British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has confirmed the election date of May 6, after meeting with Queen Elizabeth II to ask her to dissolve parliament.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has met Queen Elizabeth II to ask her to dissolve parliament, firing the starting gun for a general election campaign.
The elections, which will be held on May 6, will be a tough battle between Brown’s ruling Labour Party and David Cameron’s Conservatives, who are itching to get back into power after 13 years on the opposition benches.
It is one of the least predictable elections to be held in the UK in decades.
Opinion polls suggest Cameron’s lead over Brown has diminished in recent weeks, with an ICM poll for the UK’s Guardian newspaper giving the Conservatives a four-point lead over Labour.
Labour, according to the poll, could still end up the party with the most number of seats in Parliament, even with a smaller share of the vote, because Conservative support is unevenly distributed across Britain’s 650 constituencies.
But even a slim lead will most likely result in a hung parliament, in which no party has an effective majority.
Hung parliaments are rare in British politics – the last from a general election was in 1974, and before that in1929 – and are a nightmare scenario for Britain’s embattled financial markets, which want a clear outcome and the promise of a meaningful plan to tackle the country’s huge budget deficit.
The road to recovery
The state of the UK economy will take centre-stage in the campaign.
Britain is still struggling to come out of its worst recession since World War Two, and each leader will argue that their party is the safest hands to deal with the budget deficit, which is at least 167 billion pounds (188 billion euros).
Labour is arguing that it has steered the UK through tough economic times and that it would be unwise to hand the reins over to an inexperienced party.
“The people of this country have fought too hard to get Britain on the road to recovery to allow anybody to take us back on the road to recession,” Gordon Brown said in a campaign preview statement, suggesting that Conservative plans to cut public spending risk taking the country back into the red.
Cameron said his party plans to tackle the deficit harder and faster than Labour, winning support from the Conservatives’ traditional supporters in business.
Cameron, a former public relations executive, is also trying to shake off the Conservatives’ traditional image as the party of privilege by saying his party is the most inclusive.
“We’re fighting this election for the Great Ignored. Young, old, rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight,” Cameron said in a statement.
Pollsters and bookies
Depending on the source, polls – which all put Labour trailing in second place- are predicting anything from a slim overall majority for Cameron to a ten-point Conservative lead.
The Guardian ICM poll (April 3) put the Conservatives at 37 percent, Labour at 33% percent and the Liberal Democrats at 21 percent. It said the four-point gap was the smallest in two years.
But a separate Opinium poll (April 2-5) for the Daily Express and a YouGov poll for the Sun (the newspaper gave no further details) both gave Cameron’s Conservatives a ten-point lead.
Analysts say Cameron needs at least 11 points to win an outright majority in parliament because of technicalities in the electoral system.
Britons like to gamble, and the odds given by UK bookmakers – a traditional electoral barometer - show a clear confidence in a Conservative victory.
A £1 bet at Ladbrookes (Tuesday 10am GMT+2) on the Conservatives winning the biggest number of seats would net you just £1.12, against £6 for Labour and £201 for the Liberal Democrats.
The odds are worse on any party getting an overall majority in parliament. A £1 bet on a Conservative majority would return £1.53, for Labour £11 and for the Liberal Democrats, £251.
Date created : 2010-04-06