only party that has called it right, every time."
Last night the Tories dismissed the Liberal Democrats' claim that they had sidelined green issues, saying they had been beefed up since the turn of the year. Mr Cameron yesterday reiterated his support for increasing the share of overall taxation raised by green taxes.
Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, said: "The Tories haven't changed. They want to offer unfunded promises today and hide the bill until the emergency budget that George Osborne wants to give in June." Danny Alexander, Mr Clegg's chief of staff, said: "The Tory manifesto offers only fake change, not the real change this country desperately needs."
ComRes telephoned a random sample of 1,002 GB adults on 11-12 April 2010. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comres.co.uk
Highlights of the day
Flat note of the day
After months of planning, the Conservatives' manifesto launch was slick, but one detail was overlooked. The choice of the song "Everybody's Changing" by Keane backfired when the band's drummer, Richard Hughes, angrily announced that he didn't support the party, the band hadn't been asked, and he was "horrified".
Flashback of the day
The Tory manifesto was launched by projecting images on to Battersea Power Station. In 1994 the "Hello Boys" campaign for Wonderbra was launched by projecting a giant image of the lingerie model Eva Herzigova on to the side of the building. This time round passers-by had to make do with the rather less titillating image of a suited David Cameron. Robert Phillips, head of the public relations firm behind the Wonderbra campaign, remarked: "Who said there is no such thing as a new idea?"
Stitch-up of the day
During a question-and-answer session with the press, David Cameron was unable to answer one on green taxation and passed it over to his old university friend George Osborne instead. A red-faced Osborne didn't know the answer either, and despite a hurried attempt to find it in the manifesto he had to admit defeat and ask Mr Cameron to come back to him later.
Inappropriate yawn of the day
Proceedings were clearly dragging for one Tory MP who spent Mr Cameron's presentation stifling huge yawns. Eagle-eyed Standard journalist Paul Waugh caught him: "I thought, 'Oh blimey, the whips will have his guts for garters.' But, hey up, it's Patrick McLoughlin himself taking in some extra air." Yes, one and the same – the shadow Chief Whip.
Heroine of the day
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, the international lawyer otherwise known as Mrs Clegg, has spoken out against the media's treatment of leaders' wives. "I think that the voters deserve better, deserve more focus on the policies and less on the clothes," she told ITV. Asked whether media coverage of the political spouses was patronising, she replied: "Patronising is putting it very diplomatically." One wonders whether Mrs Brown (accomplished public relations executive) and Mrs Cameron (accomplished businesswoman out campaigning for her husband again yesterday) would privately agree.
Misjudged parody of the day
Parodies of the climactic scene of Downfall in which Hitler delivers an angry rant have become hugely popular on YouTube, but a new version featuring a parliamentary candidate ranting about Oxfordshire Conservatives has been less well received. Conservative candidate for Henley John Howell failed to see the funny side and promptly reported the video to the police for "defamation". Mr Howell told the BBC: "The generation which fought in the Second World War would find it highly offensive and I don't see why they should be put through this. It's outrageous that they fought for the right to hold free elections which is what this film derides."
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