Gordon Brown is to step down as
Labour leader by September – as his party opens formal talks with the Lib Dems
about forming a government.
His announcement came as he and the
Conservatives woo the Lib Dems in a battle to run the country.
Mr Brown’s presence was seen as
harming Labour’s chances of Lib Dem backing.
The Tories reacted by making a
“final offer” to the Lib Dems of a referendum on changing the voting
method to the Alternative Vote system.
It is now understood the Lib Dems
are seeking a full coalition with either Labour or the Conservatives.. There
are no plans at the moment for Tory negotiators to resume their talks with the
In his statement, Mr Brown said
Britain had a “parliamentary and not presidential system” and said
there was a “progressive majority” of voters.
He said if the national interest
could be best served by a coalition between the Lib Dems and Labour he would
“discharge that duty to form that government”.
But he added that no party had won
an overall majority in the UK general election and, as Labour leader, he had to
accept that as a judgement on him.
“I therefore intend to ask the
Labour Party to set in train the processes needed for its own leadership
“I would hope that it would be
completed in time for the new leader to be in post by the time of the Labour
“I will play no part in that
contest; I will back no individual candidate.”
Lib Dem leader Mr Clegg had
requested formal negotiations with Labour and it was “sensible and in the
national interest” to respond positively to the request, Mr Brown said.
Labour backbencher Graham Stringer
said he did not believe a coalition with the Lib Dems would work and could
damage the party: “I don’t think it makes sense in the arithmetic – the
numbers don’t add up.”
The Tories secured 306 of the 649
constituencies contested on 6 May. It leaves the party short of the 326 MPs
needed for an outright majority..
Labour finished with 258 MPs, down
91, the Lib Dems 57, down five, and other parties 28.
If Labour and the Lib Dems joined
forces, they would still not have an overall majority.
With the support of the Northern
Irish SDLP, one Alliance MP, and nationalists from Scotland and Wales they
would reach 328, rising to 338 if the DUP, the independent unionist and the new
Green MP joined them.