Financial Times backs Conservatives in British election

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The Financial Times newspaper on Tuesday backed Britain's main opposition Conservatives for government, saying the party would create the best environment for enterprise.

Siding with the Conservatives at an election for the first time since 1987, the influential paper said the governing Labour Party needed "a spell in opposition to rejuvenate itself."

In an editorial, it said David Cameron's party was "not a perfect fit, but their instincts are sound.

"They would create the best environment for enterprise and wealth creation."

The paper expressed some misgivings, voicing concern about the party's "reflexive hostility to Europe" and the inexperience of the Cameron team.

But it concluded: "Britain needs a stable and legitimate government to navigate its fiscal crisis and punch its weight abroad.

"On balance, the Conservative party best fits the bill."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is struggling to win a historic fourth term for Labour, with most polls putting his party behind the Conservatives ahead of Thursday's vote.

The Tories are ahead in opinion polls, with the centrist Liberal Democrats and Labour vying for second place several points behind in most recent surveys.

Together, the polls suggest that the election will produce a hung parliament, where no one party has an overall majority.

Advocating a smaller role for the state, the Financial Times said Brown was not the man to cut back government after his Labour Party pumped huge amounts of money into public services.

The three main parties in the election race have all accepted drastic cuts to public services will be necessary to tackle a record deficit in the wake of the country's worst recession for decades.

"Labour has spent billions raising the quality of public services, a necessary if sometimes ill-directed investment," said the editorial.

But it added: "As the architect of the state's expansion, Mr Brown is not the man to shrink it."

The paper said the Liberal Democrats -- whose support has surged on the back of the performance of leader Nick Clegg in a series of TV debates -- were a "more attractive" prospect than Labour.

But it added: "It is on the economy that doubts creep in. Their policy is an uneasy mix of sanctimony and populism."

The paper said had "no fixed political allegiances.

"We stand for a liberal agenda: a small state, social justice and open international markets."

Winning the support of Britain's press is a crucial battleground in the poll race here, and the embattled Labour Party has been deserted by several key publications ahead of the election.

The Sun newspaper, the Times newspaper and the Economist weekly have all shifted their support from Labour to the Conservatives.

© 2010 AFP

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