Op­po­si­tion chiefs in TV clash 3 weeks be­fore UK vote

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY NAOMI O’LEARY

The op­po­si­tion par­ties vy­ing for a role in Bri­tain’s next gov­ern­ment went head-to-head late Thurs­day in a crunch tele­vi­sion de­bate three weeks from what prom­ises to be the clos­est elec­tion in decades.

Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron’s Con­ser­va­tive Party and its main ri­val, Ed Miliband’s Labour, are neck-and-neck in the polls ahead of the May 7 vote and both may have to rely on sup­port from smaller par­ties to form a ma­jor­ity.

Cameron did not take part in the event, drawing sharp crit­i­cism from Miliband, who ended with a di­rect chal­lenge to the pre­mier to de­bate him face to face.

“David, if you think this elec­tion is about lead­er­ship, then de­bate me one-on-one,” Miliband said. “De­bate me and let the peo­ple de­cide.”

Cameron has strictly limited the num­ber of TV de­bates he joins dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign over con­cerns that his per­for­mance in them at 2010’s elec­tion may have cost him an over­all ma­jor­ity.

Miliband also clashed with Ni­cola Stur­geon, the leader of the pro- in­de­pen­dence Scot­tish Na­tional Party (SNP), over whether their two par­ties could team up to gov­ern.

The SNP looks set to win a ma­jor­ity of the seats in Scot­land and has talked up its prospects of an ar­range­ment with Labour to keep Cameron out of Down­ing Street.

“We have a chance to kick David Cameron out of Down­ing Street,” Stur­geon told Miliband. “Don’t turn your back on it, peo­ple will never for­give you.”

But Miliband in­sisted he was aim­ing for an out­right ma­jor­ity and re­jected the idea of a for­mal coali­tion with a party that seeks Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence and the break up of the United King­dom, say­ing: “It’s a ‘no’, I’m afraid.”

His com­ments did not ex­plic­itly rule out a more in­for­mal ar­range­ment un­der which the SNP could sup­port a Labour mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment in re­turn for con­ces­sions.

Cameron on Fri­day sought to put pres­sure on Miliband over the is­sue, warn­ing of the con­se­quences of any kind of post-elec­tion tieup with the SNP.

“Ed Miliband won’t rule out a vote- by- vote deal with the SNP so he can be PM. It would mean more bor­row­ing and more taxes and you would pay,” he wrote on Twit­ter.

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