Options widen in talks to form next UK government

By staff writers
11 May 2010

Those involved in talks over the formation of a new UK government following the hung parliament result on 6 May, believe that the next 24 hours will be "crucial" to securing a deal.

While democracy campaigners from the Take Back Parliament (www.takebackparliament.com/hope) continue to petition, lobby and demonstrate for a referendum on a properly proportional voting system as a minimum need, the range of options available widened considerably last night as talks between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives stalled, and Labour leader Gordon Brown's announcement that he would step down removed a block to talks between the third party and Labour - which are now proceeding.

The SNP and Plaid Cymru have called for a 'progressive alliance' of centre-left parties, including themselves, Labour, Liberal Democrats, the SDLP and Alliance in Northern Ireland, and possibly the Green MP, Caroline Lucas. This could provide a majority of five or six seats in the new House of Commons, including parties which nearly 2/3rds of the electorate voted for.

But it is understood that some Labour traditionalists and former cabinet members are resisting the idea, and the possibility of a minority Conservative administration without the involvement of the Lib Dems could therefore be a third possibility.

The Tories have refused to concede a referendum on a fully proportional voting system for Westminster, which would end the effective disenfranchisement of millions of people. Instead they said yesterday that their 'final offer' would be a popular vote on the AV system, which critics point out is sometimes even less proportional in its outcomes than first-past-the-post.

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who is being urged by democracy campaigners not to "sell out", said he was "very grateful to David Cameron and his negotiation team" and they had had "very constructive talks" and made a "great deal of progress", reports the BBC.

However, he said they had not "reached a comprehensive partnership agreement for a full Parliament" so far and it was the "responsible thing to do" to open negotiations with the Labour Party on the same basis, while continuing talks with the Tories.

There have been mixed messages from the Tory camp as to whether they will continue to talk or not, however. Senior Conservatives were infuriated to discover that Lib Dems had been having "pre-negotiations" with Labour.

Gordon Brown's stepping down as Labour leader, on a timetable to replacement through to September does not mean he will immediately cease to be Prime Minister. He will remain in place until until a new government is formed, with a new Prime Minister, and is approved by the Queen.

[Ekk/3]

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