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The battle for 10 Downing Street: a two horse race

Editor: zhenglimin 丨Xinhua

06-08-2017 09:32 BJT

LONDON, June 7 (Xinhua) -- It's the most famous front door in the world, home to British prime ministers since 1735, and this week the focal point of Britain's snap general election.

The way people vote on Thursday will determine whether Theresa May hangs onto the keys to 10 Downing Street, or unceremoniously hands them over to a new occupant, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Such is the confidence of pollsters and betting companies, it would seem May has no urgent need to hire removal men to be on hand Friday.

Though such is the uncertainty of British elections neither leader is taking anything for granted. At the start of the election campaign there was talk of a Conservative landslide, with a collapse of the Labour vote under Corbyn, a leader hero-worshipped by tens of thousands of supporters, but estranged from many of his own Westminster politicians.

Against expectations, Corbyn has narrowed the gap, to just a handful of percentage points in one respected poll. Even critics have described him as looking more prime ministerial as the campaign progressed.

Meanwhile the so-called third party of British politics, the Liberal Democrats, along with the anti-EU UKIP party and the Green Party are likely to be scrapping for a handful of seats between them.

In what has been billed as the Brexit election, it is a virtual two-horse presidential-style race to Downing Street between May and Corbyn.

There may be up to 46 million votes at stake on Thursday, but the magic gold dust number is 326. That is the number of seats a party must win to be sure of forming a majority government.

In 2010 David Cameron won 97 new seats in the Commons, making the Conservatives the largest party with 306 MPs, 20 short of the magic number. In 2015, after five years of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, Cameron won a slight, but still, overall majority. The Lib Dems paid the price of "jumping into bed" with the Conservatives watching the number of their MPs collapse from 58 to just 8.

Traditionally the Conservatives as seen as the party for the bosses and the wealthy, while the Red-flag waving Labour party champions the working classes. That means the style of government running the country will depend on who wins.

The Conservatives say they will respect the will of the British people by bringing the country "deal or no deal" out of the EU, Labour says it too will leave, but will want to retain trading links with Europe.

The Conservatives present themselves as the party of low taxation, saying corporation tax will be reduced. Labour wants to scrap student tuition fees, protect pensions and winter fuel allowances for all older people and have better worker rights.

The terror attacks in London and Manchester have added security and public safety into the front-line of debate, with control of immigration even more critical for many voters.

It means so-called floating voters, those still undecided, could swing the future governance of Britain.

David Dunn, professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham, believes Brexit would become difficult during the forthcoming two-year negotiation period with Brussels, if there is no majority winner on Thursday.

Dunn told Xinhua: "This election was called over Brexit and yet neither of the main parties are talking about this subject in detail even though it will dominate the next parliament. It will also effectively prevent any new initiatives by taking all parliamentary time and energy and all the resources of Whitehall.

"Instead 'leadership' is the metaphor for Brexit and so it's an election that avoids the issues. Labour is trying to change the subject about Brexit by promising the UK a return to the 1970s, while the Conservatives are offering nostalgia for the pre EU days of the 1950s."

If no party crosses the 326 threshold, what would be the implications of a hung parliament?

Commenting on the implications of no party winning an overall majority, Dunn said: "Though not likely ,a hung parliament would make the Brexit negotiations more difficult and unpredictable. It would further hit the pound and the markets.

"It would depend on the numbers as to who governs but it would most likely lead to an new election within two years. There will be no Liberal Democrat pact -- they have learned their lesson from last time."

In the light of the attacks on Manchester and London, Dunn believes there will be an impact.

He told Xinhua: "Mostly these attacks will solidify voting intentions. For Labour, it's all May's fault for cutting the number of armed police by 15 percent and for cutting the total number of police. For the Conservatives, Corbyn is not to be trusted as he voted against all recent anti-terrorism measures. Given its prominence and proximity it will most likely benefit the conservatives as the 'party of law and order'."

Dunn added that the recent terror attacks will add to the surrealism of Thursday's election. "This was always a one sided context, deliberately chosen by May to be so. It is supposed to be about Brexit, but if that was the case it ought to have been called in October before article 50 was triggered. Instead it is an election that wilfully ignores the difficult and perilous task ahead of making the best of a very bad decision."

Thousands of voting stations close at 10 p.m. local time Thursday after 15 hours of opening, when an army of public workers will count the millions of votes, with the winner of the race to Number 10 likely to be known sometime around 4 a.m. on Friday.

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