British leaders in last-ditch push for swing voters

3rd May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's party leaders pushed into the final days of campaigning Monday, targeting key marginal seats in the fight for what looks set to be the closest general election in decades on May 6.

With the country on a public holiday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is struggling to retain power, campaigned in tight seats in eastern England while Conservative leader David Cameron, who is ahead in polls, was in the northwest.

Amid talk of a possible hung parliament, the knife-edge contest is increasingly focused on swing voters in a few dozen seats where the results are too close to call, and which could determine the outcome of the election.

Brown's Labour has accused Cameron of trying to "give the impression that he is home and dry" after he outlined plans for his first 100 days in power Sunday including an emergency budget and setting up an Afghanistan "war cabinet".

But despite his party's long-term poll lead, Cameron insisted Monday: "There has never been an ounce of complacency in my body and there isn't now and there is everything left to do."

Announcing a 24-hour campaign blitz from Tuesday night until electioneering ends late Wednesday, he added: "This election is far from won but I think people have the right to know what they would get".

Cameron was visiting a seat in the seaside town of Blackpool, northwest England, held by Labour in the last election.

Under Britain's political system, the party which wins an overall majority of seats in the House of Commons can form a government.

However, opinion polls suggest no one party may be able to do that on Thursday, leading to a hung parliament for the first time since 1974.

A Sun newspaper/YouGov daily opinion poll Monday gave the Conservatives 34 percent, unchanged, the Liberal Democrats 29 percent, up one percent, and Labour 28 percent, unchanged.

Ben Page of pollsters Ipsos MORI predicted the Conservatives would get the most votes -- although this might not translate into an overall majority -- but said there were more voters than usual who had not yet made up their minds.

"There's certainly lots of evidence that more people say they might change their minds at the last minute," he told BBC radio.

Page added that a new poll done for Thomson Reuters suggested that "around four out of 10 people in marginals might change their mind" between now and polling day.

"That is higher (than before)," he said. "We also know from previous elections that up to one person in 10 might change their mind at the polling booth."

Brown's Labour has been behind in the polls throughout and his election hopes took a fresh blow last week when he was caught referring to an elderly female voter as a "bigoted woman".

He again tried to focus on his economic credentials in leading the global response to the world financial crisis from 2008 in a stump speech Monday in Ipswich, eastern England.

"This is a fight for the future, this is not an ordinary election, these are not ordinary times, this is a post-global financial crisis election," he said.

Meanwhile Nick Clegg, leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats, insisted his party was the only one which could deliver "change", while out campaigning in southeast London.

"Vote with your heart, vote with your instincts. You have an opportunity of a lifetime, a once in a generation chance to change Britain for good," he said.

The Liberal Democrats, for years the third party in British politics have surged during the campaign thanks to a strong performance in TV debates by Clegg and could hold the balance of power in a hung parliament.

The Liberal Democrats also released a list of celebrity supporters including "Harry Potter" actor Daniel Radcliffe. Potter author JK Rowling is backing Labour.

© 2010 AFP

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