LONDON – Britain’s inconclusive election turned into high political drama Friday, with the Conservatives and Labour Party wooing a potential ally as the markets pressed for results and a public accustomed to clearer outcomes watched transfixed.
Conservative leader David Cameron, ahead but shy of a majority, seized the initiative with a “comprehensive offer” to the ideologically dissimilar but possibly willing Liberal Democrats.
Labour incumbent Gordon Brown, beaten but still battling, dangled before the Liberal Democrats their dream of major electoral reform. A weekend of frantic negotiations loomed – but momentum seemed to be with the youthful Cameron.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg did not immediately respond in public to his opponents’ overtures, but said earlier that the party that had gained the most seats and the most votes – the Conservatives – should have the first right to try to govern.
“I think it is now for the Conservative Party to prove that it is capable of seeking to govern in the national interest,” he said.
Ideologically, the center-left Clegg has more in common with Brown. Both oppose the immediate cuts Cameron says are needed to begin rebalancing Britain’s debt-burdened economy and both have attacked his Tories as the party of privilege. Clegg has clashed with Brown and Cameron over Britain’s expensive submarine-launched nuclear deterrent, which the Liberal Democrat leader has indicated he may want to scrap.
But the Conservatives have held out the tantalizing prospect of Liberal Democrat seats in a Tory government, with senior Conservative lawmaker William Hague saying Cabinet posts were not “off the table.”