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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-03

With the Guardian announcing its endorsement of Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats and the Times backing the Conservatives, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is suffering a new blow just one week before the general elections.

AFP - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's slender re-election hopes took a fresh battering Saturday as two top newspapers turned against his ruling Labour party, days before a general election on May 6.
As party leaders entered the last days of campaigning for the knife-edge poll, long-time Labour supporters the Times and the Guardian both announced they were switching away from Brown's party this time around.
The Times will support the Conservatives for the first time in 18 years because leader David Cameron "has shown the fortitude, judgement and character to lead this country back to a healthier, stronger future," the paper said.
And the Guardian, seen as the broadsheet of record for the centre-left, said it would back Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats, adding in an editorial that it was "hard to feel enthusiasm" at a possible five more years of Brown.
The Sun, Britain's biggest selling daily newspaper, is already backing the centre-right Conservatives, as is influential current affairs magazine the Economist.
Along with falling opinion polls, the news is the latest blow in recent days to hit the prime minister, who only took over from Tony Blair in 2007 and has never won a general election as Labour leader.
On Wednesday, he was caught offguard calling an elderly widow a "bigoted woman" after meeting her on the campaign trail and the next day, he struggled to make an impact in the final televised leaders' debate.
"Sometimes you say things you greatly regret. And I have paid a very high price for it," Brown told the Daily Telegraph Saturday, referring to the incident dubbed "bigotgate" by the media.
He later told reporters he would "never give up" in the election.
Speculation is rife about who could replace Brown as Labour leader if his centre-left party loses the election, with attention focused on Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
Labour, in power for 13 years, began this campaign as the underdog against the Tories. But a surge in Lib Dem support after Clegg's star turn in televised leaders' debates unexpectedly pushed them into third place.
A Harris poll for The Daily Mail Saturday confirmed Labour's difficulties, giving them 24 percent support, down two on the previous week, compared to 33 percent for the Conservatives (down one) and 32 for the Lib Dems (up three).
The results of the poll, taken just after Thursday's final TV debate, would give the Conservatives the largest number of seats in the House of Commons but not enough for an outright majority, a situation known as a hung parliament.
Clegg's centrist Liberal Democrats could hold the balance of power in this situation and he indicated Saturday they may be more likely to form an alliance with Labour than the Conservatives.
Clegg told the Guardian there was a "gulf" between what he and Cameron stood for and described the Liberal Democrats and Labour as "two wings of a progressive tradition in British politics".
He added that Brown's was a "very dismal, cramped and depressing message. That's why the polls are putting us ahead of Labour and that will crystallise in the next few days into a two-horse race."
Out campaigning in his constituency in rural Oxfordshire, southern England, Cameron accused Clegg of "rather arrogant" comments and said the public would "decide how many horses there are".
"Vote Labour -- more of the same. Vote Liberal -- complete uncertainty. If you vote Conservative, you get a new government on Friday, a new prime minister, a new direction for our country," Cameron said.
Blair, a three-time general election winner as leader who made his second campaign appearance to try and boost Brown Friday, warned people against voting Liberal Democrat Saturday.
"The fact that it might seem an interesting thing to do is not the right reason to put the keys of the country in their hands," he told the Times.
"A hung parliament is a thoroughly bad idea. It will lead to indecisive leadership and horse trading".

Date created : 2010-05-01


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