- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 6, 2010

LONDON (AP) — Britain will hold a national election May 6, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced Tuesday. The bitterly contested race will be dominated by a recession-wracked economy and a sense that 13 years of Labor rule may be coming to an end.

Mr. Brown met with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace to ask her to dissolve Parliament, marking the start of the general election campaign. Parliament will shut down on Monday after concluding business.

Mr. Brown, who has never won a national election as leader of his party, has a difficult task ahead, with the Labor Party trailing in opinion polls and Britain’s economy still fragile after the worst recession in decades.

Britain’s opposition Conservatives — the party of former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill — hope to win a national election for the first time since 1992.

Mr. Brown’s Labor Party is as much as 10 points behind the Conservatives and their articulate leader, David Cameron, in some opinion polls. But an unusual electoral map means the outcome of the election is still uncertain.

Britain’s struggling economy and enormous debt will dominate the election campaign. Both Labor and the Conservatives say they will trim spending and slash the country’s $250 billion deficit, but they differ on how deep, and how soon, to make cuts.

Mr. Brown promised to “fight on behalf of hard-working families on middle-class and modest incomes” and said only Labor, not the Conservatives, could be trusted to keep the economy out of a possible second downturn.

Defeat would bring to a close a British political era that began with Tony Blair’s landslide 1997 election victory, which returned Labor to power and brought an unprecedented three successive electoral triumphs for the center-left party. Mr. Brown, 59, succeeded Mr. Blair in 2007.

An ICM poll published late Sunday by the Guardian newspaper showed Labor closing in on its main rival, climbing four points to 33 percent, with the opposition Tories down one point with 37 percent. Other polls, however, showed larger Tory leads.

Mr. Cameron said his task was to persuade ordinary Britons he can lead an economic revival, and offer an upbeat message about the country’s future.

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