Britain’s opposition Labour Party took a narrow lead over the ruling Conservatives in an ICM poll, the latest in a series of surveys on Thursday to show Labour gaining ground as Britons voted in the tightest election for a generation.
Support for the centre-left Labour Party stood at 35 percent whilst Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives were on 34 percent, according to the poll for the Guardian newspaper.
The same polling firm had put both parties on 35 percent in a poll published on Wednesday.
Surveys during the election campaign have consistently shown that no party is likely to win an overall majority.
According to ICM, support for the anti-EU UKIP party stood at 11 percent with the centrist co-ruling Liberal Democrats on 9 percent.
Tories, Labour fight it out in UK’s knife-edge polls
(PTI) Millions voted in the UK today in the country’s closest polls in decades as Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party and opposition Labour were locked in a dead heat electoral battle with migrant voters, including the Indian diaspora, expected to be the deciding factor.
The prospects of a hung Parliament loomed large with most pollsters predicting a neck and neck fight between Cameron-led Conservative Party and leader of the opposition Ed Miliband’s Labour Party.
In his final appeal to voters, Cameron said: “The future of the country is in your hands. Don’t do something you will regret.”
Britain’s party leaders took the lead as millions began voting this morning. A sunny, clear day offered the perfect setting for a high turnout, which began on a moderate note but picked up as the day progressed.
Indian-origin voters, including the 1.5 million diaspora population as well as 615,000 India-born students and other migrants currently based in the UK, were expected to play a key role as every vote will count in what is being described as a knife-edge poll.
Like India, Britain has a first-past-the-post electoral system which means the party with the most votes rather than vote share has the upper hand.
With poll pundits predicting a hung Parliament, the magic number on everyone’s mind is 326 – which is the number of MPs required for a majority in the 650-member House of Commons.
Cameron accompanied by wife Samantha was among the early voters at his Witney constituency in Oxfordshire.
Miliband, who is hoping to make his entry into No.10 Downing Street as the new British Prime Minister, cast his vote alongside wife Justine almost an hour earlier at his Doncaster North constituency towards the southwest of London.
“It will come down to a few hundred votes in a few dozen constituencies. If you’ve got anything to do in the next 36 hours, cancel it,” was his final message.
Other party leaders, including Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg, United Kingdom Independence Party’s Nigel Farage and the Scottish National Party’s Nicola Sturgeon also cast their votes soon after the polls opened at 0700 (local time) at around 50,000 polling stations across the UK.
A total of 650 MPs were to be elected for the main Westminster elections by about 50 million registered voters – who also voted for around 10,000 council seats being contested across 290 English local authorities.
The last elections in 2010 had set a new record with eight Indian-origin candidates, including two women, being elected to the British Parliament.
Prominent among the Indian-origin candidates are some long-serving MPs like Labour’s Keith Vaz, whose Leicester East seat looks pretty safe this time as well. His sister Valerie Vaz is defending her Walsall South seat.
Virendra Sharma is another Labour veteran who is expected to sail through in Ealing Southall and Seema Malhotra from Feltham and Heston is also popular.
On the Tory side there is a new brother-sister duo of Arun and Suria Photay who are contesting from Birmingham Yardley and Wolverhampton South East respectively.
Priti Patel, who has played her part in the Cabinet and as Cameron’s Indian Diaspora Champion, is likely to retain her Witham seat in Essex and first-timer Rishi Sunak, son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayan Murthy, is expected to make history from Richmond.
The Conservatives are leading the charge in terms of Indian-origin candidates with 17, followed by Labour and Liberal Democrats at 14 each.
Some votes were cast before polling day through postal voting, which accounted for 15 per cent of the total electorate at the 2010 general election, when the overall turnout was 65.1 per cent.
For the first time, people have been able to register to vote online.
Electoral rules in the UK prevent any party insignia being displayed near the polling booth on the day of polling but as a compromise candidates were allowed to wear a party rosette.
With the proliferation of phone cameras and social media in recent times, there was an additional restriction on taking selfies as well as using Twitter or other forms of social networking inside the booths.
Overcrowding famously hit polling stations in 2010 and this time authorities claimed to be better-prepared, setting up mobile centres to deal with the extra capacity.
Most polling stations were in schools, community centres and parish halls, but pubs, a launderette and a school bus was also used.
All parties in recent days had intensified their attempts in key marginal constituencies to ensure that thousands of activists are encouraging people to get out and vote.
The latest opinion polls show a neck and neck race between the Conservatives and Labour with the prospect of a hung Parliament looming large.
A YouGov survey tied Labour and the Conservatives on 34 per cent, with UKIP on 12 per cent, the Liberal Democrats on 10, the Scottish National Party (SNP) on 5 and the Greens on 4 per cent.
In Scotland, the final poll put the SNP on 48 per cent and Labour on 28 per cent.