LONDON – Britain’s two main parties were locked in a power struggle today after an inconclusive election – with Labour’s Gordon Brown suggesting he would try to form a coalition and Conservative leader David Cameron insisting the prime minister no longer had a mandate to govern.
Cameron – whose Conservatives outpolled Labour but fell short of winning a majority in Parliament, according to TV projections – claimed that voters had rejected Labour in Britain’s national election Thursday.
“Our country wants change. That change is going to require new leadership,” Cameron said early today, acknowledging negotiations may be needed to determine who will form the next government. “What will guide me will be our national interest.”
Brown vowed to “play my part in Britain having a strong, stable” government – the clearest sign yet that he would try to cling to power and seek an alliance with the third-place Liberal Democrats. He also pledged action on election reform – a key demand of his would-be partners.
An analysis by Britain’s main television stations suggested the Conservatives will win 305 of the 650 House of Commons seats, short of the 326 seats needed for a majority. Labour was expected to win 255 seats and the Liberal Democrats 61, far fewer than had been expected.
The biggest surprise of the night was the poor performance of the Liberal Democrats, whose telegenic leader Nick Clegg had shot to prominence due to stellar TV debate performances. The party appeared doomed to keep its perennial third-party status.