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Cameron makes 'big' offer to king-maker Clegg

Last updated on: May 7, 2010 21:20 IST

Image: Conservative Party leader David Cameron with his wife Samantha
Photographs: Toby Melville/Reuters

Conservative leader David Cameron on Friday appeared to be moving ahead with efforts to stake claim to form a coalition government in Britain by roping in king-maker Liberal Democrats, even as defeated Labour Premier Gordon Brown attempted to dig his heels for another term.

The Conservative party of 43-year-old Cameron won the most seats in May 6 elections but did not take enough seats to form a majority.

Out of 648 seats declared, Tories won 305 seats, while Labour bagged 258 and Liberal Democrats secured 57 in the 650-member House of Commons. A total of 326 seats are required for an absolute majority.

Encouraged by Lib Demns leader Nick Clegg's remark that the party with the largest number of seats and votes should assume power, Cameron made a "big, open and comprehensive offer" to him to form a coalition to end the uncertainty created by the hung Parliament, first since 1974.

'Worst inheritance'

Image: Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg talks on phone
Photographs: Phil Noble / Reuters

Clegg earlier said that the party that had gained the most seats and the most votes -- the Conservatives -- should have "the first right to seek to govern."

The election witnessed history being created when two Indian-origin women -- Priti Patel (Conservative) and Valerie Vaz, sister of Labour MP Keith Vaz -- won the polls. They will be the first Asian women MPs in the House.

Observers said Cameron's offer to Clegg appeared to tick all the boxes for the Liberal Democrats party, which was expected to respond later in the evening.

On contentious issues such as electoral reform, Cameron offered to set up an all-party committee to go into the question of changing the electoral system from first-past-the-post system to proportional representation based on the number of votes polled by parties.

The "outgoing" Labour government is leaving the "worst inheritance" in (10) Downing Street for 60 years, Cameron said, adding that starting to deal with the mounting budget deficit this year was crucial.

The new government, he said, must take urgent decisions, and urged the Liberal Democrats to work with him. This could mean a minority Conservative government or a "stronger, more collaborative" option, he said, adding the UK needs strong and stable government and it needs it "quickly".

Brown won't yet throw in the towel

Image: Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown makes his speech
Photographs: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

"There is a strong basis for a strong government" between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, he said.

The Labour party lost its 2005 majority with 256 seats while the Liberal Democrats returned less number of seats with 56 seats compared to 62 it won in 2005.

Brown, who appeared not to be conceding defeat, in a statement outside 10, Downing Street, said the election results had thrown an unprecedented situation of a hung Parliament -- a territory where Britain had not been since the 1974 elections.

Brown said he respected the decision of Clegg, who has emerged as a king-maker, to speak to the Conservative party but offered to discuss common ground with him.

If discussions between Clegg and Conservative leader Cameron came to nothing, Brown said, he would look forward to exploring possibilities with Clegg, particularly in the area of electoral reform and economic stability.

"My duty to the country coming out of this election is to play my part in Britain having a strong, stable and principled government," he said.

Such a government could "lead Britain into sustained economic recovery; and able to implement our commitments to far-reaching reform to our political system, upon which there is a growing consensus in our country," he added.

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