Cameron fires starting gun in poll race too close to call
British Prime Minister David Cameron fired the formal starting gun on what he has termed "the most important general election in a generation" yesterday.
Personalising the contest between the Tories and Labour, he asked supporters whether they wanted Labour's Ed Balls, the Shadow Secretary, "the man who broke the banks, who crashed the economy, who spent all the money" in the Treasury, or Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. He said there were "only two people who can walk through that door in Number 10 in 39 days' time".
He added: "There's me, or there's (Labour leader) Ed Miliband: the man who even forgot to mention the deficit and who opposed every single decision we have taken, every tough call we have had to take, every long term change we have made for our country - he has opposed every one. He still thinks the last Labour government didn't spend too much, didn't tax too much, didn't borrow too much. I say: If you haven't learnt the lessons of the past you're not fit to run our country in the future."
Speaking outside No 10 Downing Street after returning from Buckingham Palace, where he informed the Queen of his plans to dissolve parliament, he said that the May 7 poll offered voters a "stark choice" between him and Mr Miliband as prime minister, and warned that a Labour victory would deliver "economic chaos" and tax hikes of more than Stg£3,000 for the average family.
Meanwhile, Mr Miliband warned the referendum on EU membership, promised by Mr Cameron if the Tories win power, represents "a clear and present danger to British jobs, British business, British families and British prosperity".
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg - who followed the PM to the palace in his role as president of the Privy Council - predicted another hung parliament, saying: "It's my view that the era of single-party government is over in British politics."
Mr Clegg said Britain was at risk from a "lurch to the left or the right" under a Labour or Tory majority administration, and promised that his Liberal Democrats would keep a future government "anchored in the centre ground".
Delivering his message to voters from outside Number 10, Mr Cameron said: "In 38 days' time you face a stark choice. The next prime minister walking through that door will be me or Ed Miliband.
"You can choose an economy that grows, that creates jobs, that generates the money to ensure a properly funded and improving NHS, a government that will cut taxes for 30 million hard-working people and a country that is safe and secure."
Labour dismissed Mr Cameron's claim about its tax-raising plans as "totally made-up".
The PM's figure was based on an interview given by Mr Miliband in 2010 - before he became Labour leader - which Tories claimed indicated he was planning to rely on taxes to deliver half of the consolidation needed to eliminate Britain's deficit.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has already ruled out rises to Vat, national insurance and the basic or higher rates of income tax.
Mr Cameron's party entered the first day of campaigning buoyed by an opinion poll giving it a four-point lead over Labour - its biggest advantage since September 2010 - overturning a similar lead for Labour in a survey released over the weekend.
Mr Miliband launched Labour's business manifesto in London with commitments to balance the nation's books, get debt falling by the end of the parliament, support training, apprenticeships, business lending and infrastructure investment and to "return Britain to a leadership role" in Brussels.
He accused Mr Cameron of overseeing a "divided Conservative Party, half of whom want to leave" the EU.
Mr Clegg forecast another coalition, saying: "About the very last thing the country now needs is a lurch to the left or the right and yet that is exactly what the Conservative and Labour parties are now threatening."
Tories and Labour were offering a choice between "too much cutting and too much borrowing", Mr Clegg said.
"I think what the vast majority of people in this country want is that we keep this country and our government anchored in the centre ground, which is where the Liberal Democrats have anchored the government over the last five years," he added.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)