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.
5.52pm: The cabinet is about to meet. They are trooping up to Number 10 as I write. Ben Bradshaw “grinning like a Cheshire cat” says one of my colleagues, Peter Hain looking more businesslike. Who thought we would see this four days after the election? It’s almost as if the election changed nothing.
5.47pm: Nigel Evans, Tory MP, calls on Gordon Brown to go now, rather than hang around. So far, despite some sniping from some of the Tory-supporting papers such as The Sun, he has won many plaudits for the way he has stayed in office and handled the early days of the hung parliament. Those plaudits included former cabinet secretary Lord Turnbull.
5.44pm: Further to my post below, Labour are spinning that David Cameron would also be an unelected leader, having not gained a majority. That seems like a weak argument to me – the Tories could easily say that more people voted for him than a Labour leader who wasn’t leader at the time of the election – but it has the attraction of being more comprehensible than the technical argument laid out below (which is what Alastair Campbell was spinning the Beeb).
5.34pm: To those like Jez (see comments below) who are angered about the possibility of having a non-elected prime minister, it should be said that technicaly no prime minister is elected as such. Under the parliamentary system, we elect our local MP. The majority party selects its leader, who will be asked to be PM by the queen.
One of the reasons people got huffy about the TV debates is that they made the election appear presidential when it is not. The PM is really only elected by their local constituents. Of course others might argue that this is a technicality, and most people (or half, according to the most recent polls) choose their vote based on party leader, but in reality our reasons for voting are far more complex than the leader alone.
5.30pm: Just to fill you in on what happened earlier today – David Laws, the Lib Dem education spokesman, told reporters that his parliamentary party had questions over three policy areas raised in Lib Dem-Tory talks: fairer taxes, education funding and voting reform. The last was expected to be a sticking point, but not so much the first two. That was the point at which it became clear to journalists that those talks were not going as well as the negotiating teams were trying to suggest.
5.28pm: That statement came as a shock to hacks and voters alike. But not to Nick Clegg it seems. Campbell says Clegg was informed about what Brown was going to say beforehand.
5.23pm: Campbell says that Brown realised on election night that he had lost the election, and that staying in power since had just been about steering the country through this “very unusual” constitutional situation. He also says this: “What I hear from the Liberal Democrats is that [the Lib Dem-Tory talks] are not going as well as they would hope them to.” That much was evident in Brown’s statement.
5.21pm: One of the reasons that Brown has agreed to resign was apparently pressure from Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell. Campbell is currently on the BBC, so watch out for some insights into what has been happening behind the closed door of Number 10 over the last day or two.
5.18pm: This is presumably the key sentence in Brown’s speech as far as Lib Dems are concerned (apart from him resigning), as to why talks with Labour might be more appealing. “Only such a progressive government could meet the demand of political and electoral change which the British people made last Thursday.”
5.17pm: The Lib-Lab talks will be conducted under rules set out by the cabinet secretary, just like the Lib-Tory talks.
5.14pm: Gordon Brown will stay as prime minister for the moment, to fulfil his “constitutional duties”. In his speech, he mentioned talking to EU and IMF chiefs as an example of getting on with government.
5.11pm: One thing that should be said here is that the Lib Dems will continue their talks with the Tories. Brown is hoping he has removed a barrier to a “progressive coalition” however by agreeing to stand down. That is an important step not least because of the well-documented animosity between Clegg and Brown.
5.05pm: Nick Clegg has called Gordon Brown and told him he wants to progress with formal talks with the Labour party. In talks about a “progressive coalition”, bringing down the deficit would take centre stage. Voting reform would also be high up the agenda. Gordon Brown will stay on as leader while those talks are going on, but he says he realises the election was a judgement on him, and so has “no desire” to stay on “longer than is needed”. He will therefore call a leadership election, at which he will not stand nor back another leader. That election will aim to select a leader by the time of the party’s autumn conference.
5.05pm: I will try and sum up these amazing developments. Bear with me.
5.04pm: Gordon Brown will resign. It is official.
5.02pm: Brown will facilitate discussions with the Lib Dems.
5.01pm: There will be a Labour leadership election which will choose a leaderby the time of the party conference.
5.01pm: If it becomes clear it is in the national interest to form that government, Brown will stay, but not “for longer than is needed”.
5pm: Brown talks of a “progressive government”, saying only this would reflect the vote for electoral change made last Thursday.
5pm: Brown lays out the priorities of a Lib-Lab pact. The first is deficit reduction.
5pm: Brown says Clegg has informed him he wishes to take forward formal discussions with Labour.
5pm: Gordon Brown is speaking outside Number 10.
Kiran Stacey is a reporter who has been covering the election after working in the comment team, a posting in New York and a stint writing about UK retailers. He joined the FT in 2008.