Opposition chiefs in TV clash 3 weeks before UK vote
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.