7.56pm: We’re going to close this post now and open a new one to keep you up to date with all the latest developments. Stick with us.
7.53pm: Our story is now up online: Brown quits as prime minister
7.49pm: Brown arrives at Labour HQ to hugs and handshakes from cabinet members (or should that be former cabinet members?).
7.48pm: Poor old Gordon got caught in the traffic as he left Buckingham Palace. No outriders to clear the roads, as he’s no longer PM.
7.47pm: The queen accepted Brown’s resignation. Just in case you thought we were in for a final twist…
7.44pm: Brown is off to thank Labour activists. The BBC is now also reporting that he will stand down as an MP. It seems he may have not told his local election agent to prepare for a new byelection though (see 6.43pm).
7.42pm: Brown is now leaving the palace. That didn’t take long.
7.38pm: Jim has been showing the utmost dignity on his way to cover the resignation speech. He says:
I sprinted to Downing Street in time for Gordon Brown’s resignation. Am hoping the TV man who filmed me running in an undignified manner (tie akimbo) down Whitehall won’t use the clip. Several hundred people were loitering outside as Brown made his speech. Quite busy scenes outside; police on horseback, police on foot, police in four-wheeled drives and police on motorbikes as Brown’s car pulled out and turned right, his exit complete.
The cheers were sporadic and minimal – unlike in the Red Lion (a Whitehall pub beloved of politicos), where drinkers apparently applauded the resignation speech in good grace.
7.36pm: Both Hague and Alexander had to speak above the baying of a protest against troops being in Afghanistan. Not an optimistic note for the Cameron premiership to start on…
7.34pm: William Hague has also left the cabinet office and says he is also off to brief his leader. When asked “Is it a government?” he says: “We’ll have to wait and see.”
7.32pm: In the aftermath of Brown’s resignation, Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem strategy chief and negotiator, came out to tell reporters he was off to see Nick Clegg to brief him on the developments this afternoon during five and a half hours of talks with the Tories.
7.30pm: Brown referred to the criticism that he was obsessed with power:
“Yes I loved the job, but not for its prestige, its titles or its ceremony, which I do not love at all, but for its potential to make this country I love more tolerant, more green, more democratic, more prosperous and just.”
7.28pm: This was the moment Brown announced his resignation:
“I have informed the queen’s private secretary that it’s my intention to tender my resignation to the queen.”
“In the event that the queen accepts I shall advise her to invite the leader of the opposition to seek to form a government. I wish the next prime minister well as he makes the important choices for the future.”
7.25pm: The end of an era. Brown’s 13 years as chancellor and prime minister come to an end. Here’s his political lifeline.
7.23pm: Brown’s speech was dignified and gracious. I’ll get fuller excerpts from it up asap.
7.22pm: The car is on its way to the palace, tracked of course by the newscopters.
7.21pm: The four family members are holding hands as they climb into the car to take them to Buckingham Palace.
7.20pm: Gordon and Sarah lead their two young sons down the steps and in front of the cameras. This is a rare occasion of the boys being allowed to be filmed.
7.19pm: His resignation as Labour leader takes effect immediately. He has thanked British troops, now he is thanking Sarah and his sons.
7.19pm: Brown says he loved the job not for its title and glory but for its potential to do good.
7.18pm: Brown has told the queen’s private sec that he intends to resign.
7.17pm: Brown is out. Says he said he would do all he could to ensure a strong stable and principled govt was formed.
7.16pm: Brown’s staff are coming out of Number 11.
7.15pm: Sarah will be joining Gordon on the steps. The two children will then join them before the group heads to Buck House.
7.13pm: Who should be the next Labour leader? Tony Benn. At least that’s what Twitter seems to think. This from Rob Minto, our head of interactive:
Apparently “Tony Benn” has just started trending higher on Twitter than “Gordon Brown”. Our collective intelligence would therefore suggest he should be the new Labour leader. Anoint him now!
7.11pm: The lectern is outside Number 10. A statement is expected shortly.
7.05pm: Jim has this heartwarming scene from Westminster:
All the new Tory MPs are doing an induction on the House of Commons terrace. Nice views, fine wine. The prospect of power within hours – either tonight or tomorrow it seems.
7.04pm: Our sketchwriter Matthew Engel has just returned from three hours on the chilly pavement outside the Cabinet Office, where the “Con-Dem” talks have been taking place.
He says it’s an “amazing scene” with a crowd of up to 200 people, including tourists, journalists, photographers, PR campaigners, “Troops Out” protesters and so on; the full circus.
