Thursday 22 March 2018

Tory lead slips as UK poll is poised for dead heat

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron gestures as he speaks at an election rally in St Ives. Photo: Reuters
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron gestures as he speaks at an election rally in St Ives. Photo: Reuters

Steven Swinford

A second British general election will be inevitable by Christmas unless the Liberal Democrats form part of a stable coalition government, leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg has claimed.

He said that any attempt to lead a minority administration would result in chaos, with either Labour or the Tories forced to meet the demands of parties such as SNP or Ukip to prop them up, with no guarantee of continuing support.

Mr Clegg warned Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband against trying to run a "messy and unstable" minority administration instead of putting the country first.

"The last thing Britain needs is a second election before Christmas. But that is exactly what will happen if Ed Miliband and David Cameron put their own political interest ahead of the national interest," he said.

Last night, the Conservatives managed to barely retain their lead, but it is down by four points, as the parties enter the final days of campaigning, according to the latest polling.

The final Ashcroft National Poll puts the Tories on 32pc, with Labour unchanged on 30pc. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are up two points on 11pc, Ukip up one on 12pc, the Greens are unchanged at 7pc and the SNP up one on 5pc.

The latest findings conducted over the weekend appear to suggest Labour and the Conservatives are still locked in an extremely tight race for Downing Street.

Last week's Ashcroft survey, put the Conservatives six points ahead of Labour on 36pc compared with 30pc.

Mr Miliband appeared to be positioning himself to become prime minister even if he won fewer seats than the Conservatives in tomorrow's election.

Senior figures in the party are trying to woo the Lib Dems to help "lend legitimacy" to a minority Labour government and reduce the party's reliance on the SNP.

The discussions with the Lib Dems suggest that Labour is already privately acknowledging that it is unlikely to secure enough votes to win the election outright.

Mr Miliband refused to rule out making a push for Downing Street even if his party secured fewer seats than the Tories and did not strike a formal deal with the nationalists.

He is facing mounting pressure from within his own party over whether he will have the right to govern if he wins fewer seats than the Tories.

Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, said that the largest party would "normally" go on to form a government in an intervention that put him at odds with Mr Miliband.

The rise of the SNP, which is forecast to win more than 50 MPs, would force Mr Miliband to form a minority government and rely on the support of Nicola Sturgeon's party on a vote-by-vote basis. Mr Miliband ruled out any form of "agreement" with the SNP. Labour has narrowed the gap behind the Conservatives in the Press Association's poll of polls. Both parties are almost neck and neck, with the Tories on 33pc and Labour on 33.5pc. Ukip are in third place on 13.3pc, the Liberal Democrats are fourth on 8.6pc and the Greens are fifth on 4.8pc.

As the campaign draws to a close, the poll of polls suggests support for the main parties has barely moved over the past month. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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