The final Tory PEB (public election broadcast) above. Contrary to earlier reports, Cameron says marriage equality isn't in the cards:

Mr Cameron said that he was not planning to rename civil partnerships as civil marriage, as some papers had been speculating.

"We are not planning that. I think that civil partnerships are excellent thing because they give
gay people the opportunity to form a partnership and have some of the advantages of marriage. I think that is right. I am very happy to have a look at how we can take policy forward... but I think where we are at the moment, I think has dealt with one of the great unfairnesses. So we should look to the future cautious about whether we can build on that."

Mehdi Hasan blames Cameron for letting a "a 28-point poll lead more or less disappear":

Cameron is the longest-serving of the three party leaders – and, if a week is a long time in politics, then four and a half years is an eternity. That he is still struggling to stay ahead – against an unpopular and unelected prime minister, at the helm of a party in office for the past 13 years – is a damning indictment of his poor leadership. As one cabinet minister pointed out to me a few days ago: "Cleggmania is a distraction. The real, unreported story of this election campaign is how David Cameron failed to pull away – even before the debates."

Alex Massie and John O'Sullivan are debating why the Tories aren't doing better. Here's John O'Sullivan:

I think that the Tory leadership as a group forgot how to manage its "broad Church" coalition. They went from realizing that the base was insufficient for victory to believing that it was an obstacle to victory. In pursuing centrist voters they were insouciant about losing voters to their right. Their desire to demonstrate Tory support for public services led them to embrace Labour's budgetary strategy until shortly after the roof fell in. And they tried only fitfully to integrate their new ideas into the party's tradition and sense of itself. Not only did this approach drive some traditional conservatives into UKIP, but it also gave an impression of inauthenticity and even cynicism. It prevented the Tories from deriving any political benefit from Labour's budgetary implosion. And it may even have prepared the ground for the Lib-Dem surge by validating their brand of politics in advance-but I concede that's a stretch. Mr. Massie thinks that the problem is that the leadership did not pursue the strategy of alienating the base consistently and vigorously enough to convince centrist doubters. We will have to differ.

Massie's reply:


[Y]es, it is a worry (from a Conservative perspective) that the party may not win much more than 35% or 36% of the vote on Thursday. If it does worse than this then, yes, Cameron's critics will consider themselves vindicated and they may have a point. Nevertheless even if we end up considering Project Dave a failure that doesn't mean an alternative strategy - one that might win support from Peter Hitchens and Simon Heffer for instance - would have prevailed or done any better. I suspect it might have done very much worse and that the Conservatives could have been fortunate to win even 30% of the vote in such circumstances.

Julian Glover praises Cameron:

Life is often incremental. In each age, many things get better and some worse, and it is rarely clear whose ideas are right at the time.

I think David Cameron, at his best, thinks like this. If he wins the election this week – as his confident body language on television today certainly suggested he expects to – he will avoid grand promises and schemes. Rhetoric falls badly from his lips because it implies a certainty he cannot share. The Big Society and – worse – the Great Ignored are phrases of his that failed in this election because they pretended to offer some all-encompassing Conservative theory of progress. No such thing exists. Cameron used a better and modest line today in his BBC interview to describe his intentions: "quiet effectiveness". That is what he would want a Tory government to offer; a series of rolling judgments, often small, sometimes contradictory when compared ideologically, which might amount to a modest but sustained improvement in the condition of the country.

Mick Brown had a largely flattering profile of Cameron over the weekend:

When I suggest to Cameron that he intended to 'detoxify’ the Tories, he visibly winces. 'I don’t use the phrase because it’s not just as simple as let’s put a lick of fresh paint on an existing car; it’s more a case of taking all the good bits of the old car and building a modern car.’ He talks about 'lighting the touch paper’ to a vision of 'compassionate conservatism’ that is actually part of a deep-seated Conservative tradition of social reform that goes back to Peel and Disraeli.

'I’ve always found it very condescending, this idea that you have to be left-wing in order to be compassionate. I think the Conservatives are deeply compassionate because we understand that the things that actually deliver a more compassionate society are things like families and good schools. The party has modernised and is more in connection with the country it seeks to govern, but the core beliefs that the good society is the responsible society, that government can’t do everything, that communities need to do more together, that is as old as the hills.’

An inspiring video in support of the Lib Dems above. Renard Sexton looks at Clegg's options:

[If] the Liberal Democrats want to govern at some point – and it seems that Nick Clegg sees it this way – a simple reform to the electoral system that will bring modest returns to the party at best may not be they way to go. Perhaps they should set their sights on knocking Labour out as much as they can this election -- effectively conceding 2010 to the Tories, but building their chances for long term success in the next decades.

Fraser Nelson argues against a Tory-Lib Dem coalition:


Nick Clegg will not bring down the government: he has more to lose from a second election than Cameron. I suspect there is enough gas left in the LibDem bubble to last until Thursday – Clegg may raise his tally of MPs from 62 to 80 or even 100. He still enjoys the novelty factor: he is not well enough known to be disliked. This will change. You can bet that, in a second election, he would kiss goodbye to his new recruits. It is Cameron that would have a gun against Clegg’s head, not vice versa.

Hippy-clegg


Guido posts this image of Clegg and complains:


Clegg is hampered by the democratic structure of his party, the manifesto is written partly by the activist membership, many of whom are radical left-wingers – the infamous weirdie beardies.  Clegg emphasises all the vote winning right-of-centre policies on television; cutting personal taxes, putting more police on the streets, cutting back the health and educational bureaucracies.  His party has also saddled him with a manifesto that is soft on sentencing criminals, backs banning-the-bomb and joining the euro policies.

Iain Martin:


The wider Lib Dem campaign has not been very effective. It is as though party strategists were as much taken by surprise as everyone else by their man’s success in the first debate. Clegg has continued to be relaxed and generally strong on the trail, but back in London the party should have flooded the gaps left by their enemy (the two old parties) with initiatives and practical populist policy pronouncements to emphasize there was more to this than a post-debate bubble. They didn’t.

James Macintyre calls Brown's speech today (clip above) his best of the campaign:

Brown, speaking as I type, is genuinely moved. He looks angry about poverty, determined and serious. As he talks through his values, imbued in him by his church of Scotland father, "bigot-gate" seems a very long way away. As he talks of the minimum wage, the audience are going wild for him, even more so than they did for Nick Clegg.

This is Brown at his best. Labour strategists will wish he could be like this all the time, and certainly in the next couple of days.

Norm Geras explains why he is voting for Labour:

Labour's record on poverty unmatched - and social justice trumps other considerations unless these are of an exceptional and urgent kind.

Labour's final PEB:

Labour strategist Alastair Campbell isn't giving up:

[If] you live in one of the 100-plus Tory/Labour marginals, just remember that if you go to bed with Nick next Thursday, you wake up with silken-skinned Dave on Friday morning, and that voice will be slipping through our brains for a few years, announcing change that will damage the economy, public services, and generally take our country backwards to the kind of Britain [David Cameron] really believes in.

And the betting markets are all over the place:

Bettinguk

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