7.02pm: Who would you put in a Tory-Lib Dem cabinet? Jim has this suggestion:
If I were handing out the cabinet posts I would put Vince Cable into the business department. He deserves a cabinet position and would fully grasp the brief. Making him chancellor would be a mistake by David Cameron; risking a rerun of the Blair-Brown wars without the residual party loyalty. But Cable wouldn’t want a more junior role in the Treasury as the “cuts guy”.
6.56pm: Adam Boulton on Sky is reporting that the Lib Dems have dropped their pledge to grant an amnesty to long-term illegal immigrants. So much for that red line then (see 5.07pm). This is also bad news for Citizens UK, one of the few groups that had a good campaign, managing to attract all three leaders to address their members (where Brown gave his performance of the campaign). They have been campaigning for such an amnesty (or “regularisation” as they call it) for several years.
6.53pm: The BBC is reporting that there will be a statement outside the cabinet office at about 7.10pm.
6.52pm: Apologies for the long pause there. Blame the technical gremlins.
6.43pm: Sky has been reporting that Gordon Brown will stand down as an MP as well as PM. Interestingly, Brown’s election agent in Kirkcaldy, Alex Rowley, says this is not true. This from my colleague Miles Johnson:
Brown’s election agent said he would be staying on as MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath in the next parliament, pointing out that he had recieved an increased majority at the election. “I can say for certain that he will not be standing down as an MP,” he said.
6.30pm: While we wait with baited breath (Gordon included), here’s a recap of what has happened so far today:
- The day began with angry denunciations from former Labour home secretaries John Reid and David Blunkett about the idea of a Lib-Lab pact, suggesting the party was far from united in wanting to do such a deal.
- Lib Dem and Labour negotiators met during the morning. At that meeting, Lib Dem sources have said that Ed Balls in particular was hostile, and unwilling to give ground on voting reform. Despite earlier briefings that Labour would offer a referendum on AV Plus, it seems they offered nothing more than a referendum on AV, which was already in the Labour manifesto, and crucially, was being offered by the Tories.
- Nick Clegg met David Cameron at lunch for an hour.
- The Tory and Lib Dem teams met again at 2pm. They are still in negotiations.
- The Evening Standard reported Gordon Brown would quit tonight.
- Meetings are set later tonight for both the Tory and Lib Dem leaderships to brief their members on the state of the talks. Meanwhile Gordon Brown waits in Number 10 for confirmation that they have been concluded.
6.22pm: Samantha Cameron has gone to Portcullis House. Apparently spouses often follow prospective prime ministers to Buckingham Palace (although they do not enter the room when that person meets the queen). That could be significant, or perhaps she’s just going to have a look round…
6.19pm: On the point of what a Lib-Con coalition would do for Labour votes (see 6pm and comments below), Left Foot Forward broke down the numbers yesterday.
6.14pm: How will history remember Gordon Brown? Perhaps as the man who sold off the UK’s gold at a low point in the cycle? Anjli Raval from our markets desk has this poignant detail from today’s trading:
As the Prime Minister packed his bags, gold approached a record high as investors sought safety amid escalating European-debt concerns. Gold hit $1,223.90 a troy ounce today nearly hitting the $1,226.10 mark. The price of bullion has more than quadrupled since Mr Brown ordered the sale of almost 400 tons of the country’s gold reserves at the bottom of the market when the price was at a 20-year low between 1999 and 2002.
6.11pm: The Labour NEC meeting (see 5.35pm) has finished, and as expected, there will be no leadership timetable until next week.
6.09pm: Re: the Osborne/Clarke rumours (see 5.51pm). Sky disagrees, saying Osborne will stay as chancellor. Jim agrees with that assesment:
On the Clarke/Osborne rumour – don’t believe it until we see the whites of their eyes. The rumour also included Vince Cable for chief secretary to the Treasury which is simply not true. It would be not impossible but a shock if Cameron was to betray his closet political ally, personal friend and architect of the election campaign.
6.05pm: We are hearing that Gordon Brown is sitting waiting in Downing Street waiting to resign. He’s waiting for the nod from David Cameron that he can form a government. Cameron is waiting in turn for the nod from the Lib Dems. So once more, all eyes on Nick Clegg and his party.
6pm: James M in the comments below agrees with tobyheaps that the tories have played the best hand here. Meanwhile BCampbell makes the point that I’ve heard many Lib Dem voters make recently, that a Lib Dem-Tory pact would make sure they never vote LD again. Some within Labour, incidentally, think voter opinion along these lines could bring them as much as 15 more seats at the next election (whenever that is).
