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Rivals rain on PM's parade

Published:Monday | May 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown and wife Sarah look out of a rain-soaked car window in central London after a day of election campaigning late Saturday. - AP Photos


Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Sunday that his Labour Party, which has ruled the country for 13 years, has become the underdog in a three-way race to lead Britain.

Labour holds 345 seats in Parliament and the party could still cling to power even if it is handed a humiliating third-place finish in the popular vote on Thursday. Brown told Britain's Observer newspaper that his party was the one facing the longest odds.

"We are the underdog," he said. "But we're fighting with every inch of our being."

The Observer threw its support behind the insurgent Liberal Democrats, who shot to the top of the polls after Britain's first United States-style televised debates. In its endorsement, the paper hailed leader Nick Clegg as "the candidate of change" and backed his call for a revamp of the British electoral system, whose arithmetic tends to favour Labour and the opposition Conservative Party.

The Observer is the latest newspaper to endorse the Liberal Democrats, one of Brown's two major rivals, in what has been an especially difficult campaign for the prime minister. The weekly's sister paper, The Guardian, has also cast its lot with the Lib Dems. The Times, along with other Rupert Murdoch-owned publications such as The Sun and The News of the World, is backing the Tories.

Others, such as The People and The Independent on Sunday, which have urged voters to support whichever party is most likely to keep the Tories out of power, have nonetheless stopped short of outright support for Brown.

Other segments of the British press continued to pile the pressure on the prime minister. The populist Mail on Sunday publishing a four-page interview with the retiree who Gordon Brown was overheard calling a "bigoted woman" after she complained to him about immi-gration at a campaign stop in northern England.

The comments, captured on an open microphone as Brown left in his car, threatened to derail his campaign and forced him to race to Gillian Duffy's home, where he spent nearly 45 minutes apologising for the gaffe.

Duffy told the Mail she was not impressed.

"Sorry is a very easy word, isn't it?" she was quoted as saying, adding that she would not be casting her vote for Brown - or anyone else - in the election.

Still, Brown was making good on his promise to step up his campaign. The prime minister was hitting no fewer than 10 campaign stops across London on Sunday, joining congregants in a prayer at a local church, visiting a community centre and campaigning with his transport minister, Sadiq Khan, whose supporters sported Barack Obama-inspired 'Yes We Khan' T-shirts.

His opponents were not taking Sunday off either: Tory leader David Cameron made an appearance at a question-and-answer session in the coastal town of Newquay, while Clegg addressed supporters across northern England.