Accessibility links

Breaking News

Final TV Debate Before British Election

Britain's party leaders come head to head Thursday evening for last televised debate before country's upcoming general election

Britain's party leaders will come head to head Thursday evening for the last televised debate before the country's upcoming general election.

Stephen Fielding, professor of political history at Britain's Nottingham University, says the economy is arguably the most important issue of the election.

He says it's considered one of current Prime Minister Gordon Brown's strongest cards – but he says Mr. Brown, who leads the Labor party, won't be helped by being televised.

"Because this is a leader's debate on television and because of his rather problematic public image and his difficulties in presenting himself on television, the danger for him is that whatever his strengths are in terms of policy and substance, they will be completely diminished and neutralized by his problems in presentation," says Fielding.

Three main parties are at the forefront of the general election, set to take place on May 6. The Conservative party was initially widely expected to win – but over the course of the past weeks that outcome has become less certain.

Following the first of three televised debates the Liberal Democrats stormed ahead in the opinion polls.

That popularity has meant a loss of support for Conservative leader David Cameron.

"This is David Cameron's last chance to establish himself as potential prime minister rather than someone who might just miss out on becoming Prime Minister. He's got to really sell himself on this vital issue of the economy, " Fielding adds.

The shift in opinion polls has made a hung parliament – where no party has an overall majority – seem increasingly likely.

"Conservatives are around 34-35 percent, they have to get up to 38-39 percent before they win a majority and all of those gains have to come off Labor. It's asking an awful lot," said Mark Wickham-Jones, professor of political science at the University of Bristol. "I was thinking about this yesterday. I can't think of the last time we had a dramatic change like that in an election campaign with an opposition."

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg hasn't yet said which of the two main parties – Labor or Conservative – his party would back in the case of a hung parliament.

Wickham-Jones says clashes in party policies will make that decision difficult - and the days following the election will be pivotal.

"So something has to give. Now who's going to blink, what's going to give, who's going to crack – so we're going into a massive game of bluff and counter-bluff over that weekend and it's very hard to see how it's going to pan out," Wickham-Jones added.

Clegg has suggested that he would only support Labor if the party were to ditch their leader, Mr. Brown.