British PM's decision to quit may have come too late: press
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has outflanked his opponents by announcing his decision to quit, but for many in his Labour party the decision may have come too late, newspapers said Tuesday.
The prime minister said Monday he would step aside by September, in a move which paved the way for power-sharing talks with the Liberal Democrat party that could see his Labour stay in office despite losing a deadlocked poll.
The dramatic announcement pulled the rug out from under the feet of the main opposition Conservatives, who spent the weekend locked in talks with the Lib Dems which many expected to lead to the formation of a government.
"Brown throws final spanner in Tory works on his way out," said the Times newspaper, which supported the Conservatives in last week's poll.
The Daily Mirror, which backed Labour, said the move showed Brown was still "the master strategist."
"The great clunking fist floored his opponents with a left hook they didn't see coming."
The Tories, led by David Cameron, won the most seats in Thursday's general election, but not a clear majority that would allow them to rule alone.
The Lib Dems, led by Nick Clegg, came in third and have now assumed the role of kingmakers -- their support could be used to help the Conservatives or second-placed Labour form a government.
Some commentators, however, thought Brown's insistence on clinging to power for so long in the face of growing unpopularity among the public may have turned out to be a mistake.
"Mr Brown went in the end to give Labour its only chance of staying in power," said the Times.
"But across Britain there will be thousands of Labour activists and defeated (lawmakers) who are wishing today that Mr Brown had taken last night's fateful decision one or two years ago."
And the Financial Times also noted that Brown's greatest weakness was that "he failed to win the sympathy and support of the electorate."
Some Conservative-supporting papers voiced their outrage at what they saw as the Lib Dem leader's betrayal.
The Daily Mail labelled him "two-faced Clegg" and said he had transformed from "kingmaker to assassin."
"A squalid day for democracy," declared the paper's front page, and blasted Brown for launching a "jaw-dropping bid to keep Labour in office in a coalition of the losers."
The Sun was horrified at the prospect of a Labour-Liberal Democrat deal.
"Britain has been called the cradle of democracy," it said. "If this deal goes through, democracy will be in its grave."
© 2010 AFP