William Hague has just briefed the lobby on the state of negotiations:
– The Tory “final offer” is a whipped vote on a referendum on the Alternative Vote. The shadow cabinet and parliamentary party have agreed to “go the extra mile”. The Tories, of course, would campaign for first past the post in the referendum.
– There is no prospect of the Tories meeting Lib Dem demands for the immediate implementation of AV, without a referendum. “On the issue of electoral reform we have reached our bottom line,” he said.
– Clegg’s team have told Hague that their primary aim is for a coalition with a party that at offers immediate electoral reform Read more
George Osborne has just briefed journalists in the corridor outside the meeting of Tory MPs. A Cameron government would be prepared to whip a referendum on the alternative vote through the House of Commons, he said.
Radical, for a Conservative government. But it falls short of what Labour are offering; immediate AV and a referendum on other forms of electoral reform (eg AV Plus). Read more
And here is a transcript kindly provided by Sky: Worth reading right to the end. (Also worth pointing out that Sky has missed out the bit where Boulton accuses Campbell of being unelected and the latter replies: “You’re elected are you?”
Yes, I know, you’re obviously upset that David Cameron is not Prime Minister.
I’m not upset, you are, you keep casting aspersions and …
I am commenting, don’t keep saying what I think.
This is live on television. Read more
A remarkable turn of events. Here are some early thoughts:
1) A lesson in never underestimating Brown. His timing could have been no better in placing maximum pressure on the Tories. This will test Cameron’s nerve like nothing else. Is he willing to make the ultimate sacrifice on electoral reform to take power? Will the MPs buckle at the 6.30pm meeting? Is power worth 25 Tory seats at the next election (which is the price of AV)? Read more
5.55pm: After only an hour, I’m signing off this live blog now to let Jim and Alex take over with their own separate posts. Thanks for joining us for a pretty dramatic hour though!
5.55pm: So who will be the next Labour leader, and potentially, prime minister? An FT survey of 50 Labour constituency chairmen suggested the grassroots would like to see Alan Johnson, but according to this piece by Rachel Sylvester in The Times, Johnson will stand aside to support David Miliband. Miliband is likely to be challenged by Ed Balls and possibly Harriet Harman, but intriguingly, reports over the weekend suggested he might also be challenged by his brother Ed. As Jim pointed out earlier today, his brother’s candidacy might not be such bad news for Miliband Senior.Read more
I have been puzzling about the sheer intensity of the efforts exerted by Downing Street to drag Nick Clegg from the arms of the Conservatives. The obvious answer is that no prime minister goes quietly and certainly not someone like Gordon Brown, who spent a political lifetime in the quest for the keys of No 10.
But while it is easy to see why the Liberal Democrats have been playing along (leverage in their talks with David Cameron) surely the Labour leadership does not really think it could stay on in government with the support of the Lib Dems and a ragbag of smaller parties? The arithmetic doesn’t work. Nor does the politics for the Lib Dems: you don’t win plaudits from the voters for sustaining in power an unpopular government that has just been defeated at the polls. Read more
If today is what Westminster life in a Hung Parliament is going to be like then bring it on. Portcullis House is a seething mass of MPs, politicians and aides milling around in knots trying to work out what on earth is going on. Expectations are still of a deal by tonight.
Despite the rumours swirling around, (for example the return of David Davis to the Tory front bench), many Tory MPs are (as of 3.30pm) still claiming they don’t know the exact terms of the offer which is now in outline form. This could of course be an example of iron discipline in the face of the journalistic swarms.
Apparently David Cameron himself (said to be looking rather tired) was keen on formal coalition, possibly for four years to ensure stability. But his willingness to bend to Lib Dem demands for full voting reform is still unclear; which could mean a confidence and supply arrangement.
Lib Dem MPs have meanwhile gone to ground for a lengthy meeting but could be out before 4pm. (Update at 4.15pm: they have emerged, saying the talks were positive but they need more time to consider them. David Laws, one of the negotiators, said his party would go back to the Tories seeking clarification of a number of points – including on voting reform. Laws said his MPs were sending out a ‘very clear message’: if so it’s not clear to the hacks yet. Read more
No political party wants to give up power. They are, after all, in the business of trying to govern. But the voices urging Labour to eschew a grand deal with the Liberal Democrats and regroup in opposition may have learned a valuable historic lesson.
In 1992, John Major surprised everyone by winning the election; some commentators went so far as to predict we would never again see another Labour government. Yet after the ERM crisis and umpteen sleaze allegations it was the Tories who were out of power for a generation. Had the Conservatives lost the 1992 election it would have been Labour which inherited the crisis and the Tories might well have returned to office at the next election. Instead they lost their reputation for economic competence and became hated. Read more
Ed Miliband has supposedly told his mother that he wants to stand for the Labour leadership, prompting all sorts of “Kane and Abel” type speculation given that older brother David is the current frontrunner. Read more
In Westminster there’s rightly been a lot of focus on policy. But the terms of co-operation are often as difficult to negotiate. From the NZ examples, it’s possible to sketch out some of the key elements underpinning a deal. (Warning: this is one for the legal scholars.)
1. A clause on “good faith and no surprises” These politicians trust one another. They really do. Read more
Jim Pickard is the FT's chief political correspondent, having joined the lobby team in January 2008. He has been at the FT since 1999 as a regional correspondent, assistant UK news editor and property correspondent.
Kiran Stacey is an FT political correspondent, having joined the lobby in 2011. He started at the FT as a graduate trainee in 2008, working on desks including UK companies and US equity markets before taking over the FT's Energy Source blog.