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Polls show Blair lead slashed


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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britain's opposition Conservative party has narrowed the gap on Prime Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party, a clutch of opinion polls published Tuesday showed.

As Britain geared for the toughest election campaign in years, two polls put Labour on a three percent lead over the Conservatives -- three points down on previous surveys.

A third gave Blair's Labour a two percent lead over the Tories, headed by ex-lawyer Michael Howard.

The figures were even better for the Conservatives in a survey for the Financial Times newspaper of those who said they would definitely vote in a British general election.

The MORI survey of those who describe themselves as "absolutely certain" to vote put Howard's party on 39 per cent, Labour on 34 per cent, and Charles Kennedy's Liberal Democrats on 21 per cent.

The FT said the Conservative lead in its poll would still make Labour the biggest party, though with a parliamentary majority slashed from 161 seats to 27.

The PM called Britain's general election for May 5 Tuesday. (Full story)

On the day of the announcement, an ICM poll for The Guardian newspaper gave Labour a three-point lead, on 37 percent of the vote -- down three points since last month -- with the Conservatives up two points, to 34 percent and the Liberal Democrats on 21 percent, up one point.

The NOP poll for The Independent also gave Labour a three point lead, on 36 percent of the vote -- three points lower than last month -- with the Tories on 33 percent, down one point, and the Liberal Democrats on 21 percent, up two points.

The possibility that Labour voters disillusioned with Blair might stay at home on polling day was borne out by the NOP poll's findings, with only 64 percent of Labour supporters saying they were certain to vote, compared with 77 percent of Conservative supporters.

Meanwhile, a Populus poll for The Times gave Labour a lead of only two points, with 37 percent of the vote -- down two points compared with last month -- the Conservatives on 35 percent, up three points, and the Liberal Democrats on 19 percent, down one point. The poll suggested a low turnout, possibly only 56 percent.

"The prime minister should be nervous about his coming encounter with the electorate," the Times newspaper said in an editorial with a bold front page headline saying "Tory poll surge rattles Labour."


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