David Cameron, the leader of the centre-right Conservatives, had claimed to have the momentum after a strong performance in last week’s television debate. However, surveys indicated his party’s lead had been pegged back to 5 percentage points — as little as half their weekend advantage — and suggested either the Conservatives or Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party could still capture most seats in the 650-member parliament.
Cameron acknowledged that millions of Britons had not decided how to vote. Seeking to end centre-left Labour’s 13-year hold in power, Cameron has pledged to campaign all night this week to try to win over waverers. “This election is not yet won, but if we get out there, we can — and I use the word can, I always use the word can, never the word will — win it.”
The quirks of Britain’s electoral system, where seats are allocated purely by constituency results, and not in proportion to the overall share of the vote, mean that Labour could come third in the popular vote but still remain the largest bloc.
The race has been blown wide open by a strong showing from Liberal Democrats, traditionally the third party, whose own telegenic leader Nick Clegg has challenged Cameron’s claim to be the candidate of change. “We have an opportuity of a lifetime, a once-in-a-generation chance, to change Britain for good,” he said during a campaign stop in south London.
If the polls were replicated nationwide on Thursday, it would result in a hung parliament where no single party has an overall majority, a result last seen in Britain in 1974. Monday’s ICM/Guardian poll had the Conservatives on 33 per cent, five points ahead of both Labour and the Lib Dems, with the Conservatives the biggest party in parliament.