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UK voters decide Blair's fate


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Blair's run for a third straight term in office has been anything but easy.

The Iraq war is far less popular in the UK than it is in the U.S., but the war is not likely to hurt Blair.
In Britain, there's controversy over reports it may upgrade its nuclear weapons.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Polls will open today in Britain's general election with most signs pointing to Prime Minister Tony Blair being delivered a third straight term in office.

Blair made his government's handling of the buoyant British economy during its eight years in power the centerpiece of his final push ahead of the Thursday plebiscite.

"Now the people are in the driving seat," he told GMTV breakfast television, in the first of a flurry of interviews and Labour Party rallies aimed at swaying undecided voters.

"The point about a General Election is it's fought constituency by constituency," Blair said.

"Whatever the opinion polls say, in the key seats a few hundred votes or a few thousand votes can determine it either way.

"We are very much saying to people in those key constituencies, if you have got the Conservatives in second place and you want to keep a Labour MP you have got to get out and vote."

Liberal Democrats leader Charles Kennedy argued at his morning press conference that his party deserved support as a reward for having been "positive" throughout the campaign, and for having set out "real solutions" to the electorate's problems.

Conservatives leader Michael Howard joined the tussle of the airwaves, telling the BBC he had been right to call Blair a "liar" over Iraq, and denying it had resulted in a negative campaign style.

"It's not telling the truth that makes politics seem negative, that's what contributes to the lack of trust in politics and politicians. I just say it as it is I'm afraid," he said.

Kennedy, at his final morning news conference, said the Liberal Democrats had "set pace" throughout the campaign, while the Conservatives' challenge had "petered out" and Labour were "running scared," he said.

Kennedy also kept the spotlight on Iraq, urging voters: "Cast your vote to restore Britain's reputation on the international stage. Vote Liberal Democrat if, like us, you say never again to an episode like Iraq."

Despite a frantic and sometimes bitter few weeks of campaigning, both pundits and opinion polls have remained constant throughout: Blair's Labour Party is likely to be re-elected, albeit most likely with a smaller parliamentary majority.

No new opinion polls were published in Wednesday's British newspapers, but the tone of the coverage suggested clearly that the election outcome was a foregone conclusion.

The right-wing Daily Mail published a three-page guide to parliamentary seats in which so-called "tactical voting" could remove Labour Party lawmakers, thus helping "give Mr. Blair a bloody nose."

In an editorial, The Sun newspaper said: (Former U.S.) President Clinton once famously said of the big issue at election time: 'It's the economy, stupid.'

"If you want to know why Labour will win the third term it deserves, look at these two facts:

Since 1997, prices have gone up by 18.5 percent. But average earnings have gone up 34 percent.

"Add low unemployment, low inflation and low interest rates and what have you got? Enough said."

The newspaper's front page story concentrated on what it says was Tony and Cherie Blair's first joint interview, in which they talk about their 25 year marriage.


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