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Cameron is right to fight on the beaches as imploding Labour plots a pact with the Lib Dems

Nick Wood square Nick Wood's daily High Noon column

Labour's campaign is now in deep trouble. Labour candidates are openly attacking the Prime Minister, Labour ministers are calling on Lib Dems to vote tactically to keep the Tories out, and the press is bursting with speculation about who might replace Gordon Brown when he loses the election.

These are all signs of political meltdown in Labour ranks. Discipline is collapsing and stoking up fear of a Conservative victory is now the only message emanating from the Brown camp.

Labour is reduced to a core vote strategy, desperately trying to turn out its tribal supporters, many of whom are inclined to stay at home after being roundly insulted by their leader with his catastrophic bigot jibe.

Disarray in Labour ranks will put a spring in David Cameron's step as he embarks upon his marathon 36-hour tour of the country in a final bid to drum up support.

Cameron looks sure of picking up a lot of Labour seats. At the start of the campaign he needed probably about 100 gains from Labour and 20 gains from the Lib Dems to get him over the finishing line.

But after the Clegg surge, those potential gains from the Lib Dems look far less likely, meaning that the Conservatives probably need to make 120 gains from Labour and fight the Lib Dems to a draw, thereby still securing enough seats for an overall majority.

Not that Cameron has given up on winning back Liberal seats. Tomorrow, he will be in the West Country, now an even more vital election battleground, seeking to reverse the Clegg advance and pick up precious extra seats.

But it is worth looking more deeply into Labour's machinations. It may have given up on winning the election, but it has not given up on power. All this talk of a "progressive alliance" by Labour ministers such as Peter Hain is not only intended to encourage anti-Tory tactical voting, it is also intended to lay the ground for a post-election Lib-Lab coalition. Labour is gearing up to argue that since it and the Liberals have polled, say, 55 per cent of the vote, the country has voted for a centre-left pact.

All this has the makings of a shabby deal: Brown quits, Labour cobble together an interim new leader and a deal is done with Clegg with a referendum on various forms of proportional representation as the price. Will it fly? Maybe not, but it does represent a serious threat to the country and the Conservative Party.

So David Cameron is right to take the battle into Lib Dem territory tomorrow such as Torbay and Falmouth. He is literally fighting on the beaches.

Nick Wood, Managing Director, Media Intelligence Partners


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