Gordon Brown announces election

Prime minister has asked the Queen to dissolve Parliament and confirmed May 6 as the date.

Gordon Brown has announced that the general election will be held on 6 May, after asking the Queen to dissolve Parliament. Speaking for just a few minutes, flanked by his cabinet, he emphasised the need to sustain the recovery and get the "big decisions right", according to the BBC.

The prime minister said that the announcement had been the "least well-kept secret of recent years". Conservative leader David Cameron said that his party had the "big ideas" to lead the country, whilst Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said that his was the only party to offer "real change".

Yesterday, the polls suggested that Labour might yet be heading for a fourth successive victory, despite widespread public support for the Conservatives' pledge to reverse part of the government's planned increase in National Insurance.

The election is expected to centre on the economy, with the prime minister warning that the Conservatives risk triggering a double-dip recession through their plans to cut public spending immediately after the election. For the first time ever, the campaign will feature three televised leaders' debates, to be staged by Sky News, ITV and the BBC.