Liberal Democrats assume centrestage in UK elections

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>

PTI



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

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