Thu, Feb 17, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Lowest turnout since 1918 predicted for UK election

AFP , LONDON

The UK is lurching toward the lowest turnout for a general election since 1918 when troops were returning from the First World War, according to a new poll published yesterday.

But voter apathy aside, Prime Minister Tony Blair can take heart that his ruling Labour Party has the biggest lead over the main opposition Conservative Party since May 2003, the NOP survey in The Independent newspaper found.

An election is widely expected to be called for May 5 and, while Labour is favorite to win, the party has warned of the danger of a back-door Conservative victory if people fail to make an appearance at the ballot box.

Only 55 percent of people contacted in the latest poll said they would vote, two points lower than in the run-up to the 2001 general election, when the turnout of 59 percent was the lowest since 1918, the newspaper said.

"We are very worried about the low turnout. When it drops below 50 percent, it becomes very volatile and the Tories could pick up seats we have held for years," a senior advisor to the prime minister was quoted in the daily as saying.

At the same time, 42 percent of people asked said they would vote Labour -- up four points from January -- while 30 percent rallied for the Conservatives -- a 2 percent drop from the previous month, the poll found.

NOP, a member of the British polling council, interviewed 953 adults by telephone between Feb. 11 and Feb. 13.

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