UK leaders set for first ever TV showdown

UK leaders set for first ever TV showdown

Live election debate today

UK leaders set for first ever TV showdown

Samantha Cameron, wife of British opposition Conservative party leader David Cameron, serves lunch during her visit to a Community Centre in London. AFP

The first of the three showdowns begins on Thursday as new opinion polls indicate that the Conservative lead has slashed and Britain may be headed for a hung Parliament.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative contender David Cameron and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats will cross swords in Manchester and will face cross-examination by the audience.

The leaders will have to answer the voters on subjects ranging from crime to health care, foreign policy and economy.

Political parties in Britain have had a loathing to such prime time showdowns unlike across the Atlantic where such debates are a colourful fixture in all presidential elections since 1960.

The Tory leader (44) is pictured by the British media as the next generation, while Gordon Brown at 59 is older.

Hung Parliament

A day before the debate, a new poll indicated on Wednesday that Britain may be headed for a hung Parliament.

The new Populus poll for The Times revealed deep disenchantment of the voters with the campaign so far and high levels of scepticism among people about manifesto pledges.

More voters are now hoping for a hung Parliament than either a Tory or a Labour outright victory, The Times said.

Conservative support has slipped by three points over the past week to 36 per cent, while Labour is a point up at 33 per cent. The Liberal Democrats are unchanged on 21 per cent. The Independent newspaper held more or less the same prediction.

The bookies’ favourite is Cameron. They predict that the Lib Dem candidate Nick Clegg is most likely to do badly in the debate. But for the bookmakers, the incumbent prime minister looked the least to sweat and stumble and had odds stacked in his favour.