London: Conservatives have savaged Liberal Democrats after the latter sought a deal with Labour leader and Prime Minister Gordon Brown, with a senior Tory leader saying, "These people cannot be trusted."
Conservatives leader David Cameron was said to be infuriated after Nick Clegg, the charismatic leader of the Liberal Democrats, tried to radically change the terms of a possible deal with the Tories just minutes before Brown offered to step down Monday, The Telegraph reported Tuesday.
Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had spent the weekend working towards a loose agreement to rule Britain after last week`s election produced the first hung parliament since 1974.
But that seemed to collapse a little after 4 p.m. Monday when Clegg called up Cameron and told him that the deal was now a full coalition government with a guarantee to overhaul the voting system.
"These people cannot be trusted. We had several days of discussions with the Lib Dems and then the terms changed. Clegg has gone from someone attempting to rise above normal Westminster politics to someone trying to do a shabby deal with Brown," said a senior Conservative leader.
Tory leaders also accused the Liberal Democrats of "double dealing".
Within half hour of Cameron and Clegg finishing their phone conversation, Brown dramatically announced that he was ready to step down. Within three hours, formal Labour and Liberal Democrats talks had begun.
The political parties need to reach the magic mark of 326 to have a clear majority in the 650-seat Parliament.
The May 7 election gave the Conservatives 306 seats while Labour netted 258. Liberal Democrats got 57 seats.
On Monday, the Tories had made a final offer to hold a referendum on introducing an alternative-vote system. But this falls short of previous Liberal demands for proportional representation.
Former Tory cabinet minister John Redwood said: "I think if Labour comes up with a plausible package, the Liberal Democrats would accept it. I think it`s still possible (a deal with Tories). I think a minimalist agreement is better for all parties."
Tory leaders are concerned that this is a repeat of the situation in Wales in 2007.
At that time, the Conservatives were in talks with Plaid Cymru, a political party in Wales, and the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition when the latter pulled out.
A Conservative MP said, "We should have learnt the lesson of how hard it is to deal with the Lib Dems. The grassroots are even more leftwing than Labour. History is repeating itself."