Britain's Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in talks to end election impasse

A power-sharing deal between Cameron and Nicholas Clegg of the Liberal Democrats ended 13 years of Labor Party rule and resulted in Britain's first coalition government since the 1940s.
By Cecilia Valente
Sunday, May 9, 2010

LONDON -- The leaders of Britain's Conservatives and Liberal Democrats met for more than an hour of talks Saturday aimed at breaking the stalemate that resulted from Thursday's election.

David Cameron's Conservative Party won the most seats in Parliament but fell short of a majority and are seeking the support of Nick Clegg's center-left Liberal Democrats to end 13 years of Labor rule.

The parties are under pressure to reach an agreement before the new Parliament convenes and financial markets become impatient for signs of decisive action to tackle Britain's record budget deficit, running at more than 11 percent of national output.

Cameron and Clegg met for about 70 minutes at a government building in London, the Liberal Democrats said. The Conservatives confirmed the meeting.

"Their meeting was amicable and constructive, and their teams will meet tomorrow as planned," a Liberal Democratic spokesperson said. The talks are scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday.

It is unlikely a deal can be reached by Monday, a Conservative spokesman said earlier, noting that the party's new members of Parliament, who will be briefed on the negotiations, would not meet until Monday evening.

A tight election race produced the first inconclusive result since 1974, with voters pushing Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labor into second place but failing to give Cameron and his center-right party an outright majority.

Cameron wrote to party supporters before news of his meeting with Clegg was disclosed, saying he believed there were areas in which the Conservatives could give ground, such as reducing taxes for the poor. "Inevitably, these negotiations will involve compromise," he wrote.

The greatest stumbling block to a deal may be electoral reform, a long-cherished ambition of the Liberal Democrats, who would win far more seats if Britain switched from its winner-takes-all system to proportional representation. The Conservatives are firmly opposed to such a change.

-- Reuters

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