Cameron seeks to build on TV debate boost

Conservative leader David Cameron was seeking on Friday to use a strong performance in a televised debate to help propel his party to an outright parliamentary majority in Britain’s May 6 election.

Most snap polls judged Cameron (43) the victor after the third and final TV debate on Thursday night with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

Cameron’s Conservatives have seen a once large opinion poll lead crumble in recent weeks and many commentators are speculating that Britain will have its first inconclusive election since 1974.

That prospect worries markets who want decisive action to tackle a budget deficit running at more than 11% of GDP.

The debates have helped to enhance Clegg’s profile and allowed his party to overtake Labour, in power for 13 years, in many polls. The voting system is skewed against the Liberal Democrats but they could get enough seats to end up as power-broker after an inconclusive election.

Cameron wants his centre-right party to win enough seats for an outright majority in the 650-member Parliament. “We’ve got just six-and-a-half days to go between now and polling day,” Cameron told supporters after the debate.

“Don’t waste one minute, don’t waste one hour, this country is crying out for change. We need to explain to people the only way to get it is a Conservative government.”

Online betting company Betfair said the likelihood of a Conservative majority increased by three percentage points during the debate to make it a 40% probability.

Bigot gaffe
The run-up to the debate was overshadowed by a blaze of bad publicity for Brown after he was caught by a lapel microphone calling a supporter of his Labour Party “bigoted” on Wednesday.

Brown, finance minister for a decade before he took over as prime minister in 2007, swiftly acknowledged his mistake.

“There’s a lot to this job and as you saw yesterday I don’t get all of it right,” he said.

“But I do know how to run the economy in good times and in bad. When the banks collapsed I took immediate action to stop the crisis becoming a calamity and the recession becoming a depression.”

The credit crisis has hit Britain hard because of the country’s exposure to the financial services industry. Repairing public finances could take a generation and require tax rises twice the size of those pencilled in by all major political parties, a leading academic think-tank said on Friday.

Cameron criticised Brown’s economic record, bringing up the spectre of Britain ending up like crisis-hit Greece.

“This prime minister and this government have left our economy in such a mess with a budget deficit that this year is forecast to be bigger than that of Greece,” he said.

Labour says spending cuts need to be delayed until the economic recovery is assured and Brown has said that rapid Conservative cuts could send Britain spiralling back into the deep recession from which it has just emerged. - Reuters



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