Liberal Democrats assume centrestage in UK elections
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Last Updated: Sunday, April 18, 2010, 19:19
London: Liberal Democrats, hitherto the third largest party in Britain, has assumed centrestage in the ensuing May 6 general elections with fresh opinion polls today showing its rating soar to 32 per cent, an all-time high.

The fortune of the party has been on the swing ever since its leader Nick Clegg put up a sterling performance in the first-ever televised election debate last week.

In one of the most astonishing election turnarounds in a century, a BPIX poll in 'The Mail on Sunday' put the Lib Dems up 12 per cent over the past week to 32 per cent, with the Conservatives down seven at 31 per cent and ruling Labour down three at 28 per cent. br>
BPIX surveyed 2,149 people over Friday and Saturday. br>
The new scenario has boosted Premier Gordon Brown's hopes of clinging to power by forming a coalition government with the Liberal Democratss - in return for a seat at the Cabinet table for Clegg. br>
Polling experts say it is possible the Liberal Democrat lead is a blip that could fade before the election. br>
But the survey provides further evidence that Britain may be heading for a hung parliament and a Lib-Lab pact that could yet see Brown stay on in No 10, Downing Street.

Labour ministers care barely hide their glee at how the boost in Clegg's ratings has thrown them a lifeline while Cameron's team are in despair at the way it threatens to rob them of their chance to succeed the Labour government, now in office for 13 years. br>
If the BPIX findings are repeated on the polling day on May 6, the vagaries of Britain's first-past-the-post voting system mean Labour would be the 'winner' - albeit well short of outright victory. br>
Labour would have 267 MPs, with 230 tories and 121 Lib Dems. br>
It would lead to a frantic few days of political horsetrading, with the most likely outcome a Lib-Lab deal giving them a clear Commons majority with a combined total of 388 MPs. br>
Clegg's reward for propping up Labour would probably be a Cabinet post, with another for fellow Lib Dem Vince Cable, possibly as Chancellor. br>
BPIX pollster Professor Paul Whiteley said: "This is the Nick Clegg wow factor. It could be a temporary phenomenon but it is hugely important and shows the television debate was a game-changer." br>
Clegg said "something exciting is happening" in the British political system, which has seen the Conservatives and Labour trade power for the best part of the last 100 years. br>
"A growing number of people are just starting to believe that we can do something different this time," Clegg told Sky News television. br>

First Published: Sunday, April 18, 2010, 19:19

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