Election day May 5

TONY Blair today named May 5 as polling day. The Queen has agreed to the dissolution of Parliament and MPs will start campaigning in earnest after the Pope's funeral on Friday and the wedding of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker Bowles on Saturday.

By Graham Dines

TONY Blair today named May 5 as polling day. The Queen has agreed to the dissolution of Parliament and MPs will start campaigning in earnest after the Pope's funeral on Friday and the wedding of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker Bowles on Saturday.

Mr Blair said on his return to Downing Street: "I have just been to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament, which she has graciously consented to do. And there will be a General Election in Britain on May 5."

The Prime Minister said the British people faced "a big choice and there's a lot at stake. The British people are the boss and they are the ones who will make it.'"


You may also want to watch:


Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is today on the hustings in the marginal Essex constituency of Harwich while Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy is in Norwich this afternoon for the second time in five days.

Labour's commanding lead in the opinion polls has, however, evaporated. A batch of polls published today showed that although Labour is still on course for a third successive victory, it could well be a closer contest this time.

Most Read

A Guardian/ICM poll gave Labour a three-point lead, on 37% of the vote , the Conservatives on 34%, and the Liberal Democrats on 21%.

A Populus poll for The Times gave Labour a lead of only two points, with 37% of the vote, the Conservatives on 35%, and the Liberal Democrats on 19%, down one point.

An NOP poll for The Independent also gave Labour a three point lead, on 36% of the vote, with the Conservatives on 33% and the Liberal Democrats on 21%.

Labour's near panic that its core voters will stay at hone was confirmed by NOP, with only 64% of Labour supporters saying they are certain to vote, compared with 77% of Conservative supporters.

And a Mori poll for the Financial Times suggests that the Conservatives have a five-point lead over Labour among people who say they will definitely vote. That poll put the Tories on 39%, Labour on 34%, and the Liberal Democrats on 21%.

Conservative leader Michael Howard launched his campaign - "there is a better way" - even before Mr Blair had seen the Queen.

He was joined by wife Sandra and dozens of supporters at a central London hotel before heading for regional launches in Birmingham and Sale in Greater Manchester.

"The choice before voters on May 5 is very clear. They can either reward Mr Blair for eight years of broken promises and vote for another five years of talk," said Mr Howard.

"Or they can vote Conservative to support a party that's taken a stand and is committed to action on the issues that matter to hard-working Britain.

"Mr Blair's Labour Government has lost the plot. Hard-working families - honest people who do the right thing, who respect others, who provide for their children, who look after their homes and contribute to their communities - are being taken for granted by Mr Blair."

The Liberal Democrats launched their election campaign at Manchester Airport, with Charles Kennedy joined by his party's latest recruit - Labour's Ribble Valley parliamentary candidate Stephen Wilkinson, who defected from Labour last night.

Mr Wilkinson told reporters: "I'm moving for very positive reasons. The things the Liberal Democrats believe in that I also believe in, that the Labour Party believed in when I joined, that is no longer the case."

The Lib Dems today promised to reinvigorate Britain's towns and cities, increasing the amount of affordable housing in urban areas and giving tenants more control over their homes and estates.

Mr Kennedy says Lib Dems would put 10,000 more police on the streets and he reiterated one of the party's main election planks -replacing council tax with a local income tax.

The election means key Government Bills will be lost as Parliament is dissolved. These include a scheme to introduce identity cards and a Bill to introduce a law of incitement to racial hatred may well be lost.

However, the Finance Bill implementing Chancellor Gordon Brown's Budget will be passed by both the Commons and the Lords and become law.

Despite the opinion polls' boost for the Conservatives, bookmakers Ladbrokes have made Labour 1-16 on to win the election with the Tories 7-1 against and the Lib Dems 100-1 against.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter