Tory plans under fire from Brown
Gordon Brown yesterday declared that the prospect of a new Tory government implementing £6bn (€6.8bn) of immediate cuts in public spending "sends shivers down my spine".
The UK leader launched his strongest attack yet on the Conservatives' economic policies ahead of the release of key figures this week which will determine the strength of the recovery. His comments come as a new poll confirms a surge in support for the Liberal Democrats whose leader, Nick Clegg, was the clear winner of last week's first televised top-level debate of the election campaign.
A survey puts the Lib Dems up seven points from the last national poll, published last Tuesday. Mr Clegg's party is now on 27 per cent, just two points below Labour (down two to 29 per cent), with the Conservatives in the lead but down three points to 34 per cent. It is the first time a poll has shown such a narrow gap between the three main parties since September 2003 -- and is all the more startling because the majority of respondents were polled before Mr Clegg's victorious showing in Thursday night's debate, suggesting the Lib Dems' advance was already under way.
The poll is bad news for Mr Cameron because, assuming it indicates a uniform national swing, Labour would remain the largest party in a hung parliament. Labour would have 282 seats, 63 short of a majority, with the Conservatives on 257 seats.
Despite having 27 per cent of the vote, the Lib Dems would have 74 seats, only 11 more than they currently hold.
Almost two voters in three (62 per cent) say they think it is a good idea for the public to run key public services -- the "big idea" of the Tory manifesto -- while 30 per cent do not. With foreign affairs set to be at the fore during the next televised debate, on Thursday, 48 per cent say they oppose Britain's continuing military presence in Afghanistan, with 40 per cent supporting it.
Mr Brown stresses there are areas of "common ground" between Labour and the Lib Dems, particularly on political reform.
However, he warns the coming fortnight, which will see publication of key statistics on growth and unemployment as well as a final television debate dedicated to the economy, are make or break for Britain's recovery.
He says: "If we make the wrong decisions over the next few weeks, if you have a Conservative government with a Budget within a few days of them coming into office and cutting money out of the economy, then they put this recovery at risk.
"It sends a shiver down my spine -- the idea that George Osborne will turn up at the House of Commons in a few days if a Conservative government is elected and just slash £6bn out of our public services. It must include real cuts in schools and education."
On the campaign trail in Kingston, Surrey, Mr Clegg said: "This contest is now wide open, all bets are off. I think something exciting is starting to happen."
Mr Cameron, in Gloucester, said a "decisive Conservative government" was needed to "clean up politics and cut the cost of politics".
He said the Tories faced the "fight of their lives" between now and polling day, on May 6, and added: "The British public are depressed with politics. They are cynical. They are apathetic and I don't blame them."