Britain’s dead-heat election ‘down to the wire’ on polling day

Sunday, 10 May 2015 13:51 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron laughs as London Mayor Boris Johnson speaks during an election rally in Hendon in north London, Britain 5 May


LONDON (Reuters): Britons went to vote on Thursday in the tightest election for decades; one that could cause government gridlock, push the world’s fifth-largest economy closer to leaving the European Union and stoke a second attempt by Scotland to break away.

Final opinion polls showed Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives and Ed Miliband’s opposition Labour Party almost in a dead heat, indicating neither will win enough seats for an outright majority in the 650-seat parliament.

“This race is going to be the closest we have ever seen,” Miliband told supporters in Pendle, northern England, on the eve of the vote. “It is going to go down to the wire.”

Cameron said only his Conservatives could deliver strong, stable government and all other options will end in chaos.

The Conservatives portray themselves as the party of jobs and economic recovery, promising to reduce income tax for 30 million people while forcing through further spending cuts to eliminate a budget deficit still running at 5% of GDP.

Labour says it would cut the deficit each year, raise income tax for the highest 1% of earners and defend the interests of hard-pressed working families and Britain’s treasured but financially stretched National Health Service.

If neither party wins an overall majority, talks will begin on Friday with smaller parties in a race to strike deals.

That could lead to a formal coalition, like the one Cameron has led for the past five years with the centrist Liberal Democrats, or it could produce a fragile minority government making trade-offs to guarantee support on key votes.

An opinion poll released on Thursday showed the two main parties tied, with Labour wiping out a two-point lead by the Conservatives recorded by the same pollster earlier this week.

The fractured polls show Britain’s post-World War Two political consensus – which saw the Conservatives and Labour take turns in government – is crumbling as once-marginal parties in Scotland and England steal millions of votes.

If Cameron fails to win a majority, he could try to strike a deal with the Liberal Democrats, a repeat of the 2010 coalition, and possibly also with Northern Irish unionists and UKIP.

Polls opened yesterday at 0600 GMT for the United Kingdom’s 48 million voters and close at 2100 GMT. An exit poll will be published as soon as polls close, and most results are expected in the early hours of Friday.