LONDON — The Conservatives and Labour launched their final push on Monday to woo voters ahead of this week’s British general election, as potential kingmaker parties marked out their territory.
Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband kicked off the final three days of campaigning with stark messages to voters about the choice they face.
With polls showing the two main parties neck-and-neck and unlikely to win a majority, the race to take Downing Street will probably hinge on smaller parties such as the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Liberal Democrats.
"It’s the start of a week when Britain will decide its future. By Friday you’ll either have Ed Miliband or me as your prime minister," Mr Cameron said.
Mr Miliband said the election was a "clash of two visions" about wages, health and young people.
He tried to hang the election battle on contrasting plans for the state-funded National Health Service (NHS).
"In the final few days of this general election, the future of the NHS is at risk in a way it hasn’t been for a generation. There is no bigger choice at this election than the future direction of our NHS, the bedrock of security for so many working people in our country."
Mr Miliband took the unprecedented step of having his six election pledges carved on a 2.6m high tablet of stone, sparking much mockery in newspapers.
On social media, the stunt was ridiculed as Mr Miliband’s "Moses moment" and spawned imitations. He hopes to erect the monument, which includes the stipulations "action on rents" and "an NHS with the time to care", in the garden of Downing Street.
If Thursday’s vote results in a hung parliament, it could trigger days, if not weeks, of tricky negotiations as political parties try to come up with an arrangement for forming a government. That could mean deals with smaller parties in exchange for agreeing to their manifesto pledges.
The latest BBC poll of polls on Saturday gave the centre-right Conservatives 34% and centre-left Labour 33%. The populist UK Independence Party were on 14%, the centrist Liberal Democrats 8%, the left-wing Greens on 5% and the rest of the parties on 6%.
These figures would leave both major parties well short of winning the 326 seats needed for an absolute majority in parliament’s lower House of Commons.
The Liberal Democrats, led by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, have spent the past five years as partners to the Conservatives in the governing coalition.