Question Time crowd emerge as stars on a night of vicious attacks on leaders

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg all come in for a savaging as they finally face the electorate after sterile election campaign

The audience were the star. After a campaign lamented for its sterility, vacuum-packing the leading candidates in airless rooms a safe distance from the voting public, the BBC Question Time special forced the men who would be prime minister to face the electorate at last. The studio audience came at them like hounds who’d been kept caged and without food for weeks, snarling and ready to chew flesh.

They asked the prime minister why on earth they should believe his promises on immigration considering he had so wildly broken the pledge he had issued five years ago. They asked him where his planned axe on the welfare bill would fall, how he could be proud of a nation where a million used food banks. They asked him why he kept talking like an accountant or an economist, always failing to see “the moral dimension.”

Related: Miliband: I won't have Labour government if it means SNP deal

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To keep Scotland, Britain must embrace the separatists | Jonathan Freedland

It’s a paradox: if the unionist parties refuse to work with the SNP, the union will in effect be dead

Just as actors call Macbeth the Scottish play, so historians will for ever think of 2015 as the Scottish election. Whatever happens on 7 May – whoever ends up limping through the door of 10 Downing Street – the big, enduring fact of 2015 will be the shifting of the tectonic plates now under way in Scotland. It is nothing less than a realignment – and it will last.

As one longstanding Scottish observer puts it, the shift in allegiance from Labour to the Scottish National party is “not cyclical”. The pendulum has swung so far, it’s snapped off.

Related: Tories playing dangerous game in Scotland, says Conservative peer

The Tory attack both assumes and awakens a mutual loathing between the English and the Scottish

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Three-minute election: Why are the Tories stirring English nationalism? – video

On St George's day, columnists Jonathan Freedland and Polly Toynbee discuss the Conservatives' warnings over a minority Labour government propped up by the SNP. Is the Tories' attempt to pull back would-be Ukip voters going to alienate Scots?On St George's day, columnists Jonathan Freedland and Polly Toynbee discuss the Conservatives' warnings over a minority Labour government propped up by the SNP. Is the Tories' attempt to pull back would-be Ukip voters going to alienate Scots? And if the Conservatives care about the United Kingdom – or Europe – why play this dangerous English game? Continue reading...

Three-minute election: Is the Tories’ campaign wobbling? – video

Columnists Jonathan Freedland and Gaby Hinsliff discuss the jitters in the Conservative election campaign following criticisms from Tory grandees, accusations of partisan Wikipedia editing against Grant Shapps, and the weaponisation of Boris Johnson. Are these signs of indiscipline, a mounting blame game and preparations of defeat? And are Tory leadership campaigns bubbling beneath the surface? Continue reading...

Three-minute election: Have the deaths in the Mediterranean changed the immigration debate? – video

Columnists Jonathan Freedland and Zoe Williams discuss the assumption that the election campaign would be dominated by the debate around immigration. With the deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean, have voters' views changed? And if the immigration issue now has a tragic, human face, will the parties will ignore it – or make a commitment? And is the threat to scrap the Human Rights Act the dog that hasn't barked? Continue reading...

General election 2015: If this deadlock holds, a battle is coming over Ed Miliband’s legitimacy

Halfway there: As the campaign marks its midpoint, the two main parties remain deadlocked. If things stay that way, it won’t be arithmetic that decides who forms the next government – but raw politics

As horseraces go, this one should be thrilling. At the midpoint in the campaign, with three weeks gone and three weeks to go, the two favourites – though that’s an improbable way to describe politicians in the current era – are still neck and neck. Each night brings another poll projection showing Labour and the Conservatives separated by just a few seats – sometimes a single seat - in the next House of Commons. Allow for the margin of error and a photofinish on the night seems a certainty. Unless of course there’s a breakout moment, the one spectators and players alike are still waiting for.

The Tories could go into studied panic this weekend as they realise that lift-off is eluding them. They are lagging behind the 36.1% share of the vote they notched up in 2010 – and they didn’t win then either. They know they need to be three or four points ahead in the polls to feel confident, and that advance is stubbornly refusing to come.

If the Tories emerge as the largest single party, they will make it hard for Miliband to form a government

Related: David Cameron warns of Labour-SNP 'coalition of chaos'

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Three-minute election: Can any party bring down the deficit? – video

Guardian columnists Jonathan Freedland and Aditya Chakrabortty discuss the un-discussable issue of the campaign. Never mind Nigel Farage's have-a-laugh Ukip manifesto – the most significant story this week is the warning from the International Monetary Fund that Britain's deficit will not be reduced in the next decade. But does the IMF's intervention have any political kick – or is it a damning verdict on the prospectus of all three main political parties? Continue reading...

Three-minute election: Have we just seen the next Ukip leader? – video

Guardian columnists Jonathan Freedland and Gaby Hinsliff compare Ukip's manifesto launch on Thursday with that of the Liberal Democrats. Could this be Nigel Farage's last election? And if so, is he lining up Suzanne Evans as a successor? Meanwhile, as Nick Clegg eyes up another coalition, what does his party's manifesto tell us about who he'd prefer to team up with? Continue reading...

Three-minute election: Has this Tory manifesto disappeared off into the realms of fantasy? – video

Guardian columnists Jonathan Freedland and Polly Toynbee discuss the Tories' manifesto launch. After a bad week, has David Cameron got it right on issues such as free childcare and a tax-free minimum wage? Or are the Conservatives trying too hard to pretend they're another party? Is the party back on secure terrain – or is this clever politics, rotten economics and a cheat of a policy? Continue reading...