UK politicians clash before elections

Gordon Brown and David Cameron have
clashed over National Insurance and spending plans, in their final Commons
battle before the 6 May election.

The Tory leader attacked the PM for
saying businesses backing Tory plans to curb NI rises had been

Mr Brown did not repeat the phrase
but said his planned NI rise meant schools; police and NHS pledges would be

Lib Dem Nick Clegg attacked both
for “colluding” to block political reform and told Mr Brown:
“It’s time to go.”

Labour has been warning that
Conservative plans to reduce public spending this year would threaten the
economic recovery and could lead to a “double dip” recession.

But Mr Cameron said it was Labour’s
policies that threatened the economy – by raising National Insurance
contributions from April 2011.

“This prime minister would
wreck the recovery by putting a tax on every job, on everyone earning over $30,500,
a tax on aspiration, a tax on every business in the country,” he said.

Mr Brown said the NI rise would
protect investment in schools, police and NHS guarantees, while the
Conservatives would “put hospitals, police and our health service at
risk” – claiming they would take $9 billion out of the economy.

The disagreement over NI came as
the parties each highlighted their plans for political reform – including
changes to the voting system – a subject which has been increasingly discussed
in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal.

Mr. Brown said Labour would commit
to a fixed-term Parliament, removing the governing party’s long-standing
prerogative of picking the election date. The prime minister laid out a series
of proposals, including a fully elected upper chamber, a reduced voting age of
16, a new voting system and the right of voters to remove lawmakers who are
found guilty of gross financial misconduct.

The Conservatives have also
proposed a number of changes to the political system, pledging to decentralize
power, reduce the number of lawmakers and strengthen the role of back-bench
members of Parliament

Nick Clegg, the leader of the
smaller opposition Liberal Democrat Party, promised a cap on political donations,
a shakeup of the voting system and a crackdown on politicians who are engaged
in lobbying