Brown shifts campaign

2010-04-21 09:27

London - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown emphasised Labour's pledge for political reform on Wednesday, in a move to establish common ground with the Liberal Democrats, as polls pointed to no conclusive winner on May 6.

The Liberal Democrats, Britain's traditional third party, have enjoyed a dramatic surge in popularity over the last week that has left Labour and the Conservatives scrambling for a way to break the deadlock ahead of the May elections.

Brown, who has seen his party pushed into third place, sought to cast Labour as agents for "new politics", highlighting his party's pledge to hold a referendum on voting reform.

"If you want a referendum on the new politics, you have got to consider voting Labour. We are the only party committed to a referendum on it. You won't get one with the Tories," Brown told the Independent in an interview published on Wednesday.

Labour has said already it would launch a "comprehensive programme of constitutional reform" if elected, promising fixed-term parliaments and a referendum on an alternative vote system for electing members of parliament.

Brown's comments could be seen as an attempt to woo the Liberal Democrats, longstanding champions of electoral reform, who will hold the balance of power if no single party wins an outright majority.

But the Liberal Democrats' leader Nick Clegg appeared to dampen hopes of a "Lib-Lab" alliance telling the Daily Telegraph Labour had failed to deliver reform over the last 13 years and could not be trusted to do so in the next parliament.

"Brown systematically blocked, and personally blocked, political reform. I think he is a desperate politician and I just do not believe him." Clegg said.

"And do I think Labour delivered fairness? No. Do I think the Labour Party in its heart has a faith in civil liberties? No. Do I think they've delivered political reform? No. They are clutching at straws," he said.

The Liberal Democrats so far have resisted intense pressure to name which party they would prefer to join in a coalition, saying they would set out four concessions in return for supporting another party.

Clegg, Brown and Conservative leader David Cameron are preparing for the second of three live television debates on Thursday, this time focusing on international issues.

Read more on:    liberal democrats  |  labour  |  gordon brown  |  britain  |  uk elections
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