NICK Clegg today mounted an ambitious raid on Labour's northern heartlands in an attempt to drive home his claim that the Liberal Democrats now represent the real alternative to a Conservative government.
With just four days to polling, the three main party leaders were all engaged in a frenetic day of campaigning as they began the final push for votes in an election where the outcome remains highly uncertain.
Gordon Brown was concentrating his fire on the Tories - denouncing their manifesto as a horror show - while David Cameron sought to reassure voters that Conservative spending cuts would not hit the most vulnerable.
Mr Clegg underlined the confidence now running through his team as he took his campaign to three of the Lib Dems Labour-held target seats - Redcar, Colne Valley and Burnley.
In a direct pitch to Labour voters, he accused the party of having betrayed its natural supporters during its 13 years in office.
While acknowledging the difficulty some voters felt in breaking with a party that their families had supported for decades, he said that they could turn to the Lib Dems as a party with fairness coursing through its veins.
"What I say to people in that position is I understand how difficult it is to break those old habits," he said.
"I understand that for some people it feels like almost a betrayal not to vote Labour but to start investing your trust in another party. But what I say to you is: you have not betrayed Labour, Labour has betrayed you."
Mr Clegg brushed off Mr Brown's dismissal of his claims to leadership - "W'ere not talking about who's going to be the next presenter of a TV game show," the Prime Minister told The Observer - as another sign of desperation.
Mr Brown was on the defensive as he launched a campaign blitz of ten Labour-held London seats - including the constituencies of Cabinet ministers Harriet Harman and Tessa Jowell - in an attempt to shore up his vote in the capital.
With Labour locked in a fight with the Lib Dems for second place in the opinion polls, he said that the country was approaching a decisive moment and vowed not to give up the fight for a Labour victory.
"I'm fighting for my life, but I'm not fighting for myself. I'm fighting for the British people," he said.
While he described the Lib Dems as a party that try to have the right values but were not serious on policy, he reserved his main attack for the Tories, branding their manifesto a horror show.
He said their promised inheritance tax cut - giving "£200,000 to the country's 3,000 wealthiest estates" - showed they were "still the same old Conservative Party giving more and more to the wealthiest people in the country while the rest of the country suffers".
"I say the Conservative Party is not fit for government if it has policies like that," he said.
His attack was echoed by Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward, who said the country was in danger of "sleepwalking into a living nightmare - that nightmare is David Cameron's divided Britain".
Meanwhile the Tory leader was taking his campaign to a Lib Dem-held marginal in the South West and a Labour-held marginal in the North West.
Earlier, in an interview with BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show, he acknowledged that the Conservatives would have to go further in cutting public spending than they had so far admitted in order to tackle Britain's record £163bn deficit.
Mr Cameron insisted however that he would ensure that the most vulnerable in society were protected.
"There are undoubtedly going to be some very difficult and tough decisions. It is incredibly challenging, it hasn't been done in recent times, I completely accept that," he said.
"In making these decisions I will want to, if I am elected, take the whole country with me. The test of the good society is you look after the elderly, the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest in our society."
Among his first actions if elected, he said, would be to put Whitehall on a war footing to deal with the conflict in Afghanistan and scrap the three-month summer break for MPs.
"We have got to get rid of these absurd parliamentary holidays and start making Parliament work like the rest of the country," he said.
source : thenorthernecho