United Kingdom

Polls open in UK election

Reuters
5 min

Polling stations opened on Thursday in what could be Britain's closest election for decades. Voting will go on until 10pm. Polls indicate a victory for the Conservative Party, but there may be no absolute majority, which would result in a hung parliament.

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The first results are expected by midnight. Election officials say there are early signs of a high turnout.

The final opinion poll gave the Conservative Party 36 per cent support, with Labour on 28 per cent and the Liberal Democrats on 26 per cent.

This would give the Tories 283 seats, Labour 253 and the Lib Dems 81, which could mean a hung parliament, with the Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg as the kingmaker.

Incumbent Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown ended his campaign by saying his party is the best equipped to safeguard the future of the economy, claming that the Conservative party would make spending cuts before the recovery was assured and send Britain into a double-dip recession.

"A lot of people have said 'ideologically we are Labour, but we don't like Gordon Brown, and for that reason we'll be voting for the Liberal Democrats'," said Caroline Healy, a Conservative candidate in the north-western city of Manchester . "The rise in the Liberal Democrats has nothing to do with them per se but a lot to with the fact that people don't like Gordon Brown."

Britain's last experienced hung parliaments in the 1970s.

In 1974 when Edward Heath's Conservative party won almost 38 per cent of the vote, but only 297 seats, while Harold Wilson's Labour Party, won 37 per cent and 301 seats.

Caroline Healy, Conservative party candidate, Manchester

Heath tried to negotiate with Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, but talks collapsed over electoral reform, so Heath resigned and Harold Wilson became prime minister.

Similarly, in March 1977, the Labour government had no overall majority and faced a motion of no confidence.

Then-prime minister Jim Callaghan made an agreement with Liberal Party under David Steel. The Labour Party adopted several Liberal policies and in exchange the Liberal Party agreed to vote with the government in any subsequent motion of no confidence.

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