UNITED KINGDOM / FILE: Lib Dems surge to top of polls after leader Nick Clegg wins over voters with his easy...
- Title: UNITED KINGDOM / FILE: Lib Dems surge to top of polls after leader Nick Clegg wins over voters with his easy manner and talk of "fair" policies
- Date: 20th April 2010
- Summary: GRAPHIC (APRIL 19, 2010) (REUTERS) GRAPHIC SHOWING RESULTS OF LATEST YOUGOV POLL, PUTTING CLEGG ON 33 PERCENT, CAMERON ON 32 PERCENT AND BROWN ON 26 PERCENT
- Reuters ID: LVA8P0X7HX52QJRX0QDM07NDQZNU
- Duration: 00:00:10
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Story Text: Britain's election has been thrown wide open since a strong performance by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg last Thursday (April 15) in a live TV debate with Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Labour and Conservative leader David Cameron.
It was the first time Britain has held such a debate and it's had an incredible impact on Clegg, who viewers saw as more relaxed and trustworthy that his two main rivals.
In the latest of a series of shock poll results, a YouGov survey published on Monday (April 19) found the Lib Dems in first place with 33 percent, with the Conservatives on 32 percent and Labour on 26 percent.
The Liberal Democrats sought to use the surprise surge to present themselves as a credible governing party before the general election on May 6.
For decades, the Conservatives and Labour were considered parties of government, while the Lib Dems were dismissed as irrelevant in national politics.
"I think this general election campaign is starting to come to life, for the simple reason that a growing number of people are starting, only a start, starting to believe, starting to hope that we can do something different this time," Clegg said at a campaigning event in the Welsh capital of Cardiff.
The Lib Dem surge raises expectations that instead of a clear Conservative victory allowing them to govern solo, the election could produce a "hung parliament" in which no party has an overall majority of seats and can rule alone.
The Lib Dems appear to have struck a chord with voters disillusioned with politicians after a scandal over lawmakers' expenses, which has hit the two biggest parties hardest.
The party has also talked tough on banks and bonuses -- another target of public ire after the credit crisis.
In the Lib Dems television advert, Clegg tells viewers of a Britain littered with the broken promises of Labour and the Conservatives.
Clegg's message of fairness and the public's huge respect for Liberal Democrat economic spokesman, Vince Cable, are clearly resonating with the public.
"He has had one particular piece of luck, about which he has been very grown up, in his Treasury spokesman, Dr Vince Cable, former chief economist for Shell," said Michael White, deputy editor and political commentator for the Guardian newspaper.
"He's got a real economist whom the markets respect and whom the voters respect....he's a kind of uncle figure," he said.
Clegg, aged 43, became leader of the Liberal Democrats in 2007. He used to be an Member of the European Parliament, before becoming an MP in Westminster in 2005.
He has a pro-European stance, which the Conservatives often refer to as a way of attacking the Lib Dems. Other controversial Lib Dem policies include an amnesty for all illegal immigrants and not sending criminals to prison for offences that carry less than six month sentences.
Under Britain's first-past-the-post voting system, what matters most is not a party's share of the overall national vote but the number of seats it wins.
The Lib Dems are unlikely to win as many seats as either the Conservatives or Labour despite their current popularity but they could win enough to force the other two parties to seek their support.
At his party's spring conference, Clegg famously declared "I am not the king-maker", but he knows both Labour and Conservatives will be courting him if they need a coalition.
The Lib Dems would appear more natural bedfellows with Labour in any kind of coalition. But if Labour win a lower percent of the popular vote than the Conservatives, such an alliance would be hard for the Lib Dems to justify -- given their long calls for proportional representation and electoral reform.
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