Labour, Liberal Democrats work feverishly to seal deal (Lead)

May 11th, 2010 - 6:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Gordon Brown London, May 11 (IANS) Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg vowed Tuesday to act quickly after Labour leader and Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s dramatic decision to step down brought them back to the drawing board in an effort to sew up the next government in Britain.
At the centre of a political stalemate Britain has not seen since 1974, Clegg said he was as “impatient as anyone” to make progress and give Britain a government it deserved.

“We will act, as ever, responsibly. We will act to try and do our bit to create a stable, good government the British people deserve. I really hope we will be able to make an announcement, so we can clean up everything and explain to people exactly what our thinking is as quickly as we … can.”

Key negotiators from Liberal Democrats and Labour met formally for the first time Monday night. On Tuesday morning, they were huddled together at the House of Commons.

The first round of formal talks began within hours of Brown offering to step down as Labour leader to help form a government with the Liberal Democrats.

A disappointed David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives that secured the most seats in the May 6, urged Clegg to make the “right decision” for the good of the nation.

He stressed that his over-riding concern was for a “good, strong, stable government”.

“I’ve made a very full, very open, very reasonable offer to the Liberal Democrats to deliver that stable government. My own MPs have shown they are prepared to put aside party interest in the national interest by agreeing a referendum on the Alternative Vote.

“It’s now, I believe, decision time - decision time for the Liberal Democrats - and I hope they make the right decision to give this country the strong, stable government that it badly needs and it badly needs quickly,” Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

But not everyone in Labour, which has ruled Britain for 13 years, is happy courting the Liberal Democrats.

Labour MP David Blunkett said: “I don’t believe (a Lib-Lab pact) will bring stability, I believe it will lead to a lack of legitimacy, I think the British people will feel we have not heard what they said to us…

“A coalition of the defeated cobbled together, uncertain whether it can carry anything night by night, people, as they did when I first came to parliament, dying on average about once every three months because of the nature of the sittings, and a then general election on the back of that - you don’t have to be involved in politics to see what that would do to the Labour Party and its vote.”

He went on: “Can we really trust the Lib Dems? They are behaving like every Harlot in history.”

But Brown, who doesn’t want to go down in history as one who oversaw the Labour eclipse, said Clegg had offered his party formal discussions about a possible Labour-Liberal government.

Speaking on the steps of 10 Downing Street, Brown said: “If it becomes clear that the national interest, which is stable and principled government, can best be served by forming a coalition between the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, then I believe I should discharge that duty, support that government which would, in my view, command a majority in the House of Commons.

“But I have no desire to stay in my position longer than is needed to ensure the path to economic growth is assured and the process of political reform we have agreed moves forward quickly.”

The Conservatives finished 20 seats short of a majority of 326 seats required to govern alone. The Liberals lost five seats, down to 57. Labour won 258 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons.

Conservatives have criticised Liberal Democrats after the latter sought a deal with Brown.

“These people cannot be trusted. We had several days of discussions with the Lib Dems and then the terms changed. Clegg has gone from someone attempting to rise above normal Westminster politics to someone trying to do a shabby deal with Brown,” said a senior Conservative leader.

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