Gordon Brown admitted yesterday that he is now fighting for political survival, as he made a frenzied tour of 10 Labour constituencies in London to shore up the party's core vote, motivate activists and convey a sense of activity to the electorate.
In public, Mr Brown still claims that the result he hopes to see this week is another outright Labour win, despite all the polling evidence that the chance of such an outcome has slipped away. But he was not taking any risks as he entered the last week of campaigning. The people he met on his visits were overwhelmingly committed Labour voters living in Labour-controlled parts of the capital.
Even though his schedule was kept secret until the last moment, Mr Brown was stopped by a heckler as he emerged from his first visit of the day, to the Safer Neighbour centre in Eltham, south-east London.
He was spotted by a 73-year-old Conservative councillor, John Hills, who called to him to fall under a car. "You're rubbish," Mr Hills shouted. "Don't forget to take your microphone off, you might call someone a bigot." He added: "There's a car : fall under it." Towards the end of the day the Prime Minister found himself effectively barricaded inside the North London Tavern gastropub in Hampstead, after Liberal Democrat activists descended on the venue.
He had to be led out through a rear door with his Special Branch protection into the waiting chauffeured BMW, as other security staff created a diversion at the main entrance.
Mr Brown stopped at a church crypt in Camberwell, south-east London, which local volunteers had converted from a damp, mouldy basement into a smart new community centre. The local Labour candidate, who was there to greet him, is the party's deputy leader, Harriet Harman. In 2005, Ms Harman secured over 65 per cent on a low turnout, making it the safest Labour seat anywhere in the South.
As Mr Brown entered the room, he was given a long standing ovation by the selected audience of Labour activists and sympathisers, who had been rustled up at only 12 hours' notice. Mr Brown told them: "I'm fighting for my life, but I'm not fighting for myself. I'm fighting for the British people. The only reason I came into politics was because I wanted to serve the people and make sure there was justice and decency and fairness."
That "fairness" was his main theme of the day. "Fairness is in your DNA, fairness is in your bloodstream," he told his audience in Camberwell, in a speech without notes.
"We make sure we support each other, help each other, care for others in times of need," he added. "When we hear the pain of suffering, we're prepared to act. The language that we understand is the cry of a child or someone in need."
As Mr Brown left another stump speech in Tooting, at the campaign headquarters of Sadiq Khan, the transport minister seeking re-election there, he was heckled by a Tory activist, Andre Walker, who shouted: "Why doesn't Sadiq Khan have you on his election literature?"
The Prime Minister cited the economic crisis spreading from Greece as a further reason to keep the Tories out of office. "There is turmoil around the rest of Europe," he said. "The Conservatives don't understand we have got to support the economy at the moment. You can't just do what they did in the 1930s and let it go." He also described the Tory manifesto as a "horror show".
Later, Mr Brown moved onto another safe Labour seat, Streatham, to support the 31-year-old Labour candidate, Chuka Umunna, who is expected to be a rising star in the new Parliament. Mr Brown also visited Dulwich and South Norwood, another Labour stronghold, represented since 1992 by the former Cabinet minister Tessa Jowell.
* The Liberal Democrat campaign was boosted last night by the traditionally Labour-backing Guardian newspaper’s declaration of support. The paper announced its “enthusiastic” support for the Liberal Democrats as the best route to electoral reform but in a leader it urged readers to vote Labour in marginal seats where voting for the Liberal Democrats would risk letting in the Conservatives. For the first time in 18 years, but entirely as expected, The Times today urges its readers to vote Conservative in the general election.Reuse content