By Matthew West
The Liberal Democrats' Lembit Opik could find himself in trouble after raising the prospect of tactical voting against his party.
Mr Opik, who has served three terms in parliament since 1997 as the MP for Montgomeryshire, was commenting on the crucial Labour-Tory marginal of South Basildon and East Thurrock.
The seat is number 31 on the Tory target list. In the 2005 election the Lib Dems came third with 10.4% of the vote. MP Angela Smith's majority of 3,142 has been reduced through boundary changes to a notional advantage of just 1,467, according to UK Polling Report. The Labour candidate puts her notional majority at far less, well below 900.
"In my constituency I am appealing to Labour voters to vote Lib Dem. It's logical for people in the Labour party to support the Liberal Democrat candidate if they stand a better chance of winning," Mr Opik told the Southend and Basildon Evening Echo newspaper.
He said he had "always been impressed with Angela as an MP" before adding: "It's not my place to tell Liberal Democrat voters to vote Labour. But it would be perfectly logical for Angela to make the same appeal in her seat. It works both ways."
Mr Opik was not immediately available for comment. A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said the party wanted to see the newspaper before commenting.
Mrs Smith said she was delighted to receive the backing of Mr Opik and added: "At the end of the day there are only two people here that are going to be the member for parliament. One is me, the other is [Conservative candidate] Stephen Metcalfe. The other parties I think, recognise that they are not going to win. So it is between the two of us."
But the local Lib Dem councillor and parliamentary candidate for the Basildon South and East Thurrock seat, Geoff Williams, was far less impressed saying: "Lembit is off the wall. I don't know how much notice people take of Lembit, they probably think he is a make of car or toothpaste. I know Lembit I've met him several times he came down to a dinner here once and spoke. Lembit's Lembit. He doesn't always engage his brain, which is considerable, when his speaks. He's totally barmy.
"Why? If people who would normally, and are thinking of voting Liberal Democrat because they would like to see a liberal Democrat government, or a Liberal Democrat share in government, the only way they are going to get that is to vote Liberal Democrat. They won't get that by voting Labour or Conservative."