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British election is a race again as economy boosts Gordon Brown

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Despite the wafer-thin nature of economic growth, Labour has argued that its stimulus package has worked while playing on fears that budget cuts by a new Tory government would jeopardize recovery. A poll by YouGov published March 18 in The Sun showed the Tory lead was still intact but remained fragile. It had Tory support at 36 percent, with Labour at 32 percent.

Economic issues still tend to overshadow other controversies – ranging from allegations that Mr. Brown bullies his staff to admissions by the Conservatives' wealthy chairman that he does not pay British taxes on foreign earnings. The Tories have also been learning the pitfalls of basing an election campaign around their charismatic leader.

David Cameron, at least, is an asset

A poster in which the party promised to "cut the deficit, not the NHS [National Health Service]" was overly defensive, according to Mr. Hawkins. "It bombed. More importantly, it featured David Cameron, who has limited appeal outside of London and England's southeast."

At least Mr. Cameron remains an asset to his party. Brown's deep unpopularity is continuing to harm Labour. A poll March 14 for the Guardian found that only 38 percent of people who voted Labour in 2005 – when Tony Blair was still leader – want to see the party win a strong majority now. Come the election, the Conservatives need to capture about 135 extra seats in the House of Commons from Labour and other parties to win a majority. Labour currently holds 346 of the Commons' 646 seats – 57 more seats than all the other parties combined. The Tories have 193 and the Liberal Democrats, 63.

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