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Britons to Vote in General Elections Thursday


Tony Blair
British politicians are making their final appeal for votes ahead of Thursday's general election. Opinion polls forecast a third straight term for the Labor Party of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

British voters go to the polls Thursday, with all indications Prime Minister Blair will retain the premiership.

The election will end a bitter, month-long campaign in which Mr. Blair's integrity has come under attack by political rivals who accuse him of misleading Britain into the Iraq war.

Pollsters find that most voters have not been swayed by the arguments over Iraq, but care more about domestic issues. The latest poll, published by The Times newspaper, gives Labor a 14-point lead over the main opposition Conservative Party.

On the final day of the campaign, Prime Minister Blair urged voters to recall the economic progress that has been made since he took office in 1997.

"People either wake up on May the sixth with a Labor government or a Conservative government," said Tony Blair. "And the central question in this campaign is which party is best for the future of Britain. Which party is best able to run and manage our economy in the interests of the hardworking families of this country?"

The Conservative Party leader, Michael Howard, said voters can put Britain on a new track by defeating Labor.

"They know the country is heading in the wrong direction," said Michael Howard. "We can change direction. We can make life easier for them. Make life better for them. Deliver on the clean hospitals, school discipline, more police, controlled immigration and lower taxes that we've been planning for throughout this campaign."

Britain's left-of-center Liberal Democrats are forecast to pick up seats in parliament at the expense of both Labor and the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrat leader is Charles Kennedy.

"There is certainly an optimistic, buoyed feeling among the Lib Dems as we close this campaign and look at the tightness of the margin in these closing opinion polls between ourselves and the Conservatives. Wide open," said Charles Kennedy.

If Labor wins as expected, political analysts will focus on the size of its majority, which is currently 161 seats. Mr. Blair has stated his intention to hold on to power for another full term. But political scientists say a narrow victory could hasten his departure, with Treasury chief Gordon Brown standing by to take over the premiership.

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