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Tories, Lib Dems in hard bargaining over coalition formation

The Tories and Liberal Democrats worked overtime to reach consensus on thorny issues blocking the formation of the first coalition government in Britain since World War II.

London: The Tories and Liberal Democrats
worked overtime to reach consensus on thorny issues blocking
the formation of the first coalition government in Britain
since World War II, with the hard bargain over make or break
issues running into the third day.

Negotiators for the Conservatives and Liberal
Democrats will meet again later today for a crunch meeting to
spell out their demands and a clearer picture is expected to
emerge only tomorrow.

Conservative emerged as the second largest party with
306 seats in the 650-member House of Commons in the General
Election which has thrown up a hung parliament.

Tory and Lib Dem leaders David Cameron and Nick Clegg
spent 70 minutes last night in face-to-face talks on the
neutral ground of Admiralty House in Whitehall, the seat of
the Government here, with both sides describing the encounter
as "constructive and amicable".

Clegg also spoke to Prime Minister Gordon Brown on
phone at the request of the Prime Minister in a conversation
which the Lib Dems again described as "amicable".
Brown has offered to talk to the Lib Dems talks if no
deal is reached with the Conservatives.

A spokesman for the Lib Dem leader indicated that
Brown`s overture would not deflect Clegg from pursuing his
strategy of talking to the Tories first on a possible solution
to the impasse caused by Thursday`s general election.

"The Liberal Democrats will continue with the approach
which Nick Clegg has set out and which was endorsed today by
the parliamentary party and the party`s federal executive,"
said the spokesman.

Tory sources said no conclusion to talks is expected
until Monday at the earliest, but today`s meeting at the
Cabinet Office will bring a sharper focus on the issues that
may make or break a Tory/Lib Dem deal.

Cameron made clear he is willing to seek consensus
with Lib Dems over issues like education, the green economy
and taxation. But doubts remain over whether any agreement can
be found on the thorny questions of Europe and electoral

Polls suggest widespread public support for a fairer
voting system following an election in which Lib Dems won
fewer than one-tenth of seats after securing almost a quarter
of votes and Conservatives were denied a majority despite
taking a greater proportion of votes than Labour in 2005.

Some 62 per cent of people questioned for the Sunday
Times, 60 per cent in the Mail on Sunday, 59 per cent for The
People and 48 per cent in the Sunday Telegraph backed
proportional representation for Westminster elections.

Speaking outside his London home, Clegg said:
"Everyone is trying to be constructive for the good of the

"I`m very keen that the Liberal Democrats should play
a constructive role at a time of great economic uncertainty to
provide a good government that this country deserve.

"Throughout that we will continue to be guided by the
big changes we want - tax reform, improving education for all
children, sorting out the banks and building a new economy
from the rubble of the old, and extensive fundamental
political reform," he said.

In a message to Conservative supporters, Cameron
reiterated that he would "stand firm" on issues relating to
immigration, defence, and the handover of further powers to
the EU. Conservatives want a cap to be put on immigration.

If formed, this would be Britain`s first coalition
government since World War II, and Cameron would be the first
Prime Minister since Winston Churchill to lead a coalition

Churchill had led a war-time coalition from 1940 to
1945, before being defeated in the 1945 general election by
the Winston Churchill led Labour party.


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