LONDON (Reuters) – The two parties in Britain’s governing coalition clashed on Monday over their plans for the economy as they tried to differentiate themselves in voters’ eyes before a national election due next May.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s right-leaning Conservatives accused the centre-left Liberal Democrats of “being all over the place” on the economy, while they accused him of pre-election panic. However, there is no suggestion the two parties, in coalition since 2010, will split before the election.
Under pressure from some of their own lawmakers to tack right, the Conservatives have been partially outflanked by the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) and are seeking to fine-tune their policy message to try to win a majority.
That will be a tough task, with polls pointing to a ‘hung parliament’ in May in which no one party has enough seats to govern alone.
A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times put the Conservatives neck-and-neck with the main opposition Labour party on 32 percent. The Liberal Democrats had 6 percent and UKIP 17 percent.
The slump in the Liberal Democrats’ poll ratings is due mainly to a perception among supporters that they compromised their principles by governing with the Conservatives.
With both parties anxious to reclaim their pre-coalition ideological clothes, the economy is an obvious battleground. The Conservatives favour spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit, while the Liberal Democrats favour tax rises as well.
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