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British Party Leaders Lock Horns in Second TV Debate

Britain's nuclear deterrent and its role in the European Union were the focus of a televised debate between the country's three main party leaders Thursday. Britain is gearing up for an election on May 6 and political analysts say the prospect of a hung parliament is becoming increasingly likely.

Britain's political life has been dominated for the past three decades by two parties - the Conservatives, now led by David Cameron, and Labor headed by current Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

But a third party, the Liberal Democrats, are turning this election into a three-horse race.

Their campaign was given a major boost by Britain's first ever televised debate last week; Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg emerged as the clear winner.

Viewer polls taken after this second debate, which focused on foreign policy, showed there was no runaway victor.

But Clegg took the opportunity once again to depict the Liberal Democrats as the party of change. "Something really exciting is beginning to happen. People are beginning to believe, beginning to hope that we can do something different this time," he said.

But Clegg was heavily criticized by both Brown and Cameron for his party's attitude to Britain's nuclear deterrent. Clegg does not want to renew Britain's Trident nuclear missile program. Gordon Brown said Trident is vital to Britain's security.

"Get real about the danger that we face if we have North Korea, Iran, and other countries with nuclear weapons and we give up our own," he said.

Another key sticking point in the debate was over Britain's relationship with Europe. There is a clear dividing line between Labor and the Liberal Democrats on the one side and the skeptical Conservative policy on Europe on the other. The Conservative party contains many members who would like Britain to leave the EU all together.

Steven Fielding, professor of Political History at Britain's Nottingham University, says these televised debates may prove crucial to the outcome of the election. He says many Britons haven't yet decided who to vote for.

"So if you get an audience of 10 million people there's a lot of 'don't knows' who watch you and what you say, what you do, in those 90 minutes could be quite decisive," said Fielding.

But he says a hung parliament - in which no party has the overall majority - seems increasingly likely.

"Labor can't form a majority government - they're too far behind. The Liberal Democrats can't form a majority government on their own either and the Conservative chances of doing that, which were slim when the campaign started, have receded - they're the main victim of the surge in support for the Liberal Democrats that occurred last week," said Fielding.

The last time Britain had a hung parliament was in 1974. A final televised debate is to take place next Thursday, followed by the election on May 6.