David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, who failed to get the overall majority he was looking for in Britain's general election yesterday, has made a "big, open and comprehensive offer" to the rival Liberal Democrats to back him in government. Mr Cameron failed to state whether he was asking Nick Clegg, the leader of the Lib Dems, with 57 MPs, to join him in an actual coalition or simply to support the 306 Tory MPs in forming a minority Conservative government. He also failed to offer more on the Lib Dems' most important wish, electoral reform to give Britain some form of proportional representation, which would the believe would end the present situation that gives them more than 20 per cent of the vote but less than 10 per cent of the seats in Parliament, other than an "all party inquiry" on the electoral system.
The Tories needed at least 326 MPs to have an absolute majority, a swing of 7.6 per cent. Overall they have achieved so far a swing of 7.2 per cent, slightly less than Margaret Thatcher achieved in 1979 when the Conservatives swept to power. In a speech at Conservative Party headquarters in London early this afternoon UK time, Mr Cameron pointed out that the Tories had achieved a higher share of vote than Labour achieved in the last election. However, he said, "We have to accept we fell short of an overall majority." Britain needs a strong, stable government, he said, and "we are facing an economic situation of great seriousness. We need policies that will bring economic recovery. Britain voted for change but not for party political bickering. We must sort things out as quickly as possible." The Conservatives "will now begin talks with other parties," Mr Cameron said, adding that "I want us and the Liberal Democrats to work together to solve the country's problems. Of course there are political disagreements between us. We agree that reform is needed and that includes the electoral system ? We will need an all-party political inquiry on the electoral system. "The outgoing Labour government has left this country with terrible problems the incoming government faces the worst situation for at least 60 years. I hope we can reach agreement quickly on a big, open and comprehensive offer."
Earlier Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, who had seen his party lose a net 89 seats to end up with 258 MPs, said in a short speech outside No 10 Downing Street that the country found itself in a situation "unknown to this generation of political leaders". In a clear bid to attract the Liberal Democrats into backing the Labour Party in its attempt to stay in power, Mr Brown offered "far-reaching political reform" to Mr Clegg. Before the two other main political parties' leaders had spoken, Mr Clegg said had consistently argued that it was the party with the most seats and votes that should get the right to try first to form a government. "It seems this morning that it is the Conservative Party which has more votes and more seats - although not an absolute majority - which is why I now think that it is the Conservative Party which should seek to govern in the national interest." If those talks fail, he said, then the Liberal Democrats would talk to Labour, even though the two parties do not have a majority between them. However, Mr Clegg pointed out that the Lib Dems, who had not done as well as many had expected in this election, had still won more votes and a greater proportion of the vote than ever before. "It is clear that our electoral system is broken," he said.