Britain’s Liberal Democrats said they would not back Primer Minister Gordon Brown if his party came third in the popular vote on May 6, even if the nation's electoral system gave Labour the most parliamentary seats.
”It's just preposterous the idea that if a party comes third in terms of the number of votes it still somehow has got the right to carry on squatting in Number 10 (Downing Street), Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg told BBC TV.
Clegg blew open the election campaign two weeks ago with a strong performance in Britain's first US-style televised debate of party leaders, which saw support for his Lib Democrats rocket, turning them from perennial also-rans into possible kingmakers.
Polls in London newspapers suggest that the Conservatives are set to become the largest party but will fail to win the number of seats needed to give them an overall majority, leaving a hung parliament with no clear winner.
The surveys also indicate that Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour party are trailing Clegg's Lib Democrats, coming in third in public support.Under Britain's first-part-the-post electoral system, Labour could remain the biggest party in the 650-seat parliament despite polling the third-largest number of votes.
Clegg spelt out for the first time that he would not back Brown to stay in government under those circumstances. I think a party which has come third, and so millions of people have decided to abandon them, has lost the election spectacularly (and) cannot then lay claim to providing the prime minister of this country, he said.
Instead, he vowed to support whichever party won both the most votes and the most seats, which current polls, though volatile, indicate is likely to be the Conservatives.
Britain has not had a hung parliament since the days of the global oil crisis in 1974 and the prospect has many worried urgently needed action to tackle a record budget deficit could be delayed under such a scenario.
Financial markets would likely be reassured if a coalition government was formed which had clear policies on tackling the deficit, running at more than 11% of GDP, analyst said. Centre-right Conservatives want to make spending cuts more quickly and deeply than Labour.
Labour and the Lib Democrats are more natural bedfellows and commentators say that senior figures in Brown's party have been making subtle public overtures to Clegg. But in a newspaper interview published on Sunday, Clegg described Labour as increasingly irrelevant and the election was a straight fight between his party and the Conservatives.
Britain's Conservatives warned a stalemate in the upcoming election would threaten the country's economy as polls showed the tightest election race in nearly 20 years was likely to produce no outright winner.
A surge in support for the Liberal Democrats has increased the prospect of a hung parliament”, with no single party in control, for the first time since the days of the global oil crisis in 1974.
The opposition Conservatives' once commanding lead in the polls has withered in recent weeks and they now lack the support needed to guarantee a return to power in the May 6 vote, after 13 years in opposition.
The latest surveys on Saturday gave the Conservatives a five-point lead over their rivals. The Lib Democrats and Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party were neck and neck on 29% in another, while the other showed Labour trailing in third.
The election race has been thrown wide open by a rise in support for the Lib Democrats following the strong performances of the party's leader Nick Clegg in Britain's first US-style live televised debates.