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article imageMillions of UK voters go to the polls in tight contest

By Andrew John     May 6, 2010 in Politics
Britain’s voters are going to the polls today in what could be the closest-run general election in decades. Voting began at 7 o’clock BST this morning, and will end at 10 o’clock this evening.
About 44 million people are registered to vote in the UK, but it remains to be seen what the voter turnout is in an election that has used television and the Internet more than any previous poll.
Until Parliament rose at the end of its last session, Labour were in overall control, but the main opposition, the Conservatives, are seen to be within a chance of winning the largest number of seats.
However, Nick Clegg, the leader the Liberal Democrats, the party with the third-largest number of seats, has grown in popularity since his first appearance in three televised leaders’ debates (the first time in British history that the leaders have gone head to head on television in the way presidential hopefuls have done in the USA since 1960).
Some campaigners, weary of the system that elects either Labour or the Conservatives election after election, have been campaigning for a hung parliament, in which no party has enough seats to take overall control. This could result in some horse trading, with the more powerful parties perhaps having to concede some of their policies.
If the result gives neither of the main two parties overall control, one of them might have to do a deal with the Liberal Democrats.
Since the Liberal Democrats are the only party in favour of proportional representation – variations of which are in place in many other European countries – campaigners hope they will be the party to bring it about for the UK, which has always used the first-past-the-post system.
Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg  with his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez  addresses a rally at Western Lawn...
Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg, with his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, addresses a rally at Western Lawns, Eastbourne
courtesy Liberal Democrats/Alex Folkes
“Voting in the general election will take place in 649 constituencies, with nearly 4,150 candidates standing for election across the country,” says the BBC.
“David Cameron was the first of the main UK party leaders to cast their vote. The Tory leader went to a community hall in Witney, Oxfordshire, shortly after 1030 BST, accompanied by his wife Samantha.
“Labour leader Gordon Brown went to vote shortly after 1100 BST at a community centre close to his home in North Queensferry, Fife. His wife Sarah was with him.
“Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, arrived at a polling station in Sheffield Hallam at 1120 BST. His wife Miriam is unable to vote in the general election because she is a Spanish citizen.”
Most constituencies will conduct their counts overnight, although about 20 will not begin till after 9 a.m. GMT on Friday.
Many elections for local councillors are also taking place in parts of Britain.
Candidate in plane crash
Meanwhile, the former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, is in hospital after a light aircraft he was in came down near Brackley in Northamptonshire. Farage’s plane was pulling an election banner, and it’s thought that either it got tangled in the plane’s tail, or cross-winds caused unexpected problems. An investigation is being carried out.
Farage is standing in the general election in Buckingham.
He was taken to hospital in Banbury in Oxfordshire, while his pilot was taken to a hospital in Coventry.
A spokesman for his party is quoted as saying: “We’ve had unconfirmed reports that either the banner got snagged up or there were cross-winds and it was unfamiliar airfield to the pilot, who had to be cut out of the plane.”
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