David Cameron talks with Michael Kavanagh, a patient in the Cardiac Unit of the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton on Saturday. Image Credit: Reuters

Brighton: British opposition leader David Cameron, facing criticism over his Conservative Party's dwindling poll-lead weeks before an election, said yesterday he had struggled to get his message across to voters.

For months, polls showed Cameron's centre-right Conservatives with a double-digit lead over the ruling Labour Party, which has ruled Britain since 1997.

But the lead has shrunk to as little as five points in the approach to an election expected in early May, raising the possibility of a "hung parliament" where no party commands overall majority.

That prospect alarms financial markets which fear it would lead to a weak government incapable of decisive action to rein in Britain's gaping budget deficit.

"You have to work very, very hard to get anything across," Cameron said in an interview with the Sunday Times, explaining why his message had failed to hit home with some voters.

Cameron conceded not everyone in Britain was obsessed by politics.

"This weekend [yesterday] there will be more people watching Aston Villa than my speech," he said.

Mountain to climb

Cameron is expected to tell delegates that the Conservatives have a patriotic duty to win the election because they have to sort out the mess the country is in, a party source said.

Writing in the News of the World, Cameron said Britain had got a "massive mountain to climb to reach long-term prosperity".

Cameron wants urgent action to cut the deficit but Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown argues that moving too fast to rein in spending could cut short a fledgling economic recovery. The Conservatives, conscious of the risk of alienating voters with too much talk of austerity, have toned down their calls for cuts.

A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times showed, for the first time since July 2007, people trusted Labour more than the Conservatives to run the economy.

More people in the poll said they knew what Labour stood for on important issues than the Conservatives.

Tax breaks

Cameron has faced criticism for creating confusion over the party's policy on tax breaks for married couples. Daily Telegraph columnist Janet Daley urged Cameron's team on Saturday to "stand and fight" for their beliefs.

Cameron said he would not respond to poll setbacks by returning to the party's "comfort zone". Nor would he play things safe and try to win by default.