Cameron's bid to Lib-Dems: join us

With just a few seats still to declare but no party winning a majority, Parliament remains hung. In a bid to lead the next Government, the Conservative leader, David Cameron, has just made what he called a "big, open, comprehensive offer" to the Liberal-Democrats.

Stressing that his is the party with the largest number of seats, and with 2m more votes than Labor, Cameron has set out the terms of his bid to secure the co-operation of the Lib-Dems -- although it's not yet clear if he is suggesting a Conservative/Lib-Dem coalition, or Lib-Dem acquiescence in a minority Conservative government. 

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Together, Conservatives and Lib-Dems would have a parliamentary majority. Labor and Lib-Dems would not.

Cameron said there would be no concessions on Europe, immigration or defence. But he pointed to many policy areas where Conservatives and Lib-Dems could compromise and work together -- tax reform, civil liberties, and the environment. On electoral reform -- which for the Lib-Dems is a precondition of any deal -- Cameron proposed an all-party committee on the issue which would examine the various alternatives. The negotiations, he said, would involve both parties compromising.

Cameron stressed the urgent need of "strong, stable government" to tackle what he called "the worse inheritance of any government in 60 years" -- not least Britain's massive deficit. Pointing without naming it to the current instability over the Greek financial crisis, Cameron said the world (for which read, the financial markets) was looking to Britain for decisive action.

Every inch the statesman, Cameron called for a "new government that works together in the national interest" and said this "urgent work must begin".

The Lib-Dems will now consider the offer.

Until then, Gordon Brown is in the cold. Cameron referred to him as "the outgoing prime minister". But that doesn't mean the Lib-Dems will not later be talking to Labor.

For now, Brown remains prime minister. And the talking begins. It is unlikely Britain will have a new government before next week.

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