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
– Clegg and Cameron have spoken for 25 minutes following the Brown resignation announcement and the raised Tory offer. It was made clear to Clegg that he faces an “urgent choice”.
– The talks are based on policy rather than the structure of a deal. At present there is more agreement over a “confidence and supply” arrangement. But there have been talks on a coalition and this would involve Lib Dems around the cabinet table.
– A coalition deal would involve collective responsibility in most areas and would take “a little longer” to agree.
– The Tories have promised as part of the confidence and supply deal that it would last for at least two sessions, which would be around two and a half years. Hague said “a coalition agreement could run for longer”, implying some concessions on fixed terms.