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Labour in tactical voting call at British poll

LONDON, May 4 – Britain\’s ruling Labour Party signalled on Tuesday its supporters should use their votes tactically in this week\’s election, as the Financial Times declared its support for the opposition Conservatives.

As it fights to win back ground just 48 hours from polling day, senior party figures suggested Labour supporters could back the centrist Liberal Democrats in areas where the poll battle is tight to keep the Tories out.

Britain\’s election is being fought at a handful of marginal seats where persuading voters is crucial to success in Thursday\’s election.

The call came as Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative leader David Cameron, and leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, geared up for a penultimate day of campaigning in the closest election for decades. Facts: Britain\’s three party leaders

Ed Balls — one of Brown\’s closest lieutenants — said: "I always want the Labour candidate to win.

"But I recognise there\’s an issue in places like… where my family live, where a (Liberal Democrat candidate) is fighting the Tories, who are in second place. And I want to keep the Tories out," he told the New Statesman magazine.

In seats where the Conservatives and Labour were fighting close-run battles, Balls said Lib Dem supporters should "bite their lip" and vote Labour.

Another Cabinet minister, Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, dropped a similar hint when he told the Independent newspaper that people should "vote with their heads, not their hearts."

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"I support every Labour candidate and the Liberal Democrat leadership supports every Liberal Democrat candidate," he said.

"But voters are intelligent and they know what the real fight is in their own constituency. They will draw their own conclusions."

Labour, fighting to be re-elected to a historic fourth term after 13 years in office, trails several points behind the Conservatives. Latest polls showed Brown\’s party in second place, just ahead of the Lib Dems. Related article: How Britain\’s electoral system works

The call for tactical voting came as the Financial Times announced it was supporting the Conservatives the first time since 1987.

The influential daily paper said Labour needed "a spell in opposition to rejuvenate itself."

In an editorial, the paper said that 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. Related article: Tories eye end to north-south devide

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

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

Cameron\’s Conservatives received another boost when a poll suggested Monday the party was performing strongly enough in marginal constituencies to secure a slim overall majority, albeit of just two seats.

The Ipsos MORI survey for Thomson Reuters was the first for weeks to suggest that Cameron\’s party could obtain an overall majority.

But the latest polls Tuesday followed the trend of the rest of the election campaign and showed the election producing a hung parliament, where no one party has an overall majority.

A ComRes poll, for ITV television news and The Independent put the Conservatives on 37 percent, Labour on 29 percent, and the Lib Dems on 26 percent.

The YouGov poll for The Sun newspaper has the Tories on 35 percent, with Labour and the Lib Dems equal on 28 percent.

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