British PM to take 'full responsibility' if defeated in polls

4th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Ministers from Britain's ruling Labour party called Tuesday for tactical voting to keep out the Conservatives as Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he will take "full responsibility" if Labour is beaten.

The call for Labour supporters in some seats to back Liberal Democrats to block Conservative candidates came as politicians embarked on frantic final campaigning ahead of Thursday's ballots.

"People should act with their heads and not with their hearts to make sure they don't wake up... to find themselves with a a Conservative MP and a Conservative government," Welsh Secretary Peter Hain told the BBC.

Education Secretary Ed Balls -- one of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's closest allies -- told New Statesman magazine: "I always want the Labour candidate to win.

"But I recognise there's an issue in places like... where my family live, where a (Liberal Democrat candidate) is fighting the Tories, who are in second place. And I want to keep the Tories out".

With last polls showing Labour trailing, Brown said he would take "full responsibility" if people turned their backs on Labour in the vote. His campaign was thrown into disarray last week when he was caught referring to a voter as a "bigoted woman".

"I'll have to take responsibility and I will take full responsibility if anything happens but I still think there are thousands of people who have still to make up their minds," he told GMTV in a joint interview with wife Sarah.

Brown's centre-left Labour and the centrist Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg, are seen as being closer together than either party is to the centre-right Conservatives.

Clegg said Saturday that Labour and his party were "two wings of a progressive tradition in British politics".

And many Labour supporters disillusioned by the government's support for the Iraq war switched their support to the Liberal Democrats at the last general election in 2005.

But the ministers' comments were criticised by the Tories, whose defence spokesman Liam Fox said they showed Labour believed Brown's only chance of staying in Downing Street rested on the Liberal Democrats.

"After 13 years, to have no positive reasons to give your own supporters to go out and vote for you smacks of political bankruptcy," Fox told the BBC.

Brown's Labour party, which has been in power for 13 years but is well behind in opinion polls, received a fresh blow Tuesday as influential business newspaper the Financial Times came out in support of David Cameron's Conservatives.

Bookmaker Paddy Power is paying out early on bets placed on Cameron becoming prime minister, and a YouGov/Sun newspaper daily poll Tuesday put the Conservatives on 35 percent support and the Liberal Democrats and Labour both on 28 percent.

If translated to actual results after Thursday's poll, that could mean a hung parliament in which no party has an overall majority for the first time since 1974.

This could trigger days of horse-trading as parties negotiate to see whether they could form a sustainable coalition or minority government.

In this situation, the Liberal Democrats could act as kingmakers and Clegg moved to make his party's position more flexible ahead of possible negotiations in a Financial Times interview Tuesday.

He u-turned by saying a commitment to electoral reform, which would dramatically increase his party's number of seats in the House of Commons, was not a "precondition" to any deal.

Brown, Cameron and Clegg are all campaigning hard right up until the last minute around Britain.

Cameron has announced he will campaign right through Tuesday night and up to Wednesday evening, the deadline for electioneering, in a bid to stitch up the last few votes necessary to govern alone.

Brown said Tuesday he would follow suit.

© 2010 AFP

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