herald

Friday 9 December 2016

Voters headed for the polls across Britain today, in a contest that is expected to produce an ambiguous result, a period of frantic political horse-trading and a bout of soul-searching.

Voters headed for the polls across Britain today, in a contest that is expected to produce an ambiguous result, a period of frantic political horse-trading and a bout of soul-searching.

British prime minister David Cameron's Conservatives and Ed Miliband's Labour Party are running neck and neck, and neither looks able to win a majority of Parliament's 650 seats.

Many voters are turning elsewhere - chiefly to the separatist Scottish National Party, which will dominate north of the border.

The anti-immigrant UKIP is third in opinion polls but Britain's electoral system means it can only realistically hope to win a handful of seats.

If no party wins outright, it may take days or even weeks of negotiation to forge a workable government.

Labour leader Ed Miliband cast his vote early alongside his wife, Justine, in northern England, as did David Cameron and his wife Samantha.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage also voted early in the southeastern constituency of South Thanet, and then tweeted: "I can't tell you who I voted for!"

In the bright early-morning sunshine in London, voters gathered to cast ballots at a polling station close to Parliament as police stood guard.

Signs of the unfolding political drama were all around. The squares opposite Parliament were packed with temporary outdoor television studios, while newspapers urged voters to the polls.

IMPORTANT

"It's going to be important for Britain for the next five years," said Gerry McQuillan (61), an arts administrator voting Labour. "We're coming out of economic austerity but we've got to get the right government for the next five years."

Alexis Thomas (34), a doctor, was mindful of all the predictions of a dead heat and wanted to make her voice heard.

"Because it's so tight, I think that if I didn't come out and vote, and didn't get the result that I wanted, then I'd only have myself to blame," Thomas said - though she wasn't saying what result that was.

Meanwhile, Charlotte Church has launched a stinging attack on the Conservative Party, branding them "utterly intolerable".

The Welsh singer (29) revealed she has never before voted in a general election because she thought it was "condoning a broken system" and propping up an "illusion of democracy".

But she has decided to cast her ballot for Labour today in a bid to keep the Conservatives out of her local constituency - and David Cameron out of Number 10.

In a blog post she wrote: "This country needs change. We need to sort out our house. The people are being ripped off and exploited by multinational companies, by the media, by our own elected officials, and all of this has got to stop.

"Whether Ed Miliband and the Labour Party are the right people to sort it all out is a moot point.

"David Cameron has presided over the most capricious, shambolic government that there has been in my lifetime. They are scandalous, and they cannot be the right people for the job."

The mum-of-two revealed she would like to vote for a smaller 'fringe' party such as the Greens or Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru.

But she feels she has no choice but to vote Labour because the first-past-the-post system has made the election a two-horse race between them and the Tories.

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