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Political leaders face off in heated second TV debate

Video by Siobhán SILKE

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-23

PM Gordon Brown, Opposition leader David Cameron and ‘third man’ Nick Clegg faced off once more in the UK's second live TV debate Thursday evening. All eyes were on Liberal Democrat’s Clegg to see if he could pull off a second surprise win.

REUTERS - The three main candidates to be the next British prime minister clashed in a second televised debate on Thursday with the polls suggesting no clear winner may emerge from a May 6 national election.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party has been in power for 13 years. Seeking to oust Labour are David Cameron, leader of the main opposition Conservatives, and Nick Clegg of the smaller opposition Liberal Democrats.

Until the first debate, a week ago, the main contest was between Cameron, the frontrunner, and Brown. But Clegg's assured performance in the first debate led to a surge in the popularity of the Liberal Democrats, a previously ignored third force.

Seeking to claw back some support from Clegg, Brown and Cameron turned up the heat on the Liberal Democrat in Thursday's debate, which focused on foreign policy.

Brown, looking more tense than a week ago, accused Clegg of risking the country's security by refusing to pledge to upgrade its submarine-launched nuclear weapons.

"I have to deal with these decisions every day and I say to you, Nick: Get real. Get real," Brown said. "You are saying we have got to give up our Trident submarines. Get real about the dangers we would face if we had North Korea and Iran (obtaining nuclear weapons)."

Clegg, who hasn't ruled out keeping some form of nuclear deterrent, has sought to woo voters angry with the main two parties over a scandal centred on dubious expense claims by politicians. He says the Lib Dems offer "real change".

But Cameron, who was able to recapture some of his usual fluency after a stiff performance in the first debate, questioned Clegg's stance.

"I think they (the public) are now starting to get angry by some politicians saying 'Well, my party was much better than all the others.' Frankly Nick we all had problems with this," the Conservative leader said.

Clegg, who appeared relaxed and spoke fluently despite the intense pressure on him, vigorously defended himself against the attacks from the two other leaders.

"Don't believe all these ludicrous scare stories about markets and political Armageddon if that (a Lib Dem surge leading to an inconclusive election result) is what happens," he said.

Despite his surge in support, the vagaries of the British electoral system mean Clegg's lead is too small to sweep him to power on May 6. But his sudden rise has rattled Cameron's Conservatives, who have seen a 20-point opinion poll lead crumble in recent months.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos MORI poll showed a surge in support for the Lib Dems in Labour-held marginal seats which the Conservatives must win for an outright victory.



Date created : 2010-04-22


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