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No Tory/Lib Dem deal before Monday

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 08 May 2010

Tory insider tells Channel 4 News reporter Andrew Thomas that a formal coalition with the Lib Dems is crucial as Nick Clegg addresses electoral reform protesters saying it is in the "national interest" to use the hung parliament opportunity to "usher in new politics".

Clegg addresses protest

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg emerged from his meeting with ministers in central London to receive a petition and address the hundreds of protesters who had gathered outside demanding electoral reform.  

Following chants of "we want Nick" the Lib Dem leader told the crowd it was "in the interests of everybody in Britain for us to use this opportunity to usher in a new politics after the discredited politics of the past."

Despite not discussing the talks with the demonstrators, many brandishing signs saying "fair votes now" and "stand up and be counted", Clegg told them that political reform was his priority.

"The fact that you are here because you care so much about political reform is absolutely wonderful," he said.

"Take it from me, reforming politics is one of the reasons I went into politics.

"I've campaigned for a better, more open, more transparent, new politics, every single day of this general election campaign. I genuinely believe it is in the national interest.

"I take your petition in the spirit in which I am sure you meant to deliver it - in a spirit of change, of real change, in the politics of this country.

"And in return, I would ask you to do what you are doing so well here today in Smith Square in every street and every community of our country, to continue your campaign for a different, better, new politics."

Gary Gibbon blogs from the protest
Bit coals to Newcastle this it might seem! Fair Votes Now campaigners are besieging the Lib Dem meeting in Transport House.

I didn’t think it could get more bizarre after the arrivals had to criss-cross Morris Dancers on the way in. But amongst the demonstrators, which includes Greens, Marxists and others – found Lib Dems who think a sell-out is going on in the power-sharing talks.

Read the blog in full here.

Formal coalition?
A source close to the Tory party talks told Channel 4 News reporter, Andrew Thomas, that a formal coalition would be crucial to the Conservative party who could risk government unless they receive their backing.

Ahead of talks tomorrow David Cameron and Nick Clegg had a "constructive and amicable" meeting this evening.

"A formal coalition is the best bet for the Conservative party," the Tory source told Channel 4 News.

"It means Cameron can pursue his "centrist", one nation agenda, using the excuse of placating the Lib Dems to any on the right of his party who've never liked his modernisations.

"A coalition binds the Lib Dems in with the future of the government and therefore means the government is less likely to fall. A minority Tory government might well fall if Lib Dems took against them; the Tories would lose an autumn election to Labour - cleansed of Brown under a fresh new leader."

The view from Chippenham. Is a deal possible? Katie Razzall finds out:

When I asked the Conservative party treasurer for Chippenham, this morning over a coffee, what she wouldn't be happy for her leader to offer the Liberal Democrats, she said "anything".

Her fellow party members agreed that proportional representation was the "family silver" and they would not accept it if David Cameron gave it away.

Cabinet seats were also a problem. "I don’t believe Saint Vince is a Saint" said one.

Her local party has just fought a bruising – and losing – battle with the Lib Dems for the Chippenham constituency.

There have been the usual allegations of dirty tricks and misinformation levelled by the Tories, denied by the Lib Dems, and the idea that, after this tiring and bitter campaign, the two parties will be able to find some sort of accommodation is a difficult pill to swallow.

They were adamant – as Andy Phillips, a Chippenham town councillor put it, "the Lib Dems are in trouble, they’re in queer street, unless they come to terms with one of the parties, they will get the blame.

"And if Clegg ends up with Brown, the public will never forgive them".

In other words, these Tories believe all the cards are in their hands.

Down the road at Lib Dem Chippenham HQ, Gavin Grant, who ran his party’s campaign here, was far more emollient, suggesting the parties could work together for the common good.

But he said electoral reform would be a deal breaker – a ”change in the voting system” was necessary.

As for working together - when I suggested the Tories come and have a drink with their Lib Dem opponents they looked horrified.

What chance a coalition?

The Liberal Democrats are due to meet with the Conservative party in the cabinet office at 11am tomorrow following a "constructive and amicable meeting between Clegg and Cameron this evening. The Tories said earlier they would not expect a deal to be concluded before Monday.

Police estimated that 1,000 campaigners from groups Power 2010, 38 Degrees and Unlock Democracy gathered at the Lib Dem meeting today urging MPs to fight for proportional representation (PR).

Among them, campaigner and musician Billy Bragg said the hung parliament was an opportunity to bring about "genuine electoral reform".

Pam Giddy, from campaign group Power 2010, said the campaigners were from a range of organisations seeking a "purple revolution" and urged the Liberal Democrats to stand firm in their demand for PR.

Party backing
Following Clegg's speech to the crowd chief Lib Dem negotiator David Laws delivered a statement declaring that the party fully backed their leader in pursuing talks with the Conservatives.

"We have had a very positive discussion," he told the assembled press.

"The Parliamentary party and shadow cabinet have fully endorsed the position set out by Nick Clegg.

"We will continue to put the national interest first and play a constructive role in providing the stable and good government people deserve.

"We have heard what the Labour Party and Gordon Brown are saying but in line with the position Nick Clegg outlined yesterday we are continuing discussions with the Conservative Party as the party with the most seats and votes.

"We want to complete this process as soon as possible but people will recognise that it is also important to get these decisions right in the long term national interest."

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