U.K. election may be a close call

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the leader of the Labour Party, and wife Sarah Brown arrive for campaigning near Rochester in Kent, United Kingdom.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: British voters will soon get to render their verdict on Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his handling of the U.K. economy. This morning Brown set the date for Britain's next general election. It's going to be May the 6th. The financial markets are banking on a Brown defeat, but that's why you have elections: to find the winner.

Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports from London.


STEPHEN BEARD: With the U.K. economy out of recession, Gordon Brown today launched his bid to get re-elected.

GORDON BROWN: I'm asking for a clear and straightforward mandate to continue the urgent and hard work of securing the recovery.

But David Cameron, leader of the Opposition Conservatives, says Brown saddled Britain with a huge budget deficit. Cameron is pledging to start cutting it immediately if he wins power next month.

DAVID CAMERON: Let us get off this road to ruin and instead get on the path to prosperity and progress.

Most investors prefer Cameron's proposed deficit cutting to Brown's promise of recovery.

David Buik of BGC Brokers...

DAVID BUIK: It's generally felt that the Conservatives will deal with the budget deficit, which is horrendous, more aggressively than Labour will.

Voters seem less concerned about the deficit. The Conservatives have only a small lead over Labour in the opinion polls. Next month's election could be inconclusive. The parties might have to form a coalition and that could delay any deficit cutting.

James Knightley is U.K. economist with the ING Bank.

JAMES KNIGHTLEY: The market fears that that delay is going to increase the uncertainty, and the increase of risk that we're not going to get a competent plan in place quickly enough.

He says an indecisive election could lead to Britain losing its Triple-A credit rating. The election campaign launched today looks to be one of the closest in memory, and for the markets, one of the most nerve-racking.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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