5.51pm: Twitter is buzzing with rumours that, contrary to David Cameron’s promises before the election, George Osborne will make way for Ken Clarke as chancellor. This from Mark Thompson, a Lib Dem activist:
If the rumour that Ken Clarke is going to the Treasury is true and Osborne is going to Business is true then that is a good move.
5.49pm: Jim says:
How will history judge Gordon Brown? The chancellor of boom or the chancellor bust? The minister who failed to see the crash coming but who helped world leaders to prevent a catastrophic meltdown? The man who allowed the Iraq invasion to happen while keeping his own hands clean? A brilliant political operator or a man obsessed with micro-management? The politician who destroyed New Labour or who left it in reasonable shape – after an inevitable defeat following three terms – to come back in a few years’ time?
Who knows? Some of my colleagues think his legacy may be more positive than some might argue. Last Thursday’s election result is a much better result than others had predicted a few months earlier.
5.47pm: Sky is now following the Evening Standard in saying that Gordon Brown will go tonight. There had been some suggestion that he might leave it until tomorrow, but Sky is now convinced otherwise.
5.42pm: Remember that comments are more than welcome. Tobyheaps has made a very pertinent one below, balancing the suggestions below (see 5.32pm) that the Tories have been outflanked.
5.36pm: Jim wants to contradict my contradiction of his post (see 5.24pm), making the point:
Fixed-term Parliaments were on the table. But that would only mean that the government wouldn’t be able to pull the rug on a Parliament. The opposition – should they have sufficient numbers – could still do so via a vote of no confidence or by rejecting a Budget or Queen’s Speech.
But Jim, if Labour was the opposition, why would it pull the plug when what they want is for the Tories to feel the electoral pain of their cuts? If the Tories wanted to go to the polls early and so get a quick majority and avoid being punished by an electorate angry at having services cut, they would surely not agree to fixed-term parliaments. Of course, all this is speculative – we don’t know what might be in any Tory-LD deal. Or even yet for certain whether there is one.
5.35pm: Jim has this from behind Labour lines:
By the way we had expected Labour’s ruling NEC (national executive committee) to decide the timeframe for the leadership contest today (they began their meeting at 4pm). Instead they’ll be dissecting last Thursday’s results and discussing the failed Lib-Lab pact.
I’m told that the nitty-gritty about hustings, balloting and selection to replace Gordon Brown won’t be decided until another NEC next week. Tomorrow, meanwhile, we’ll have the first gathering of the Parliamentary Labour Party (ie it’s 250-plus MPs) since the general election. I’m told it will be “75 per cent sycophancy to Gordon”. No one wants to kick a man when he’s down.
5.32pm: Labour’s line is emerging. Brown sources have apparently told the BBC’s Nick Robinson that the Lib Dems were never serious about doing a deal with Labour and were “going through the motions” by opening formal talks with them. This may have been a dastardly plot by Labour or the Lib Dems, but either way it appears to have strengthened the Lib Dems hand in their negotiations with the Tories. The Tories may be very unhappy about it, but they must have seen it coming.
5.28pm: The prospect of a Lab-Lib pact was not popular in the markets. David Oakley, our capital markets correspondent, has this on the reaction of investors to the rumours that a Tory-LD deal was close:
Sterling moved sharply higher, up 1 per cent against the dollar on the day on the news. Gilts also moved higher, although move up not as sharp.
5.24pm: Just to contradict Jim slightly (see below), it seemed earlier that fixed-term parliaments were very much part of the Lib Dem-Tory deal, which might mean the Lib Dems hold the Tories down to a long enough parliament for the public to feel the pain. On the other hand it is obviously not in the Lib Dems’ interest to be implicated in painful cost cuts either.
5.21pm: Jim says:
The consensus among rank and file Labour MPs is that a year or so in opposition will do them good; much like a wintry dip in the sea. But will they really emerge stronger, fitter, leaner and more popular in early 2011?
Much of this theory is predicated upon the Tories becoming unpopular within months as they slash, burn and destroy the public sector with their ideologically-minded cuts. Leave aside the fact that this is clearly nonsense; Labour in power would have had to do more or less the same thing.
Instead consider the timing. Many of the cuts won’t actually hit departments until the next financial year. That means the pain won’t hit households until months later. What if – as one thoughtful union official explained to me – the general election happens before this has occurred. The idea of the public hating the Tories by the time we next go to the polls may be a presumption too far by Labour MPs.
