Cameron and Miliband make final pitch to UK voters
BRITAIN'S political leaders launched their last day of campaigning yesterday for the most unpredictable election in living memory, which could yield no clear winner and weeks of haggling over the next government.
With neither Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives nor Ed Miliband's Labour expected to win a majority today and smaller parties on the rise, the election could also confirm a shift to a fragmented style of politics more familiar in other parts of Europe.
A Conservative win could raise the risk of Britain exiting the European Union because Mr Cameron has promised a referendum on membership, while some business leaders and investors have warned that Labour could be bad for the economy.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats, has even suggested there could be another election this year if an unstable minority government takes power. Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband, whose parties are virtually tied in opinion polls, have both embarked on frenetic tours of the country in a last-minute scramble for votes.
"Britain's future is on a knife edge. It would be a tragedy if we threw away all the hard work of the past five years and went back to square one," Mr Cameron wrote in The Times newspaper yesterday.
While both he and Mr Miliband insist they are still fighting for a clear majority in the 650-seat House of Commons, which would let them govern alone, attention is increasingly turning to alliances they could make with smaller parties.
Mr Cameron's Conservatives look well placed to team up again with Mr Clegg's Liberal Democrats, with whom they have been in a coalition government since 2010.
While Mr Miliband has ruled out a formal deal with the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), it is thought that the SNP could still prop up a minority Labour government on a vote-by-vote basis.
The Conservatives and Labour differ sharply in their approach to cutting the deficit in the world's fifth-largest economy, the central issue in the election campaign. Mr Cameron's party favours further austerity cuts, particularly to welfare, as have been imposed over the last five years, while Mr Miliband's party would also make reductions while increasing taxes on the rich.