British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has confirmed May 6 as the date of the UK’s long-awaited general election, triggering a fierce political battle for control of the country.
Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, Brown said he had met Queen Elizabeth earlier Tuesday to ask for parliament to be dissolved next week.
Brown’s announcement sounds the starting gun on a month of frenetic campaigning that is likely to be dominated by arguments over the state of the economy, public spending cuts and the size of the UK’s national deficit.
Brown said he was seeking a “clear and straightforward mandate” to carry on with the job of stabilizing and rebuilding an economy still reeling from the global financial crisis.
“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,” he said.
Brown, who spent the afternoon campaigning in the southern county of Kent, is facing the electorate as Labour Party leader for the first time since he became prime minister in 2007.
Although the center-left party has been in power for 13 years, its three previous election victories in 1997, 2001 and 2005 were won by Brown’s predecessor as leader, Tony Blair.
Polls ahead of the election campaign have consistently shown Labour trailing the center-right Conservative Party, led by David Cameron.
But the gap between the two has narrowed in recent weeks and the the Conservatives need a huge swing of more than 100 seats to win an overall majority in the 650-seat House of Commons.