The Economist backs Cameron in British election

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The Economist declared its support Thursday for opposition leader David Cameron's Conservatives to oust Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party in elections next week.

The influential weekly said Brown has been given too little credit for his achievements during the global financial crisis, but said he was "largely responsible for Britain's fiscal mess and New Labour has run out of steam."

It also welcomed the surge in support for the Liberal Democrats, long the third force in British politics but which has surged into second place in polls ahead of the election next Thursday.

"In this British election the overwhelming necessity of reforming the public sector stands out," it said, citing the "terrifying" budget deficit of 11.6 percent of GDP, and that public spending accounts for over half the economy.

"For Britain to thrive, this liberty-destroying Leviathan has to be tackled. The Conservatives, for all their shortcomings, are keenest to do that; and that is the main reason why we would cast our vote for them," it wrote.

The endorsement came exactly a week before the May 6 polls, in which Brown -- who succeeded Tony Blair in 2007 -- is struggling to cling on to power after 13 years of Labour rule.

The Tories are ahead in polls, although their once double-digit lead has narrowed in recent months, while the Lib Dems have moved into second place after their leader Nick Clegg's performance in the first of three TV debates.

The Economist welcomed the "thrilling" Lib Dem surge, saying: "This newspaper has been looking for a credible liberal party in Britain for nigh on a century," while noting that it disagreed with some of his policies.

Of Brown, it said: "In some ways, Gordon Brown is underappreciated. He has stood firm in Afghanistan. He kept Britain out of the euro, which Mr. Blair wanted to join."

And it wrote, "since the economic crisis began, he has mostly made the right decisions. He saved the banks, pumped money into the economy and did as much as any leader to help avert a global depression.

"But a prime minister should not get too much credit for climbing out of a hole he himself dug as chancellor," it said, referring to his decade as finance minister under Blair.

"Above all, the government is tired. Mired in infighting and scandal, just as the Tories were in 1997, New Labour has run its course."

© 2010 AFP

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