5.20pm: Sky reports that Vince Cable has told his party a deal is “very close to being done with the Conservatives”.
5.15pm: Another fun conspiracy theory for you. Alex Massie in the Spectator thinks Clegg may have deliberately started talks with Labour (and it’s worth remembering it happened that way round) in order both to up the Tories’ offer and to drive his party towards the Tories. Massie writes:
There’s one thing that may be said of Nick Clegg’s willingness to talk to Labour: it allowed Labour to show Liberal Democrat MPs that a deal with the Tories is the only show in town worth buying a ticket for.
Once Labour MPs vowed to derail any plan to force through voting reform without a referendum and once John Reid, David Blunkett and Andy Burnham pointed out the absurdity of a “Loser’s Alliance” that, however constitutionally permissable, would mock the actual, you know, result of the election then even the most sawdust-brained Liberal Democrat MP could appreciate that this bird wouldn’t fly.
That leaves a proper deal with the Tories the only sensible option – an outcome that I suspect was Clegg’s preference all along. But he may now have been able to sell the idea to his party without having to make it a confidence motion in his own leadership or having to issue an ultimatum to his party. That leaves Clegg in a stronger position internally.
This assumes that Clegg knew that the Labour leadership would accept the talks but the grassroots would not. If true it suggests he is a very good reader of Labour sentiment.
5.09pm: Jim has some further evidence that this may have been elaborate gamesmanship by Labour:
Did Labour try to hustle the Tories into making more concessions? Maybe. Certainly senior Tories believed last night that Labour was offering immediate AV and then a referendum on AV Plus.
But a (now former) Labour cabinet minister tells me that this was never on the table; Labour had only ever offered a referendum; in other words, the same deal on electoral reform that the Tories put forward. Political poker perhaps?
5.07pm: What will a Tory-Lib Dem coalition say on issues like Europe, immigration and Trident? We don’t know, but thanks to these photos published by the Guardian, we know that Nick Clegg considered them as “red lines” in negotiations. Given how far apart the parties are on all three issues, I am intrigued to see how they resolved them.
5.01pm: Why was Ed Balls hostile in talks with the Lib Dems? Surely as a super-loyal Brownite he would have wanted the Lib-Lab pact for which his leader argued yesterday? One thought is that Labour were never serious about these talks (Lib Dem sources have said so today) and that they were trying to bump the Tories into making a better offer on voting reform. That appeared to have worked last night when William Hague publicly promised a whipped vote on a referendum on the alternative vote system. It’s not exactly what Labour or the Lib Dems wanted, but apparently it was better than what the Tories were previously offering.
5pm: Jim has this from Westminster:
Lots of waiting around still. Grant Shapps, shadow housing minister, has been number-crunching the new intake. He reckons that only one in five Tory MPs were in the Commons the last time the party was in power. Slightly more than half of the Tory MPs are new as of Friday morning.
That reminds me – there are a record number of women in the House, up by 2 per cent on the last Commons (hat-tip to Madano Partnership). Not many people have noticed that; then again, there have been other distractions in the last four days.
4.57pm: Could Andy Burnham’s defiance of the party line today (he was the first cabinet minister to oppose a Lib-Lab pact) have been the opening salvo in a leadership bid? Jim thinks it might:
For those joining us late, it’s worth pointing out that Andy Burnham popped up earlier to decry the Lib-Lab talks – following in the shoes of John Reid, David Blunkett and others. The difference with Burnham is that he is an existing (well, soon to be former) cabinet member and therefore the comments were in direct defiance of Lord Mandelson.
Burnham may seem an unlikely leadership candidate but he has ambition; he stayed on and earned a promotion last summer when other Blairite types were trying to bring down Gordon Brown. Often unlikely candidates slip through the middle in these contests (John Major being the classic).
I can also reveal that Burnham told his Whitehall chauffeur he wouldn’t be seeing him again and has told others that he would not have served in a Lib-Lab coalition. As one Labour MP puts it: “The winner of the leadership will be the one who keeps his ideology pure.”
4.54pm: So who is going to be Labour leader? Harriet Harman, says Adam Boulton, Sky’s political editor. Well, at least in the short term. He says Labour sources have told him that Brown will stand down from politics entirely when he quits as PM, leaving Harman in charge. That would help an awkward prime minister’s questions session in the House of Commons next Wednesday, anyway. I can’t imagine Gordon Brown would have relished facing Cameron over the dispatch box from the other side.
