British PM to take 'full responsibility' if loses election

4th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday he would take "full responsibility" if his party loses the May 6 general election, as ministers urged tactical voting to keep the Conservatives out.

With polls showing Brown's Labour is heading for defeat on Thursday after 13 years in office, the embattled premier insisted there was still all to play for as thousands of voters had not yet made up their minds.

But his comments -- plus the call from two ministers for Labour supporters to vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats in some seats -- are being seen as an admission of how much ground Labour must make up in two days to win.

"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," Brown told GMTV.

He has previously indicated he would not stand down if he did not secure a majority, but his latest comments raise questions about whether he could quit and make way for a figure like Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

In further blows, a Labour parliamentary candidate, Manish Sood, described him as Britain's "worst prime minister", while influential business newspaper the Financial Times deserted the ruling party and endorsed the Conservatives.

Meanwhile, two members of his cabinet suggested some Labour supporters should consider tactical voting to block Conservative candidates, as leaders embarked on frantic last-minute campaigning.

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

Education Secretary Ed Balls -- a key Brown ally -- told the New Statesman magazine there was "an issue" in some areas where Liberal Democrats were in close fights with Tories. "And I want to keep the Tories out," he added.

The Conservatives said their comments smacked of desperation and 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," said defence spokesman Liam Fox.

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

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.

Election expert Professor John Curtice told Sky News that Tuesday's comments were "a tacit acknowledgement that the Labour party is in electoral trouble".

Bookmaker Paddy Power said it was paying out early on bets placed on Cameron becoming prime minister, while a YouGov/Sun newspaper daily poll put the Tories on 35 percent 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 coalition or minority government.

Brown, Cameron and Clegg are all campaigning hard right up until the last minute, while former premier Tony Blair was also out electioneering again.

"We have a very tough fight on our hands, that's for sure ... It's very close, it is very tight, there's everything to play for, so let's get out there and play for it," said Blair while campaigning in the rural northwest.

Cameron has announced he will campaign solidly from now until the ballot 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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