With only five days left until Election Day, the Labour Party lost the endorsement of a newspaper that has been solidly pro-Labour for at least the past twenty years:
LONDON — In another blow to Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s faltering Labour government, The Guardian on Saturday unexpectedly endorsed the Liberal Democrats in next week’s general election.
Although The Guardian, a major newspaper, has been critical of Mr. Brown himself and urged the Labour Party to jettison him as leader, it is considered an ideologically Labour-supporting paper. Its defection to a party considered marginal until less than a month ago is a particular trauma for Mr. Brown and his circle, an indication that things have gone from bad to terrible after a dismal week.
Instant polls after last week’s debate among the leaders of the three main parties showed Mr. Brown trailing behind both David Cameron, the Conservative leader, and Nick Clegg, leader of the suddenly surging Liberal Democrats.
Meanwhile, The Times of London switched course, too, and endorsed Mr. Cameron and the Conservative Party. The Times has not endorsed the Conservative Party at a general election for the past 18 years.
The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail, both influential Conservative-supporting papers, continued their attacks on Labour and on the Liberal Democrats. Their biggest fear at this point is that Mr. Cameron will fail to win enough seats for an outright majority and will be forced to rely on the support of the enemy Liberal Democrats to pass legislation.
In the meantime, the Liberal Democrats are taking the bold step of making the case that they have taken Labour’s place as the major opposition party to the Tories:
Saying that he is now aiming for more than 100 gains on the party’s 63 MPs, and even the largest share of the vote, Clegg says: “I don’t think the choice is between Conservative and Labour – the choice is now between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.” Clegg’s hopes of gaining more than 100 seats were confirmed by a Harris poll of voting intentions for the Daily Mail today, which put the Conservatives on 33%, the Lib Dems on 32%, and Labour in third place with 24%. If this poll result were reflected in the election, it could give the Lib Dems 137 seats.
While many progressives are calling for anti-Tory tactical voting by Lib Dem supporters in the key 100 Labour-Conservative marginals, Clegg rejects this advice.
He argues: “In an election where the tectonic plates are moving so quickly and so radically, people have got to go with their gut instincts. Once in a while there are elections where people should be released to do what they want, and I think this is one of those elections – I really do.” He denies this shows he is willing to put his chance of overtaking Labour ahead of preventing a majority Tory government. “The Tories are nowhere near getting an overall majority. We are absolutely going for broke so far as the share of the vote is concerned.”
He also makes it hard to see the basis of a Tory-Lib Dem coalition. “I think if you look at the debate last night, there is just a gulf between what David Cameron stands for and what I stand for – in terms of values, in terms of internationalism, in terms of fairness, in terms of progressive tax reform, in terms of political reform, in terms of simply living in denial, as does Labour, about a major problem of their creation in the immigration system.”
So far we’re still at the point where all of the polls are suggesting a hung parliament where Labour and the Liberal Democrats could, conceivably, create a majority coalition despite the fact that the Conservatives actually won a majority of the votes cast. Interestingly, though, Nate Silver’s current projection would leave the UK with a hung Parliament, but with Labour and the Lib Dems not having enough seats combining to form a majority.