British election campaign to be three-way battle

18:49, April 19, 2010      

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Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown (R), opposition Conservative Party leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg (L) take part in the first of Britain's leadership election debates at ITV studios with television moderator Alastair Stewart (2nd R) in Manchester April 15, 2010. (Xinhua/Agencies Photo)

Halfway into British general election's five-week campaign, opinion polls continue to point to a hung parliament, but with a considerable boost for the third largest party, the Liberal Democrats.

Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg received a remarkable gain from the historic three-way live TV debate with leaders of Labor and Conservative parties.

Clegg, previously little known on the national stage, was hailed by media pundits and many of the viewing public as having won the debate over his rivals -- Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Conservative leader David Cameron.

His victory makes the election campaign much more of a three-way battle, instead of a traditional two-party show.

British voters are profoundly disaffected with politics and with the British political system in the wake of the House of Commons expenses scandal, which revealed extensive expenses cheating and tax fiddling by many members of parliament (MPs).

The scandal has ended the careers of 150 former MPs, who had chosen not to stand for election again after their greed was exposed. Criminal charges have been brought against three others, and the House of Commons authorities say there may be more prosecutions after the election when more evidence is available.

Clegg benefited from this disaffection, which sees Labor and Conservatives as more a part of the political institutions than his Liberal Democratic party.

The latest ComRes poll for The Independent and The Sunday Mirror newspapers puts the Conservatives in front on 31 percent, the Liberal Democrats second on 29 percent and Labor trailing on 27 percent.

This marks a considerable change from the poll by the same company, using the same methodology, published on the day before the leaders' TV debate. The previous poll put Conservatives on 36 percent, Labor on 31 percent and Liberal Democrats on 19 percent.

Different polling companies use different methods to gather data, so polls should only be compared with polls from the same series. But the story from all of them points to a hung parliament, one in which no one party gets enough seats to form a government by itself, leading to a search for a coalition partner.

A YouGov poll published on Sunday showed the Liberal Democrats out ahead on 33 percent (up 4 percentage points on the last poll in the series), with the Conservatives second on 32 percent (down 1 percentage point), and Labor third on 26 percent (down 3 percentage points).

There are two more television debates and three weeks of campaigning ahead of the May 6 election.

Britain's first-past-the-post electoral system, in which the winner in a geographic constituency gets the seat in parliament, favors the two dominant parties -- Conservatives and Labor.

The boost for the Liberal Democrats increases the chances of a hung parliament in an election that already saw the two main parties struggling to find enough support to form a majority government.

Source: Xinhua


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