LONDON (AFP) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown defended his handling of the economic recovery on Monday as he prepared to fire the starting gun on a general election that opinion polls suggest he could lose. Brown is expected to visit Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday to dissolve parliament and kick-start a month-long general election campaign culminating on May 6 in what many predict will be a close-run battle. Campaigning has effectively been in full swing for weeks, but the looming official announcement will sharpen the fight in a contest where the Conservatives, led by David Cameron, are bidding to oust Labour from power after 13 years in opposition. The kingdom has edged out of its longest recession on record and the economy is set to dominate the campaign. Brown defended his recovery plans in laymans terms Monday, comparing the economy to England football star Wayne Rooneys injured ankle as Labour accused the Conservatives of risking a double dip back into the red. Securing the recovery is the biggest issue facing our country, Brown said in his weekly podcast. After an injury you need support to recover, you need support to get back to match fitness. If we try and jump off the treatment table as if nothing had happened, well do more damage to the economy. The election winners will have the dubious prize of having to tackle a crippling budget deficit of at least 167 billion pounds (254 billion dollars, 188 billion euros). With cuts to public services inevitable, the Conservatives, Labour and the third-largest party, the Liberal Democrats, are battling to portray themselves as the safest pair of hands with the public finances. There has never been a worse time to be a civil servant, said one trade union leader Monday. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said the Labour governments record as an employer was the worst in the history of the country. He had no illusions that David Cameron is going to be better hes going to be dreadful. The Conservatives said the election was a straight choice between five more years of Brown or change under Cameron. Labours tax plans would stamp out the green shoots and kill the recovery. Conservative plans to cut wasteful government spending and stop the jobs tax will get Britain working, their finance spokesman George Osborne said. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg launched his election battle bus Monday saying he wanted to get on with the vote and that the British public felt let down after 13 years of Labour. On the Conservatives, he added: What I think is that people now know you cant have something for nothing and David Cameron is treating people like fools. The centrist Lib Dems could play a key role if predictions of a hung parliament come true. The centre-right Conservatives need a huge swing in their favour to claim a majority of seats under Britains first-past-the-post electoral system. They had established a commanding lead over Browns centre-left Labour Party in opinion polls only to see that advantage melt away in recent weeks, raising the prospect of Westminsters first hung parliament since 1974. But polls at the weekend showed the Conservatives appeared to have re-established a big enough lead to give them a slim working majority in the House of Commons and make Cameron the prime minister. Brown, 59, is fighting his first general election as prime minister, having taken over from Tony Blair in June 2007, just as the global financial crisis was brewing. Cameron, 43, took charge of the Conservatives in December 2005 and set about overhauling the party to make it more reflective of modern Britain.