18 Apr 2010

Polls show boost for Britain's third party

10:06 am on 18 April 2010

Support for Britain's Liberal Democrats has soared following the first ever television debate between party leaders.

Several polls carried out for Britain's Sunday newspapers show a jump in support for the country's longtime third party, after the debate between Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative Opposition leader David Cameron and the Liberal Democrats' Nick Clegg.

A poll for the Mail on Sunday indicates support for the Liberal Democrats has overtaken support for the Conservatives and Labour for the first time.

It puts support for the Liberal Democrats up 12 points to 32%, with the Conservatives down 7 points on 31% and Labour down 3 points on 28%.

A ComRes poll for the Sunday Mirror and Independent on Sunday puts the Conservatives on 31%, the Liberal Democrats on 29% and Labour on 27%.

An ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph puts the Conservatives on 34%, Labour on 29% and the Liberal Democrats on 27%. The paper says this is the Conservatives' lowest rating in an ICM poll since September 2007.

Many commentators are speculating that a hung parliament is an ever more likely prospect, with no single party a clear winner.

A Liberal Democrats spokesperson says 250 people joined the party via their website immediately after the debate, while bookmakers shortened odds on the party making significant gains at the election.

An average audience of 9.4 million viewers tuned into the debate, in which Mr Clegg is widely perceived to have outshone his rivals.

Two further debates will be broadcast by Sky and the BBC over the next two weeks, with foreign affairs the focus of the next debate, on 22 April, and a final debate on the economy on 29 April.