Opinion Poll: UK facing hung parliament next year

Britain could be heading for a hung parliament next year because support for the Conservatives may not be enough to secure the party an overall majority, an opinion poll showed on Tuesday.

What economists have dubbed the “nightmare scenario” for financial markets has grown more likely because voters are starting to feel more confident about the Labour government’s handling of the economy, the poll showed.

The ComRes poll for the Independent newspaper showed support for the Conservatives has fallen three points to 37 percent in the last month, with Labour steady at 27 percent and the Liberal Democrats up two points to 20 percent.

If realised at an election which Prime Minister Gordon Brown must call by June 2010, that would leave the Conservatives six seats short of an overall majority in parliament, the poll said, resulting in the first hung parliament in Britain since 1974.

The poll suggests that a small Labour win could also still be possible, although most commentators expect the Conservatives to win a workable majority.

Markets fear that without a strong electoral mandate for any party, tackling a budget deficit that is expected to rise above 12 percent of gross domestic product this year could prove tricky.

“This is the second poll in a row which points to a hung parliament,” said Citi economist Michael Saunders. “Labour voters are markedly more optimistic on the economy than Conservatives.”

An Ipsos MORI survey on November 21 showed Labour had cut the Conservatives’ poll lead to six points — the narrowest gap in any survey since last December and also pointing to a hung parliament.


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