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Gordon Brown to stand down as Labour leader

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 10 May 2010

Gordon Brown announces his intention to step down as Labour leader by the autumn as the prime minister also reveals his party could start formal coalition talks with the Liberal Democrats.

Gordon Brown

The prime minister made his statement in Downing Street on a day when the Lib Dems had continued to hold talks with the Conservatives about a possible deal to back a David Cameron government.

Mr Brown said his party would hold a leadership election by its autumn conference, and said he would play no part. He admitted the election result had been "a judgement" on his role as leader.

The prime minister also revealed that the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg had asked to begin formal coalition talks with Labour.

Welcoming Mr Brown's announcement, Mr Clegg said it was "an important element which could help ensure a smooth transition to the stable government that everyone deserves".

But within hours, the Conservatives offered the Liberal Democrats a referendum on introducing the Alternative Vote (AV) system in a final deal to secure the party's support.

Speaking after Mr Cameron had addressed a meeting of Tory MPs, shadow foreign secretary William Hague said: "We will offer to the Liberal Democrats in a coalition government the holding of a referendum on the alternative vote system, so that the people of this country can decide what the best electoral system is for the future."

Leadership election
Gordon Brown told the assembled media outside Downing Street: "If it becomes clear that the national interest, which is stable and principled government, which can be best served by forming a coalition between the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats, then I believe I should discharge that duty to form that government which would in my view command a majority in the House of Commons in the Queen's speech any other confidence votes.

"But I have no desire to stay in my position longer than is needed to ensure the pass to economic growth is assured and the process of political reform we have agreed moves forward quickly.

"The reason that we have a hung parliament is that no single party and no single leader was able to win the full support of the country.

"As leader of my party I must accept that that is a judgement on me. I therefore intend to ask the Labour party to set in train the processes needed for its own leadership election.

"I would hope that it would be completed in time for the new leader to be in post by the time of the Labour Party conference.

"I will play no part in that contest. I will back no individual candidate."

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Senior Liberal Democrats spent the day continuing their negotiations with the Conservatives, amid growing speculation a deal was close to being done.

However after a meeting for Lib Dem MPs, the party's education spokesman David Laws announced there was still a need for "clarification" on key issues such as education, taxation and voting reform.

Mr Brown's statement added to the afternoon's drama, by announcing that talks would resume tomorrow with the Lib Dems.

"Mr Clegg has just informed me that while he intends to continue his dialogue that he has begun with the Conservatives, he now wishes also to take forward formal discussions with the Labour party," he said.

"I believe it is sensible and it's in the national interest to respond positively.

"The Cabinet will meet soon. A formal policy negotiating process is being established under the arrangements made by the Cabinet secretary similar to the negotiations between other parties.

"The first priority should be an agreed deficit reduction plan to support economic growth and a return to full employment."

Lib Dems call for 'clarification' on Tory deal
- Tories offer voting change referendum to Lib Dems

Mr Brown's decision to stand down was welcomed by Mr Clegg, who said: "Gordon Brown has taken a difficult personal decision in the national interest.

"And I think without prejudice to the talks that will now happen between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, Gordon Brown's decision is an important element which could help ensure a smooth transition to the stable government that everyone deserves."

He said talks with the Conservatives had been "very constructive" but "so far we have been unable to agree a comprehensive partnership agreement for a full Parliament."

He added: "We need a government that lasts which is why we believe, in the light of the state of talks with the Conservative Party, the only responsible thing to do is to open discussions with the Labour Party to secure a stable partnership agreement.

"We will of course continue our discussions with the Conservative Party to see if we can find a way to a full agreement."

However on Channel 4 News, former Downing Street communications chief Alastair Campbell said Mr Clegg knew about Mr Brown's decision ahead of tonight's announcement.

"Gordon Brown wants to be in control of an announcement as important as that about his own future.

"I think it's to the Liberal Democrats' credit, to Nick Clegg and others who knew that was about to happen that there was no leakage of it and the media didn't know about it."

Mr Brown's move was described as "wise and brave" by Labour MP John Mann, who became the first Labour MP to call for him to go on Saturday. Ignoring the prospect of a deal with the Lib Dems, Mr Mann said the Labour party now needed to "regroup" to fight the Tories in Opposition.

Slough MP Fiona Mactaggart, who has criticised Mr Brown's leadership in the past, said he had done the "right thing".

The Labour MP said: "It is a recognition that Labour lost the election, which I think has not been made clear until this point.

"I understand that the constitutional position is that he remains prime minister and that's an issue so he needed to stay on in that role.

"I don't know why it took him until today to say that he felt that there should be a new future leader of the Labour Party. It's a hard decision to make."

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