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Labour minister urges supporters to vote Liberal in Tory-led constituencies

Video by Jonathan CRANE

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-05

With polls showing British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party lagging a day before Thursday's general election, a senior minister called Labour supporters to vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats in Conservative-led areas.

REUTERS - Supporters of Britain's ruling Labour should consider voting for the Liberal Democrats in some areas at the May 6 election to keep the Conservatives out of power, a senior minister said on Tuesday.

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said Labour voters in specific districts where the party's candidate had no chance of winning should "vote with their heads, not their hearts", even if that meant backing a Liberal Democrat to keep a Conservative out.

The two opposition parties poured scorn on the tactic, calling it "desperate" and "politically bankrupt".

Two days before the election, the centre-right Conservatives were ahead of centre-left Labour in the opinion polls, but their lead may be too small to secure an outright majority in parliament after 13 years of Labour in power.

The Lib Dems, who enjoyed a surge in support after their leader shone in a TV debate, are jockeying with Labour for second place in the polls and could hold the balance of power in a "hung parliament", where no party has an overall majority.

"I want every Labour candidate to win, obviously. But many are not going to be in a position to win," Hain told BBC radio.

"People should act with their heads and not their hearts and not wake up ... and find themselves with a Conservative MP (member of parliament) and Conservative government."


Splitting the vote


Schools Secretary Ed Balls, one of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's closest allies, stopped short of explicitly urging Labour supporters to vote for the Lib Dems.

Still, in an interview with the New Statesman magazine, he said: "I always want the Labour candidate to win, but I recognise there's an issue in places like North Norfolk (in eastern England), where my family live, where Norman Lamb (the Lib Dem candidate) is fighting the Tories (Conservatives), who are in second place. And I want to keep the Tories out."

Senior Conservative Jeremy Hunt was pressed at a news conference on whether he would advise Tory supporters in places where the party had little chance of winning to vote tactically for the Lib Dems to deprive Labour of parliamentary seats.

"We have more confidence in our values than to start playing those sorts of games," he said, sidestepping questions on the risk that splitting the opposition vote between Conservatives and Lib Dems would allow Labour to cling to certain seats.

Brown denied that appearing to ask its supporters to back another party was "desperate", telling GMTV: "No, because I want people to vote Labour and I want a majority Labour government."

The Labour-supporting Daily Mirror newspaper published a front-page "How to Stop Him" guide, advising readers on which party to support in closely fought districts to prevent Conservative leader David Cameron from becoming prime minister.

Conservative defence spokesman Liam Fox said the idea "smacks of political bankruptcy".

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said its supporters should ignore Labour overtures. "This is a desperate attempt by Labour to prevent their vote from collapsing," he said.

Date created : 2010-05-05

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