Having watched three televised debates featuring the leaders of the three major parties, the UK was to vote for which one it wants to be its next prime minister May 6.
Some commentators have speculated whether the first staging of these presidential-style debates, which have been a feature of U.S. politics for five decades, has reduced British democracy to the level of “The X Factor” TV singing competition.
It’s hard to gauge if they’ve helped the UK decide which of the three leaders has true star quality. An estimated 20 million tuned in to see the first debate screened live from a Manchester studio April 16. Some of the following day’s polls showed as many as 46 percent of them still hadn’t made up their minds about how to vote.
Swing votes will be crucial in this election. In the middle of April, a Populus poll for The Times newspaper showed the Labour Party closing in on the Conservatives.
The poll gave the Conservatives 36 percent – a drop of 3 percentage points –Labour’s 33 percent. The Liberal Democrats had 21 percent. The margin of error was 2.5 percentage points.
Te consensus among commentators and radio talk show callers is that Liberal-Democrat leader Nick Clegg, originally the outsider of the three, has performed best and by the beginning of May had overtaken Labour leader and current prime minister Gordon Brown to move into second place.
Many analysts reckon the vote will be so close that no party will win an outright majority in parliament. If that happens, it will be the first time since 1974 that Britain has seen a hung parliament. That could prompt yet another election before the end of the year.
Audience members for all three debates have asked questions about immigration, health care, pensioners, the economy and the armed forces.
In the first debate, the question that seemed to crop up most concerned last year’s expenses scandal that exposed politicians of all three main political parties for submitting claims for everything from country estate chandeliers, floating duck houses and pornographic films.