Left-wing paper The Independent has surprised nearly everyone - including some of its own staff - by backing victory for the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government if Thursday's General Election produces the expected hung parliament.
The newspaper said a minority Labour government that relied on the support of the SNP would be "a disaster for the country", in what one commentator called the only "genuinely surprising" endorsement by a paper in this election.
Among those surprised was political reporter Jon Stone:
oh god did we just endorse the coalition? fml— Jon Stone (@joncstone) May 4, 2015
While i100.co.uk news editor Matthew Champion said:
— Matthew Champion (@matthewchampion) May 4, 2015
@horton_official kind of knew it was coming, but still. bleurgh— Matthew Champion (@matthewchampion) May 4, 2015
The editorial added that Ed Miliband's opposition appears "unready for government" in many policy areas and there would be "justified fury" if nationalists seeking the break-up of the UK were to hold sway.
It added: "For all its faults, another Lib-Con coalition would both prolong recovery and give our kingdom a better chance of continued existence."
But in a stark caveat, it said: "This title casts no vote.
"But we prize strong, effective government, consider nationalism guilty until proven innocent, and say that if the present coalition is to get another chance, we hope it is much less conservative, and much more liberal."
Wow. Was not expecting this - the Independent comes out for a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition... http://t.co/dem8NB29qo— Sophy Ridge (@SophyRidgeSky) May 4, 2015
The Independent have endorsed the Tory/LD coalition. They have therefore endorsed an end to the welfare state, EU membership, and NHS.— James Melville (@JamesMelville) May 4, 2015
"A hung parliament is certain this week. For all his talk of no deals with the SNP, Miliband is bound to rely on that party to get his legislative programme through," the editorial read.
"This would be a disaster for the country, unleashing justified fury in England at the decisive influence of MPs who - unlike this title - do not wish the Union to exist.
Christ sake @Independent— John Mullin (@jmullinjourno) May 4, 2015
"If that were to be the case while Labour were the second biggest party either in terms of vote share, or seats - or both - how could Labour govern with authority? They could not."
Miliband had conducted an "impressive campaign", the newspaper conceded, "yet in key areas his policy prescriptions suggest a party unready for government".
It left some claiming its editorial was contradictory and lacking in substance.
The @independent enorsement reads like a Supreme Ct judgment written by 9 people who agree on neither its contents nor conclusion.— Greg Ó Ceallaigh (@gregoceallaigh) May 5, 2015
Indy editorial is internally contradictory all must have prizes steady as she goes nonsense. Shame, I like the paper http://t.co/z3d6WA1kEb— Mark Ferguson (@Markfergusonuk) May 4, 2015
It cited the cut in tuition fees, rent controls and the mansion tax as prime examples.
Smaller parties received short shrift from the newspaper, the Greens described as an "economically illiterate" disappointment and Ukip said to "have contributed important ideas on freedom, but are essentially at war with globalisation and modernity".
One of Nick Clegg's few friends in the media, The Indy backs the Con-Lib Coalition. http://t.co/Y1hdodDJKO— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) May 4, 2015
While the SNP was "an agent of change, with impressive leaders in both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon", it was "a wrecking ball poised to hit Westminster".
"To splinter our country, either through Scottish independence or withdrawal from the EU, would be fatally stupid," it said.
Blimey. Independent endorsement of the coalition is a surprise. (And another indication of which way the wind is blowing).— Dan Hodges (@DPJHodges) May 4, 2015
Despite the "gnashing of teeth" that greeted its creation in 2010, the coalition had "governed competently", leaving the country "more indebted and less influential, but stable and growing".
The editorial still criticised the Tories sayng that "the young have been unfairly targeted to protect the old, the record on house-building is dire and the NHS mismanaged".
The Independent presents itself as a progressive voice. Now we know the truth. https://t.co/kw9mSVbCT6— John Wight (@JohnWight1) May 4, 2015
It said David Cameron's record as prime minister included "excessive austerity in the first phase of his reign, consistent failure to meet debt and deficit targets, and a worrying lack of productivity notwithstanding, Britain's economy is now growing reasonably well.
"Given the state of the eurozone, creating two million mostly decent jobs is an exceptional achievement. Plans to create a northern powerhouse are also welcome."
Fair play to the Indie. This is the 1st time I can remember a newspaper election endorsement genuinely surprising me http://t.co/W9b6cO6Rt3— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) May 4, 2015
It also heaped praise on the party's education policies.
"The economy aside, in one vital respect Tories deserve tremendous credit: a million more pupils are now at schools rated good or outstanding. This title cherishes education. Such success cannot be ignored."
The politician who will be best pleased with the verdict on him will be Clegg, who the paper described as "a principled, effective politician who could hold another coalition together" and said it hoped he retained his seat.
He had been "right" on tuition fees despite the fallout from his party's u-turn and should seek to be education secretary in any new tie-up, it suggested of the erstwhile deputy prime minister.
"On raising the income tax threshold, the pupil premium, early years learning and apprenticeships, the Lib Dems have been a force for progress."