(Reuters) – Prime Minister David Cameron will face off against six political rivals on Thursday in the first and only full TV debate of Britain’s election campaign, hoping the format will allow him to cast himself as a statesman against squabbling pretenders.
The contest comes before an unusually close national election on May 7 in which neither Cameron’s Conservatives nor Ed Miliband’s Labour Party have a clear lead, leaving the stewardship of Britain’s $2.8 trillion (2 trillion pounds) economy in the balance.
The debate, to be held in a former pie factory near the northern city of Manchester, puts leaders of traditionally fringe parties like the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the left-wing Green Party on an equal footing with the Conservatives and Labour, who have dominated British politics for decades.
Leaders of nationalist parties from Scotland and Wales and Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the junior party in the country’s coalition, complete the lineup for the event, which starts at 8:00 p.m.
Cameron, whose personal ratings are higher than those of his rivals, carries bitter memories of the first televised election debates in 2010. Over the course of three such debates, strong performances by Clegg helped deprive the Conservatives of an outright victory.
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