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Parties focus on hung parliament

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 20 April 2010

Opinion polls show mixed fortunes for the parties as the political focus turns to the impact of a hung parliament.

Nick Clegg poster (Reuters)

The Conservatives have restored their lead in the opinion polls following the Liberal Democrat resurgence, according to a poll by ComRes for The Independent and ITV News.

It puts the Tories nine points ahead of their Labour and Lib Dem rivals - the biggest Conservative lead since March, before the General Election was called.

It shows the Tories on 35 per cent, up three points on the last ComRes poll yesterday, while Labour and the Lib Dems both slipped two points to 26 per cent.

ComRes calculated it would give the Conservatives 299 seats in the new parliament - still 27 short of an outright majority - with Labour on 233 and the Lib Dems on 86.

Another poll by YouGov for The Sun put the Lib Dems ahead again on 34 per cent, with the Tories on 31 per cent and Labour on 26 per cent.

And Populus for The Times puts the Lib Dems on 31 per cent - a 10 point increase on their last poll a week ago - one point behind the Tories who are down four on 32 per cent, while Labour is down five on 28 per cent.

Hung parliament
The surveys came at the end of a day where the Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor Vince Cable insisted the party still has "fundamental disagreements" with Labour and would not rush into any post-election alliance in the event of a hung parliament.

With the Liberal Democrats having seen their position improve after Nick Clegg's successful performance in last week's leaders' debate, both the Conservatives and Labour have turned their focus to a possible hung parliament.

Their main focus will be to secure the support of Nick Clegg.

Cable warned that the political system would be "illegitimate" if Labour won only a third of the vote but ended the biggest party after the General Election.

He said there would have to be "fundamental reform" of the system if it delivered such a "perverse" outcome on 6 May.

His comments came amid mounting speculation about a hung parliament after the recent Lib Dem poll surge.

Mr Cable said: "The whole system would be completely and utterly discredited if such an absurd outcome were to happen.

"It would make the whole of this political system, which has increasingly been creaking and groaning and the public no longer accepts, illegitimate.

"There would then have to be fundamental reform of the political system... if that very perverse outcome happened."

Mr Cable declined to choose between Labour or the Tories in terms of which party the Lib Dems might support, insisting the election was now "wide open".

He said: "We have absolutely fundamental disagreements with the Labour Party. We disagree with their over-centralised way of running public services and we disagree with their contemptuous attitude towards civil liberties.

"There is an element of a 'plague on both your houses'. But it isn't negative. We have a positive and optimistic message to give."

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg acknowledged his surge in popularity may prove short-lived, but insisted his party is now a serious electoral force.

Mr Clegg said he realised the "bubbles burst" but added that the era of two-party politics in Britain was history.

Only David Cameron and Gordon Brown failed to realise the "cosy stitch-up" of British politics between the Tories and Labour had ended, he said.

However Mr Cameron again warned about the dangers of a hung parliament and voting Lib Dem.

He said the rest of the world would not understand how Britain could tackle its record deficit unless the election produced a decisive result.

"Any other outcome, any other vote, could lead to a sort of stagnation, to a sort of haggling and a bickering amongst politicians and we won't get done what so badly needs to be done in our country," he said during a campaign visit to a brewery in Burton-on-Trent.

"If we end up with a hung parliament, the world is going to look at us and say 'How are you going to sort out your problems?' We need decisive action to sort out those problems and that is what a Conservative government would bring."

That line was echoed by Chancellor Alistair Darling during a visit to Worcester, where he said a vote for the Lib Dems represented an "unacceptable risk" at a time of economic uncertainty.

"We have come through a very difficult time over the last couple of years and we are now coming out of it. To throw that away and take an unacceptable risk is just not worth taking.

"The country is going to have to make some pretty big decisions about where we go over the next 10 to 20 years and I believe it is absolutely imperative that we have a strong government that knows where it is going and is prepared to do what is necessary to secure jobs in the future."

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