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Hung parliament: who are the dealmakers?

By Anna Doble

Updated on 08 May 2010

As Nick Clegg considers a coalition deal with the Conservatives, Who Knows Who looks at the Tory and Lib Dem negotiating teams who must decide, deal or no deal?

(L-R top) William Hague, George Osborne, Chris Huhne (L-R bottom) Oliver Letwin, Danny Alexander, David Laws (Credit: Reuters)

After the general election produced Britain's first hung parliament in a generation, talks are taking place which could lead to a coalition agreement between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Who Knows Who takes a closer look at the two teams trying to create a workable government.

William Hague
The Tory group is led by the shadow foreign secretary who is regarded as David Cameron's right-hand man.

He delivered his first Tory conference speech at the age of 16, and served as Conservative leader from 1997 until his defeat at the 2001 election.

Hague has enjoyed a political renaissance since returning to the front bench on the Cameron team. Once ridiculed for wearing a "Hague" baseball cap, he is now respected and well-liked across the political spectrum.

He keeps fit by doing judo and his heroine is Margaret Thatcher.

George Osborne
The shadow chancellor is close friends with David Cameron and godfather to the Tory leader's children.

He was election campaign manager for the Tories and, like Cameron, could yet face a backlash over the party's failure to secure a majority.

If his team manages to broker a deal, Osborne remains in line to become the UK's youngest Chancellor of the Exchequer for 124 years. This could be scuppered if the Lib Dems insist on Vince Cable entering Number 11.

He is familiar with covert meetings. Osborne is said to be in the mysterious Bilderberg Group, a secretive network of US and European business leaders who gather once a year.

Oliver Letwin
Another old Etonian, policy supremo Letwin has served as shadow chancellor and shadow home secretary. He was an early supporter of David Cameron, publicly backing his leadership bid in 2005.

Letwin was a special adviser to the late Keith Joseph widely regarded to have been the "power behind the throne" in the creation of what came to be known as Thatcherism.

His mother, Shirley, was an American political philosopher and a leading thinker of the Thatcher revolution. But in 2001, in an interview with the New Statesmen, Letwin said she thought party politics "a pretty lowbrow activity."

The former philosophy don, who was in Cambridge University's Liberal Club, may calm jangling Lib Dem nerves. He is now viewed as a "progressive Conservative" although he is firmly to the right on economic policy.

Ed Llewellyn
David Cameron's gatekeeper, Llewellyn is the Tory leader's chief of staff.

Nicknamed "steady Eddie", he is yet another in the Eton "band of brothers" of the Conservative top team. He also attended Oxford at the same time as Cameron.

Llewellyn is a former adviser to Lord Patten and worked with him on the handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China in 1997. Interestingly, during this phase he worked alongside Nick Clegg's wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez.

His links with former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown could also prove useful in the negotiation process. The pair worked together in Bosnia.

Chris Huhne
On the Lib Dem side home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne is the most senior figure. It is possible a deal with the Tories could see him replace Alan Johnson as home secretary.

Like leader Nick Clegg, he was educated at Westminster School before going to Magdalen College, Oxford.

It is worth noting George Osborne attended the same college, as did William Hague. Both Huhne and Osborne are former Demy scholars and both men are former editors of the Oxford student newspaper, Isis.

But the old boy love-in could end there - Huhne is a former Labour activist.

Danny Alexander
Nick Clegg's chief-of-staff Danny Alexander is the youngest coalition dealmaker. Another Oxford graduate, he studied PPE at St Anne's and became press officer for the Scottish Lib Dems.

He worked at pro-Europe pressure group Britain in Europe alongside Tory business spokesman Ken Clarke, before entering parliament at the 2005 general election.

Alexander has been a key figure throughout the 2010 campaign - he coordinated the Lib Dem manifesto and will not want to concede on policy detail.

If the strategy talks get stressful, he can always call on his wife for advice. Rebecca Hoar is features editor of Psychologies magazine.

David Laws
Lib Dem children's spokesman David Laws was educated at King's College, Cambridge, where he scored a double-first in economics in 1987.

He took over Lord Ashdown's Yeovil seat in 2001 after a series of high-profile roles in finance. Laws will not be perturbed by boardroom stand-offs, he is a former managing director of JP Morgan.

He co-edited the Orange Book, which sets out liberal economic solutions. Interestingly one if its contributors was Susan Kramer, the Lib Dem MP ousted by Tory Zac Goldsmith in a bitter battle for Richmond Park.

Laws is seen as being on the right-wing of the Lib Dems but notably declared "I am not a Tory" in 2007 when George Osborne reportedly tried to get him to defect.

Andrew Stunell
Vice-chairman of the Lib Dem campaign team, Stunell became an MP in 1997, but is perhaps the least-known negotiator.

The former baptist lay preacher has a special interest in Third World issues and was awarded an OBE in 1993. Also a trained architect, he could be a key draftsmen in setting out the conditions that will underpin a Lib-Con deal.

He is the only man - on either team - who was not Oxbridge educated. He attended Manchester University and Liverpool Polytechnic.

And if tense talks run late into the night, a crucial role could fall to Stunell. His own website reveals he is responsible for the church coffee rota.

The "triple lock"
The democratic structure of the Lib Dems could yet scupper the potential Lib-Con deal, via a mechanism called the "triple lock".

It came into being in 1998 when talk of a deal between Paddy Ashdown and Tony Blair was rife.

The rule states that any "substantial proposal which could affect the Party's independence of political action" will need the consent of a majority of Lib Dem MPs and of the party's federal executive.

Unless three-quarters of each of those two groups support the plan, voting at a special conference is needed.

And unless two-thirds of them support the proposals, a full ballot would then be taken of party members, where a majority would be required.

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