Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party suffered a damaging blow Saturday as the News of the World, Britain's best selling tabloid newspaper, said it would join its sister daily The Sun in supporting the Conservatives in forthcoming elections.
AFP - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown put economic recovery at the heart of his battle to win a looming election -- but was dealt a blow when a leading newspaper said it would not support him.
Brown unveiled his Labour party's key pledges Saturday as he and David Cameron, leader of the main opposition Conservatives, both ramped up campaigning ahead of a close vote widely expected to be held on May 6.
But hours later, the News of the World -- Britain's biggest selling newspaper -- said it was ditching its support for Labour after 13 years and turning to the Conservatives because the country was "crying out for change".
Brown, buoyed by recent opinion polls showing the race between Labour and the Conservatives has narrowed sharply, earlier said he would fight to win the election as he unveiled a pledge card bearing five key commitments.
"When people ask what are my top three priorities for the country, let me tell them -- keeping on the road to recovery, keeping on the road to recovery, keeping on the road to recovery," Brown said in Nottingham, central England.
In a thinly-veiled attack on the Conservatives, he warned of the dangers of taking the wrong decisions as Britain emerges from a deep recession.
"Securing the economic recovery or wrecking it -- that is the choice the country will face in the weeks ahead," the prime minister said.
Cameron hit back, saying the suggestion Labour had done well on the economy was an "insult to people's intelligence."
In a speech in Milton Keynes, northwest of London, Cameron said: "On their economic record alone, which is what they're running on, they do not deserve to be re-elected."
Britain escaped recession in the final quarter of 2009 after six quarters of contraction, the longest on record here. It exited after the United States, France and Germany, and experts have warned of the risk of a relapse.
The Conservatives had been leading the Labour party by double digits in the opinion polls, but in recent months the gap has narrowed to just a few points, suggesting Britain could face a hung parliament for the first time since 1974.
The latest Sunday Times/You Gov poll put the Tories on 37 percent support and Labour on 32 percent. YouGov interviewed 1,533 voters online on March 25 and 26.
Explaining its decision to ditch Labour, which it backed for three elections under Tony Blair, Sunday tabloid the News of the World said the Tories offered "our best hope for a brighter, saner, safer, more honourable future...
"It is time to give change a chance and move forward with fresh vigour and hope."
Its sister paper the Sun -- Britain's biggest daily seller -- announced last September that it would be backing Cameron.
A former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, is now Cameron's communications director.
Coulson quit the paper in 2007 after its royal editor was jailed over a phone-hacking scandal.
The five key election pledges outlined by Brown Saturday were securing the economy, raising family living standards, building a high-tech economy, protecting frontline public services and strengthening fairness in communities.
Finance minister Alistair Darling had on Wednesday included some measures relating to these in the government's final budget before the election, which Brown is expected to call within days.
Date created : 2010-03-28