Two prominent British papers drop support for Labor Party

A power-sharing deal between Cameron and Nicholas Clegg of the Liberal Democrats ended 13 years of Labor Party rule and resulted in Britain's first coalition government since the 1940s.
By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 30, 2010; 7:59 PM

LONDON -- In another sign of growing disaffection with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, two prominent British newspapers abandoned the Labor Party in campaign endorsements in their Saturday editions, but went separate ways in their choices for new leadership.

The Times, a conservative paper that has not endorsed the Conservative Party since 1992 and that endorsed the Labor Party under former prime minister Tony Blair in 2001 and 2005, came out for David Cameron's revamped Conservatives.

The Guardian, a liberal paper that has regularly backed Labor in recent elections, called on its readers to support the Liberal Democrats under the leadership of Nick Clegg, whose performance in the candidate debates delivered a shock to the political system.

For Labor, the dual defections were another major blow. With the election now six days away, Labor and Brown are struggling to avoid an embarrassing third-place finish in the popular vote. The arguments used in the two newspaper endorsements show that the party that so effectively occupied center ground during the height of its power over the past 13 years has created disillusionment on both the right and the left.

The Times endorsement hinged in part on its conclusion that Cameron has effectively modernized the Conservative Party. "Today's Conservative Party is a very different party to that which went to the country in 2005," it read. "Its young leadership has the energy, intelligence and integrity to govern."

The Times was dismissive of Brown's claim that he is the leader to protect Britain's economy or dig the country out of a deep fiscal hole, noting: "Yes the economy is in peril. Mr. Brown is the danger."

The Guardian was also critical of Brown and his party. A year ago, at the height of a parliamentary scandal over expenses, the paper called on the Labor Party to dump Brown, arguing that the prime minister lacked the vision to do what was needed to reinvigorate the government and reform the political system. Noting the party's failure to act then, the paper's editorial said that Labor "thereby lost the opportunity to renew itself, and is now facing the consequences."

The Guardian's endorsement of Clegg's Liberal Democrats was grounded in part in the fact that the paper has for a century supported major changes in the electoral system, including proportional representation. The Liberal Democrats have made that a front-and-center issue in their platform.

"If not now, when?" the newspaper asked. "The answer is clear and proud. Now."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company