A day before Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Tory opponent David Cameron cross swords in a crucial television debate, a new poll on Wednesday indicated that the Conservative lead has slashed by three points making it appear that Britain is headed for a hung Parliament.

The new Populus poll for The Times revealed deep disenchantment of the voters with the campaign so far and high levels of scepticism among people about manifesto pledges.

More voters are now hoping for a hung Parliament than either a Tory or a Labour outright victory, The Times said.

Conservative support has slipped by three points over the past week to 36 per cent, while Labour is a point up at 33 per cent. The Liberal Democrats are unchanged on 21 per cent.

The Tories remain well short of the 40 per cent level where they might hope for an overall majority.

The parties in the election fray will head for Manchester for Thursday night’s debate, with the senior figures admitting that they are struggling to break through to public.

The poll showed that 32 per cent of the public hope for a hung Parliament, against 28 per cent who want a Tory majority and 22 per cent a Labour one.

Lib Dem voters prefer a deal with Labour in a hung Parliament.

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