British PM to stand down, eyeing deal

May 10, 2010 12:00 am

, LONDON, May 10 – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday he plans to stand down as Labour Party leader and announced formal talks with Liberal Democrats, in a dramatic new twist following post-election deadlock.

Brown, whose party came second behind the main opposition Conservatives in last week\’s ballots, said the Labour Party would hold leadership elections before its annual conference in September, in which he would not stand.

"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," said Brown.

The Lib Dems, the country\’s third party, have been in formal power-sharing negotiations with the Conservatives, but Brown has sought to persuade Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to consider a coalition with Labour and other minor parties.

However, Clegg indicated before the election that he would not be able to deal with Labour if Brown remained leader.

Brown said he intended to "ask the Labour party to set in train the processes needed for its own leadership contest" but would "play no part" in it.

In a tense statement in Downing Street, he added that Labour was opening formal talks with the Liberal Democrats on a possible "progressive coalition government".

"The reason that we have a hung parliament is that no single party and no single leader was able to win the full support of the country," Brown said.

"As leader of my party, I must accept that that is a judgment on me. I therefore intend to ask the Labour Party to set in train the processes needed for its own leadership election.

"I would hope that it would be completed in time for the new leader to be in post by the time of the Labour Party conference. I will play no part in that contest. I will back no individual candidate."

The dramatic development came as the Lib Dems and Tories held a fourth day of negotiations on a possible deal after last Thursday\’s legislative elections.

Hopes rose for an accord when talks between the two sides broke up after an hour-and-a-half, with both sides hailing "further progress".

But after Lib Dem lawmakers met in the House of Commons to discuss a possible deal, one of the party\’s negotiators, David Laws, said there was more work to be done — and that the centrists would also carry on talking to Labour about a possible deal.

"The parliamentary party agreed that the proposals that have been discussed… reflect very good progress on several points but they have also asked for clarification" on electoral reform, taxes and education, Laws said.

He added that it was "vital that progress should be made" on all three.

The biggest potential stumbling black to a deal is likely to be electoral reform.

The Lib Dems want to scrap the first-past-the-post system, which favours two-party politics and means smaller parties like theirs get fewer seats in the House of Commons. But most Conservatives strongly oppose such changes.

Earlier, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg told reporters that politicians were "working flat out, around the clock" to secure a deal, promising an announcement "as soon as is possible."

If the two parties do strike a deal, it would likely pave the way for Cameron to become prime minister, taking over from Brown who is still in office.

Fears that London\’s stocks would be hit by the political uncertainty proved unfounded as they surged over five percent, largely on the European Union agreement for a huge rescue deal for eurozone countries.

The BBC reported that Clegg had met Brown for talks Monday and that Lib Dem negotiators held parallel talks with senior Labour figures at the weekend, suggesting Labour has still not given up hope of clinging to power.

Thursday\’s general election delivered a hung parliament — where no one party has overall control — for the first time since 1974.


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