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UK election enters final stages

Kennedy
Kennedy: 'Urgent reminder' to Blair  


LONDON, England -- Campaigning in the race to win the UK's general election has entered its final phase before Thursday's poll.

The country's third largest political party, the Liberal Democrats, kicked off a frantic round of last minute campaigning by setting its sights on becoming the country's second biggest political force.

The party is hoping to gain more seats at the election, which opinion polls suggest will hand Prime Minister Tony Blair a second landslide victory over the main opposition party, the Conservatives.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy claimed that only his party offered "a real chance for real change."

Kennedy, Blair and Conservative Party leader William Hague were all fronting press conferences on Monday as polling day approached.

Britain's biggest bookmaker, Ladbrokes, has declared Blair's Labour Party as winners of the election by refusing to accept further bets on the party winning a majority in the election and agreeing to immediately pay gamblers who had backed Blair to win.

"To all intents and purposes this race is finished. Nobody is backing the Liberal Democrats and nobody is backing the Conservatives and we as a bookmaker really didn't want to take any more bets on Labour," a spokesman for Ladbrokes told Reuters.

Kennedy, meanwhile, accused both Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party and William Hague's Conservatives of fudging the issues on key areas such as crime, health, the elderly and education.

Both have promised to do more in each of the areas if elected -- Labour without raising taxes and the Tories with major tax cuts, he said.

He said: "Schools, hospitals, pensions and the police need more resources.

"We'll provide more doctors and nurses to cut waiting times. More teachers to cut class sizes. More police to fight crime. Plus free personal care and larger pensions."

Kennedy also unveiled a poster parodying Labour's "Post-it note" pledge to put schools and hospitals first.

The poster reads: "Urgent reminder to Tony Blair - schools and hospitals need more resources."

The Conservatives have launched an appeal to voters to burst Blair's "bubble," warning that it would be bad for UK democracy if he was given another huge parliamentary majority like the one he swept to power with in 1997.

Blair described the new Conservative ploy as a "desperate last throw of the dice."







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