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Britain's Third Party Mulls Pact With Conservatives

  • Tom Rivers

Members of Britain's third party - the center-left Liberal Democrats - met privately Saturday as they considered a power-sharing offer from the center-right Conservatives. The Conservatives garnered the most seats in Thursday's British election but they came in below the threshold required for a majority.

Its a weekend of political intrigue in the very highest of places in Britain as the parties consider their options in a high stakes game that may very well determine just who will govern the country in the wake of Thursday's inconclusive parliamentary election result.

On Friday, Conservative leader David Cameron offered potential partner the Liberal Democrats a minority role in a government. "Across our two manifestos, there are many areas of common ground. And there are areas I believe that we in the Conservative party can give ground both in the national interest and in the interest of forging an open and trusting partnership," he said.

But the biggest issue standing in the way of any such deal is election reform. Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes says if the Conservatives are not offering real reform, then his party is not interested.

"Anybody objectively must accept that the political system has failed. We want to rebuild it and that is more for us than just a promise of a conversation about an inquiry. I mean there has to be fundamental commitment to make sure politics catches up with the aspirations of the British people," he said.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg spent Saturday in closed door meetings with his fellow party members.

"Clearly the result of the election means that politicians have the duty to speak to each other because people deserve good, stable government and that is why I am very keen that the Liberal Democrats should enter into any discussion with other parties as we are doing in a constructive spirit and that is precisely what we will do in the coming hours and days," he said.

If the Liberal Democrats find they cannot work with the Conservatives, then they will hold talks with the party that came in second, the incumbent Labor party. Labor politician Ben Bradshaw says the political wrangling is far from over.

"Nick Clegg made it quite clear he wanted to speak to the Conservatives first, that is his prerogative and let us see if they can make a deal," said Bradshaw. "Personally, I would be very surprised if the Liberal Democrats would sign up to a deal with the Conservatives that fell short of an historic opportunity to change our discredited and unfair voting system, but let us wait and see."

The process could go on for weeks, but in light of economic concerns and market volatility, political observers argue the sooner a political deal can be struck, the better.

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