Britain’s political system is still deadlocked, although fresh talks between the opposition Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are being held on Sunday, on a pact to enter government together and break the general election deadlock.
Four-strong teams of Tory and Lib Dem negotiators are due to meet for a second round of discussions, though few expect them to finalise a power-sharing deal before the financial markets open on Monday.
The negotiations come after Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat counterpart Nick Clegg held their first face-to-face talks on joining forces to oust Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party from office after 13 years.
The two sides described the private 70-minute discussion Saturday as “constructive and amicable”.
Brown later called Clegg for what was again described as an “amicable” conversation.
Britain remains in political limbo with Cameron holding the most seats in parliament, Brown still in nominal power and Clegg the so-called kingmaker following Thursday’s vote.
No majority for Tories
The Conservatives won the most seats in the election but ended up 20 short of an overall majority in the 650-seat House of Commons, leaving Britain with its first hung parliament for 36 years.
The Conservatives now have 306 lawmakers, compared to 258 for Labour. The Liberal Democrats dropped back to 57 seats. Northern Irish parties make up the bulk of the rest.
Cameron emailed supporters to say Britain expected the Conservatives and Liberals to “work out how we can deliver strong and stable government to tackle Britain’s big and urgent problems.”
“Inevitably, these negotiations will involve compromise. But that’s what working together in the national interest means.
“I hope we can sort things out as quickly as possible, for the good of the country. But we won’t rush into any agreement,” he said.
The parties are not natural bedfellows, with the Lib Dems closer to Labour in many areas.
If a deal cannot be done, Cameron is prepared to try to rule as a minority Conservative government, relying on ad hoc support from smaller parties.
Agreement with Conservatives is far from done: Lib Dems
Clegg gained his party’s endorsement Saturday to enter talks with Cameron, whose “big, open and comprehensive offer” had opened the door to talks in which electoral reform is likely to be the biggest sticking point.
Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable said an agreement was far from a done deal.
“The Tories cannot form a government without our support,” he wrote in The Mail on Sunday newspaper.
“Labour cannot continue in office without reaching accommodation with a coalition of small parties as well as ourselves.
“If we can find a way of working together to manage the (economic) crisis, Britain will be seen as a strong and united country.
“But if squabbling and short-term manoeuvring dominate, we could be sucked into a downward spiral of falling confidence and decline.
“It is not yet clear if it is possible to reach agreement. But we must. And any agreement must be secure and lasting to remove damaging uncertainty.”
Brown waiting on sidelines
Brown will open discussions with the Lib Dems if they and the Conservatives cannot strike a deal, and has dangled “immediate legislation” on electoral reform before them.
Brown telephoned Clegg for talks late Saturday, the Lib Dems revealed.
Two Labour lawmakers have already broken ranks and urged Brown to resign.
“He must go and I don’t think we will have renewal until we get a new leader,” former sports minister Kate Hoey told BBC radio.
A YouGov survey for Conservative-supprting Sunday Times newspaper found that 62 percent believe Brown should have accepted defeat. Some 28 percent said he was right to hang on.
Meanwhile 48 percent said the new government should be led by the Conservatives – either alone or in coalition – against 31 percent who preferred a Labour-Lib Dem pact.
YouGov interviewed 1,406 adults online on Friday and Saturday.
Elsewhere, a BPIX poll for Conservative-supprting Mail on Sunday said 68 percent thought Brown should resign as PM; 58 percent said Cameron should govern alone; 49 percent said he should form a pact with Clegg.
If the hung parliament resulted in a weak government, 90 percent said there should be another election within six months.
The pound slumped to a 13-month low against the dollar on fears the deadlock would hamper Britain’s ability to tackle its giant public debt.