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Clegg and Brown hold secret talks

By Cathy Newman

Updated on 09 May 2010

Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown meet in private despite ongoing Tory-Lib Dem negotiations, Channel 4 News political correspondent Cathy Newman has learnt.

The Lib Dem leader had so far refused to entertain talks with Gordon Brown - but tonight he agreed to attend a secret meeting with the prime minister, who snuck out of Number 10 via the back door, bound for the Foreign Office.

Members of the cabinet are now offering the prime minister's head on a platter as bait to lure the Liberal Democrats away from a coalition deal with the Conservatives.

First Secretary Lord Mandelson was one of a clutch of cabinet ministers summoned to Number 10 this afternoon.

He and colleagues have been holding secret talks with Lib Dem negotiators in a bid to scupper the Tory agreement.  And tonight it looked like Labour's cunning plan may be paying off.

The Conservatives, who Clegg said on Friday had the strongest mandate to form a government, thought they were the only game in town.

Round the corner at the Cabinet Office, Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague and frontbench colleagues joined senior Liberal Democrats for hours of intensive discussions.

Brown defiant under mounting pressure
Gordon Brown sent an email to Labour supporters earlier today thanking them for their support and hard work but he ended the message in a defiant manner saying:

"My resolve has not, and will not, change. I pledged to do everything in my power to fight for the people of this country - to secure the recovery, to protect their livelihoods and to continue to fight for a future fair for all."

But that hasn't stopped some of his own MPs calling for his head. The former sports minister Kate Hoey has been demanding the resignation of Gordon Brown today.

"I think he must go and I don't think we will have renewal until we get a new leader," she said.

Like John Mann MP who yesterday also called for Brown to go, she said it was hard on the doorsteps persuading people to vote Labour whilst he was the leader.

- Read more from Channel 4 News correspondent Sarah Smith

In an attempt to publicly steady nerves before the markets open tomorrow William Hague - negotiating for the Conservatives - said today's talks with the Lib Dems had been "very positive and productive".

He added: "We are agreed that a central part of any agreement that we make will be economic stability and the reduction of the budget deficit."

But, in further meetings over the next 24 hours, they will remain reluctant to promise a referendum on electoral reform, and senior Lib Dems insist that nothing short of that will suffice.

Many MPs on both sides would be happier to see a minority government rather than a formal coalition, with the two parties co-operating piecemeal to get legislation through.

One senior Lib Dem frontbencher told Channel 4 News there were now two deals on the table.

But it's still extremely uncertain if either will be signed, sealed and delivered.

Social media protests against Con-Lib deal
Over 42,000 people have joined a Facebook group urging the Liberal Democrat party not to enter into coalition with the Conservatives.

The 'We don't want the Liberal Democrats to make a deal with the Conservatives' group said they devised the page after speaking to Nick Clegg's party. According to the site the Liberal Democrats urged the creators to start the group to see how many people objected.

The social networking site has since shut down the group after it reportedly grew to over 42,000 members in just 36 hours. Facebook's regulations state that a group cannot exist with over 5,000 members - a page has been since created as a replacement.

The shutdown of the group led to speculation about censorship after users complained that Facebook was 'silencing tens of thousands of people'.

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