4.52pm: George Pascoe Watson used to be political editor of The sun. He now works for Portland PR, but he is still clued in. He has tweeted:
Libdems have six cabinet posts, Clegg becomes deputy PM, sources say.
4.49pm: Jim describes the scene outside Number 10 as Mandelson left:
Excitement here as a car leaves 10 Downing Street. Paparazzi alert! Adrenaline surge: the news is breaking. Except it’s only Lord Mandelson leaving in some kind of limo.
4.47pm: Sky are reporting that the Number 10 staff have been prepared to bid farewell to the prime minister and that the official protrait photographer has been in during the day.
4.46pm: Lord Mandelson emerges from Number 10. He looks ashen faced.
4.40pm: Just to give an adequate warning over the rumours I referred to below (4.33pm), Jim has this pertinent point:
I’ve heard the same rumours about the Miliband team breaking cover tonight and announcing the candidacy. (Today he amusingly referred to the “other candidates” while pretending to be undecided). But I’d be surprised if he did make an announcement this evening. The story will be the Tory-Lib pact. If Miliband’s team have any sense they will wait until the news agenda is a little quieter before setting forth on their leadership mission.
4.37pm: Part of the problem with the Lab-Lib talks it seems was a lack of personal chemistry between certain members of the negotiating teams. Perhaps it is unsurprising that Ed Balls, the Labour minister closest to Brown (whom Clegg very much did not get on with) was a major problem. Jim says:
Ed Balls has been described as “belligerent” by Lib Dem negotiators (or sources close to them) during the coalition talks with Labour. He put up their backs by acting as if he wasn’t very interested in a Lib-Lab coalition, according to one Lib Dem MP I spoke to.
“If they’d been serious about the talks they would have sent someone like Alan Johnson instead,” he points out. However, another source says that Balls was on his best behaviour this morning. Possibly a bit too late though.
4.33pm: A rumour circulated earlier in the day that David Miliband would announce his candidacy for the Labour leadership tonight. That timing would make sense given what we are now expecting to hear in the next few hours. Jim says:
I’ve been chatting to MPs for most of the afternoon and there’s no doubt that David Miliband has the most support at the moment. It’s coming not only from the Blairites but also, surprisingly, from a few of the party’s left – who are traditionally suspicious of Blair’s former aide. Nor can Ed Balls count on the support of all the MPs who were given patronage by Gordon Brown: some of those are expected to join the snowballing Miliband-waggon.
Of course this doesn’t mean the game is over. Paul Waugh pointed out earlier today that David Cameron only had 13 backers in the summer before his coronation; David Davis had all the momentum until conference season.
4.31pm: The Lib Dems are meeting at 7.30pm. Sky is reporting that Tories will meet at 8pm. An announcement on a Tory-Lib Dem deal could come much later than an announcement that Brown is leaving office. That could leave us in limbo for several hours. But don’t worry, I’m sure there will be enough happening for us to bring you. Keep your browser pointed here – we’ll keep going until the drama ends (goodness knows when that will be).
4.29pm: Kay Burley has just narrowly avoided another on-air bust up between Sky and Labour, this time with David Lammy (the MP mentioned below). He accused Sky of being biased, she replied loudly and repeatedly, “You don’t know how I voted.” Sky are spectacularly failing to rise above these Labour jibes.
4.26pm: David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, provides a flavour of the Labour backbencher feeling today with this tweet:
Party and PLP needs to have its say on any deal, and electoral reform needs to be put to country, not rushed through Parliament.
4.23pm: Iain Dale, the Tory blogger has just tweeted this:
Been giving speech in St Stephens Club. Aborted. Room being prepared for imminent Cameron press conference according to staff.
4.20pm: Jim (Pickard, our political correspondent, for those who don’t often read these pages) says:
The sight of Ed Miliband (one of the Labour negotiating team) wandering aimlessly around Portcullis House just now was a clear sign that Labour had given up on the talks. If they were still live he would have better things to be doing with his time.
Many Labour MPs will be relieved. Paul Flynn on his blog says that the Lib-Lab coalition would have been a “vision of hell”. Another Labour MP tells me this is wrong: “It’s purgatory. At least in hell stuff happens.”
4.18pm: Earlier, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg tweeted that bags were being packed into cars outside Number 10. Number 10 has said they don’t belong to the Brown family.
4.15pm: We start this live blog with the news that the Evening Standard is reporting that Gordon Brown will quit tonight after talks between Labour and the Lib Dems fell apart earlier today. There has been a growing feeling today that the talks were unlikely to go anywhere, not least because of the number of Labour MPs and former MPs coming out against them.
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.