ACADEMIC Dr Pete Woodcock is gambling on a hung Parliament.

The University of Huddersfield politics lecturer said yesterday his money was on an indecisive result at the General Election on May 6.

And he believes two local seats – in Colne Valley and Calder Valley – could prove oh so crucial,

Dr Woodcock told the Examiner: “If I was a betting man – which I am – I’d put money on a hung Parliament with the Conservatives as the biggest party.”

He believes the Tories will fail to win the seats they need to form an overall majority in the House of Commons.

Dr Woodcock said: “The Conservatives need to win 100 marginal seats to get a majority of one. Labour is actually doing quite well in the marginals.”

Colne Valley and Calder Valley – where Labour is defending slim majorities – could be crucial on election night. Dr Woodcock said: “If the Conservatives don’t win Colne Valley and Calder Valley they won’t be able to form the next government.”

The claims came as prime minister Gordon Brown confirmed the election date.

Brown announced that the General Election will be on May 6 – and appealed for a “clear and straightforward mandate” from the British people to secure a historic fourth Labour term in office.

The Prime Minister, flanked by his Cabinet, said in Downing Street: “It will come as no surprise to all of you – and it is probably the least well-kept secret of recent years – but the Queen has kindly agreed to the dissolution of Parliament and a General Election will take place on May 6.”

Tory leader David Cameron pre-empted the official announcement with an off-the-cuff speech to enthusiastic supporters outside London’s County Hall.

He declared this would be “the most important General Election for a generation”.

And Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg insisted “all bets are off” as the nation prepares for the closest-run campaign since 1992.

Dr Woodcock believes the expenses scandal and the economy will be the key issues in voters’ minds when they go to the polls next month.

He said: “Parliament has been discredited and both of the main parties will have to address that in the campaign.

“The economy is always a key issue, even without the recent downturn. People generally vote with their pockets.”

But Dr Woodcock is expecting several new features in this year’s General Election.

He said: “It will be intriguing to see how websites like Facebook and Twitter impact on the election. I’m a big fan of Facebook and I’ve noticed how many local politicians are using it to appeal to the elusive 18 to 25 group of voters.

“Another issue will be the TV debates. It will be interesting to see what effect they have because we’ve never had them before.

“It will also be interesting to see how the fringe parties like UKIP and the BNP do.”