UK heading for India-style hung poll verdict?

Britain on Wednesday appeared headed for a close race in Thursday’s General Elections.

London: Britain on Wednesday appeared headed for a
close race in Thursday’s General Elections which may lead to a
phase of India-style coalition politics as latest opinion
polls showed main contenders -- Labour and Conservatives --
running neck and neck.

With prospects of a hung Parliament looming large,
leaders are exploring alliances hours before polling opens

On the last day of campaigning, the ruling Labour party
of Prime Minister Gordon Brown is widely expected to lose
power after a record 13 years in office.

Phrases associated with Indian elections such as
`tactical voting`, `coalition partners` and `common minimum
programme` increasingly figure in the election discourse as
strategists make behind-the-scene moves to explore
possibilities in the event of a hung verdict.

The emergence of the Liberal Democrats as a third major
pole in this election upset the cosy consensus between Labour
and Conservatives, with Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg
widely seen as a king-maker in the post-election sweepstakes.

Leaders of all three parties -- Clegg, Brown (Labour) and
David Cameron (Conservative) -- criss-crossed the country at a
frenetic pace, seeking to attain the magic figure of 326 in a
House of Commons with the strength of 650.

In 2005, the Labour had won a majority by securing 349
seats, while the Conservatives bagged 210 and the Liberal
Democrats 62. However, latest opinion polls left Labour and
the Tories neck and neck on which of the two would have more
MPs, with Lib Dem support falling back.

With just hours to go before voting begins, a daily
ComRes poll showed party support had remained static, with the
Tories on 37 per cent, Labour on 29 per cent and the Lib Dems
on 26 per cent.

This would make the Tories the largest party but short of
a majority.

Labour strategists still hope that due to the
first-past-the-post electoral system, the party may still win
the most seats even if it polled the least number of votes.

However, the rising popularity of Nick Clegg and the
Liberal Democrats after the first of the three television
debates is expected to cut into the Labour party`s votes,
which may help the Conservatives.

British election result a close bet: Bookmakers

The Conservatives will comfortably
win the most seats in Britain`s general election but whether
they can get a majority is too close to call, bookmakers said
on Wednesday.

Just hours before the polls open, bookmakers said the
close nature of this year`s general election had sparked a
surge in interest from British voters taking a punt on the
outcome of tomorrow`s vote.

And where folks are prepared to risk their money has
always been a handy indicator of how things are shaping up.

"If money talks then what we have seen in the last few
days tells us the Conservatives are going to win the
election," said bookmaker Paddy Power.

"The only question remaining is whether they secure
enough seats for the all important majority -- and the betting
is starting to suggest they can."

William Hill make the main opposition Conservatives a
runaway 1/12 to win the most seats, with the governing Labour
Party at 6/1 and the Liberal Democrats 20/1.

However, the Conservatives are 5/6 to win an overall
majority, Labour 20/1 and the Lib Dems 40/1 -- with a hung
Parliament also 5/6.

A similar picture of a neck-and-neck contest for a Tory
majority is painted at other bookmakers.

Ladbrokes make the Conservatives 1/16 to win the most
seats; Labour 7/1 and the Lib Dems 40/1.

For an overall majority, the Conservatives are 21/20,
Labour 25/1, the Liberals 50/1, with a hung parliament 8/11.

Paddy Power has already paid out on the Conservatives
winning the most seats after the price went to 1/16. However,
they reckon a hung parliament is 4/5 and a Conservative
majority is evens.

In the event of a hung parliament, the Lib Dems are odds
on at 1/3 to go with their centre-left tendencies and align
with Labour, according to William Hill. They are 9/4 to team
up with the Conservatives.

The bookmaker puts Conservative leader Cameron at 1/5 to
be premier on June 1; Labour PM Gordon Brown is 11/4, while
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is 7/1.

William Hill are offering 4/6 on Brown quitting as Labour
leader before Saturday, and 11/10 to stay on.

"Somebody has a 10-pound bet at 250/1 that as soon as the
election was over, Brown would not only resign but announce he
was getting divorced," Hill`s spokesman Graham Sharpe told.


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