Division among the Sunday papers

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The Sunday newspapers have nailed their colours to the mast, declaring their electoral preferences in editorials which, if they reflect their readers' intentions, indicate Thursday's poll could be a close run.

The Sunday newspapers have nailed their colours to the mast, declaring their electoral preferences in editorials which, if they reflect their readers' intentions, indicate Thursday's poll could be a close run.

Of the two main parties, The Independent on Sunday prefers Labour, but says its values are best represented by voting "where they can win" for the Liberal Democrats.

The News of The World is more wholeheartedly for Labour, saying "despite Iraq, it's the home policies that will count", and applauding "real improvements" in schools, hospitals and the fight against crime.

The Observer takes a pragmatic view, saying it was not "a choice between the incumbent administration and an ideal one", and the only party "committed explicitly to ending poverty and building social justice is Labour".

The Conservatives "have nothing to offer other than the politics of fear" while the Liberal Democrats are a protest vote which "could let Howard in", says the Sunday Mirror. Tony Blair may inspire the "contempt that comes with familiarity," but "there really is no alternative".

Not so, said the Mail on Sunday, which accused Mr Blair of running a government based on the cult of personality. "What looked like confidence turned out to be arrogance. It's time he went."

Michael Howard's record as home secretary proves he has "the right instincts" regarding crime, says The Sunday Telegraph. He may lack Mr Blair's "lethal charm", but as prime minister he would "preside over a disciplined and coherent government".

The Sunday Express agreed. "Tony Blair has had his chance. And he blew it. It is time to give Michael Howard a chance."

The Conservatives may have failed to offer a clear alternative for the country, The Sunday Times said, but "they have the instincts, if not the policies, to prevent Britain sliding backwards". Voting Conservative would give the Tories a "platform ... on which to start building a genuine alternative".

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