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May 10, 2010

Gordon Brown Shakes Up UK Election Negotiations UPDATE: Conservatives Announce Their Final Offer

The opening bid for a Labour-Liberal Democratic coalition was always going to be Brown's head. He's now offering it up, in pieces over time.

Gordon Brown announced tonight that he is to step down as Labour leader but wants to remain in No 10 for a few more months as part of a coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats.

Playing Labour's final card after an extraordinary weekend of post-election wrangling, the Prime Minister announced that the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg had formally asked for negotiations to begin on a power-sharing deal with Labour.

Mr Brown said that he had agreed to the request, but thought that he did not think he should lead a coalition government for longer than strictly necessary and a new Labour leader would be in place by the end of September.

The announcement - Labour's nuclear option - came barely an hour after a meeting of Lib Dem MPs which stalled on a Tory power-sharing offer and asked for more details on the key issue of electoral reform.

The reason this didn't happen sooner is that all though as sitting PM, Brown had the constitutional right to be the first to form a government, Lib-Dem Leader Nick Clegg said during the campaign that the party receiving the most seats should have that opportunity. Clegg spent the weekend negotiating with the Conservatives and since that didn't produce a deal, Brown walked the plank. Albeit in slow motion.

Basically Brown resigned today as leader of the Labour Party but he won't be officially replaced until the Labour Party Conference held at the end of September. Once a new party leader is picked, Brown would turn over 10 Downing Street to that person. In the meantime, he stays as PM with a new coalition government.

Given that a Lib-Dem/Conservative coalition was seemingly insane on its face, this is the most natural alternative. It's probably not giving up much by Brown since most people assume there will be new elections by the end of the year, or within a year at the outside anyway. So Brown will stay PM for most of that time anyway.

The real question is, will the Lib-Dems buy this or will they stand fast on the demand the Brown go? If they really want him to go, I'm sure there are plenty of 2nd tier Labour types ready to push him over the railing to secure the deal and grab the PM post for themselves in the process.

Either way, looks like the UK is about to be governed by a coalition of the losers. Interestingly, a Lib-Lab coalition still only gets them to 315 (with 326 needed for a majority). That means some of the minor Scottish/Welsh/Irish parties will be part of the coalition, giving them even more power.

The Liberal Democrats with their 55 seats have become king makers. They want electoral reform which would make this a more regular feature of British political life, not less.

Again, all I can say is, thank you James Madison.

The interesting question is, would this be bad for Conservatives? Some tough decisions will have to be made on budgets and spending that aren't going to be too popular. Would they be better off letting the left do some heavy lifting before getting tossed out in the next elections which will be likely soon? The question is, would Lib-Lab government do too much damage, like going to proportional representation? That would be a death sentence for the Conservatives.

Also, would Cameron survive as party leader? On one hand, he just won a huge amount of seats but it wasn't enough to win and he lost a big lead.

High stakes poker in the UK!

UPDATE: Tory spokesman William Hague, just announced that they have offered the LibDems a referendum on an "Alternative Voting" system. This is a raise in the stakes from their initial offer of a committee to study options. The spokesman just said this is pretty much their final offer.

The line of attack based on this statement is, major changes in voting should be done through referendum, not an Act of Parliament. They are also fighting against the coalition of losers saying a second un-elected PM is unacceptable. This election is the first and only Brown has stood for as PM.

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posted by DrewM. at 01:38 PM

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