Countdown to the Election

The Prime Minister put the economy at the heart of the campaign by urging the
electorate not to risk the recovery by voting for the Conservatives.

Standing in front of his Cabinet outside No.10, he said: “Britain is on the road to recovery
and nothing we do should put that recovery at risk.

“Over the next few weeks I will go round the country – the length and breadth
of our land – and I will take to the people a very straightforward and clear
message. Britain is on the road to recovery and nothing we do should put
that recovery at risk.

“Get the big decisions right – as we did in the last 18 months since the world
recession – and jobs, prosperity and better standards of living will result.

“Get the big decisions wrong and the lives of hundreds of thousands of people
are diminished as a result.”

Minutes before he spoke, David Cameron, the Conservative leader, attempted to
steal a march on Mr Brown, making his first speech of the campaign before
the date was even confirmed.

He said that he was fighting on behalf of the “Great Ignored,” describing the
election as the most important for a generation.

“It comes down to this. You don’t have to put up with another five years of
Gordon Brown,” said Mr Cameron.

Mr Brown asked the Queen to dissolve Parliament and call a general election on
May 6 during a 23 minute audience at Buckingham Palace.

Their talk followed a Cabinet meeting lasting three-quarters of an hour, with
ministers signing off on Labour’s election manifesto.

Labour’s intention is to portray the strength of the party’s top team compared
to that of the Conservatives.

Mr Brown said that he wasn’t a “team of one,” and highlighted the strength of
the Cabinet.

He also disclosed that he would set out a full programme of constitutional
reform in coming days in a bid to restore the trust in politics which had
been lost following the expenses scandal.

“I have one final mandate to ask of the British people as well,” he said, “to
improve the public trust in our democracy and public life.”

Prime ministers usually claim all of the spot light when calling an election,
and the Tories will point out that the tactic highlights how, unlike most
leaders, Mr Brown is clearly not seen being portrayed by Labour as their
strongest card.

David Cameron, the Conservative leader, welcomed the start of the general
election campaign and vowed that he had the energy to get the country moving

As Mr Brown drove back from the Palace, Mr Cameron made his first speech of
the campaign. He said: “We’re fighting this election for the Great Ignored –
young, old, rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight.

“They start businesses, operate factories, teach our children, clean the
streets, grow our food and keep us healthy – keep us safe. They work hard,
pay their taxes, obey the law.

“They’re good, decent people – they’re the people of Britain and they just
want a reason to believe that anything is still possible in our country.

“This election is about giving them that reason, giving them that hope. That’s
the Conservatives mission – that’s my mission – for the next 30 days and I
can’t wait to get started.”

Afterwards, members of the shadow cabinet headed off to campaign in every
region in the country, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, told party workers that the official
start to the election campaign marked “the beginning of the end for Brown”.

He said: “I think it’s great that the campaign’s now going to start. People
finally have a say about the big changes they want, to make this country
fairer and better

“This is a choice now between the old politics of the two old parties and
something new, something different, which the Liberal Democrats offer.

“This is not a two-horse race between the two old parties, Labour and the
Conservatives. People have got a real choice this time and I think that’s
why this election is wide open. All bets are off.

“I’m really looking forward to being able to put the case for real change, for
real fairness, to people up and down the country.

“I think people are just crying out for something different, and that’s what
we offer.”

After being formally dissolved on Monday, the Commons will not meet again
until May 18, far later than usual, raising speculation that Mr Brown has
warned the Queen that a hung Parliament was likely.

While it is usual for a new House of Commons to meet the week following a
general election, in this case, the parties will have time for a protracted
period of negotiation in the event that all fail to win enough seats to form
an outright majority.

Main Picture: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0