Calls by senior Labour figures for people to vote tactically against the Conservative Party in tomorrow's election were condemned as "desperate" by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats yesterday.
Nick Clegg dashed Labour's hopes of an unofficial pact in which both parties would encourage their supporters to vote for the candidate most likely to defeat the Tories. He told voters: "I want you to vote with your heart, with your best instincts, for the future you want."
Tactical voting moved to the top of the election agenda after the Cabinet minister Peter Hain told The Independent that people should "vote with their head, not their hearts" in 100 Conservative-Labour marginals to keep David Cameron out of Downing Street, and hinted that Labour supporters in Liberal Democrat-Tory marginals should also consider voting tactically.
His move was backed yesterday by two other Cabinet ministers, Ed Balls and Tessa Jowell, but Labour was accused of being in disarray after refusing to endorse it officially. Labour's rulebook says members must not advocate supporting a candidate from another party.
Gordon Brown said: "I want every Labour vote because I think people will look at the votes as a whole and they will look at what Labour has achieved." Douglas Alexander, Labour's campaign co-ordinator, warned that supporting Liberal Democrats could actually let the Tories back into power. He added: ""If you vote for the Liberal Democrats you could wake up on Friday morning and see a Conservative-led government, including Liberal Democrats. We are campaigning for every vote."
Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, said: "We have Labour candidates standing across the country. It's they and we who believe in the Labour approach and believe this is the best approach to take this country through the recovery." Asked about constituencies where Labour candidates did not appear to stand a chance, he said: "You never know whether the Labour candidate stands a chance... The only alternative to a Labour government is a Conservative government."
However, Mr Balls was authorised to brief journalists that he understood why Labour supporters in Lib-Dem/Tory marginals might vote tactically. "I'm not going to start second-guessing their judgments," he said. "Of course I want the Labour candidate to win but I understand people's concerns about letting the Conservatives in."
Mr Hain, the Welsh Secretary, yesterday urged voters to "act intelligently" and said: "My ultimate aim is to get a parliament which drives through political reform, with Labour in alliance with the Liberal Democrats and others who want to reform the political system from top to bottom." Ms Jowell, the Cabinet Office minister, told the BBC that calls for anti-Tory tactical were a "good thing" but added: "Ultimately, the point is, people make up their own minds."
Campaigning in Liverpool, Mr Clegg said: "Peter Hain and Ed Balls [are] telling people what they should vote against, not what they should vote for. I am fed up with the old politics, where two cliques in the Labour and the Conservative parties think it's their birthright to play pass the parcel with your government, as if you've got nothing to do with it, as if you've got no say. We had David Cameron measuring up the curtains for No 10 yesterday and Labour politicians today telling people how they should vote."
The Tories contrasted Labour's "negative" move with their own positive campaign. Mr Cameron said: "What's interesting is you've got senior Labour politicians basically saying that the best way to keep Gordon Brown in Downing Street is to vote Liberal Democrat. This backs up what we have always said, which is if you want to have a new government which rolls up its sleeves on Friday, starting to clear up the mess, you need to vote Conservative."
Jeremy Hunt, the shadow Culture Secretary, said Labour's calls for tactical voting could backfire by persuading people who wanted to oust Mr Brown to switch to the Tories.
Tam Dalyell, the former Labour MP, said there was "sheer fury" in the party about the three ministers' calls. He said: "What must it feel like if you were a small Labour Party in a difficult constituency, fighting for all you are worth to get your candidate in, and then having Cabinet ministers advising that people should vote against you? It is difficult enough without this kind of ministerial intervention."
Highlights of the day
Typing error of the day
Embarrassment for the Tories in Kingston and Surbiton where the apostrophe button on the office keyboard seems to have gone missing. A leaflet reassuring constituents they could trust the Conservatives with their children's education was entitled: "Being responsible with your childs [sic] education." So that wouldn't include the correct use of apostrophes, then.
Internet game of the day
After more than a month of campaigning, many voters might be forgiven for wearying of politics. Now a new game allows players to vent their frustrations by punching the three party leaders in the face. In Downing Street Fighter, gamers play as Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Nick Clegg in a bid to knock their opponents out and become the last politician standing.
Quote of the day
Chris Mullin, outgoing Labour MP for Sunderland South, told BBC Radio 4 his advice for improving your life: don't read the Daily Mail. He said: "I had a woman come in who was on the edge of a breakdown. She was talking about civil war and chaos, immigrants coming up the lanes of Sunderland with knives between their teeth to murder her. She was really in a terrible state. I said to her, 'What paper do you read, love?' and, of course, it was the Daily Mail. I just said, 'Stop reading it and you'll find life gets better'."