LABOUR-LIB DEM TALKS BREAK DOWN – Tories and Liberals get ready for coalition

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A TORY-LIB DEM savage cuts coalition government was being assembled last night, after coalition talks between the Labour Party and the Lib Dems broke down.

All yesterday the coalition battle had gone to and fro.

Cameron said early morning: ‘It’s now, I believe, decision time, decision time for the Liberal Democrats and I hope they will make the right decision to give this country the strong, stable government that it badly needs and badly needs quickly.’

He said he had believed Clegg was ‘acting in a very honourable way’.

This was before the Tories learnt that the Clegg team had been secretly meeting with Labour negotiators.

At that moment the Tory mask fell to reveal the same old ‘nasty party’.

Former Tory Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said Labour attempts to form ‘a coalition of the defeated’ was a ‘negation of democracy’.

He said a government ‘cobbled together’ between Labour and the Lib Dems would be ‘illegitimate’.

Rifkind, the MP for Kensington, said the Tories got two million more votes than Labour.

He said: ‘The idea that the two parties that suffered most in this election, that were rejected by the electorate, should put together an illegitimate government – this is Robert Mugabe-style politics.

‘That’s exactly what Mugabe did. He lost the election and scrabbled to hang on to power in the most illegitimate way.’

By mid-day Former Tory leader William Hague was able to say that the Tories felt ‘very strongly that there should be a government with a strong and secure majority in the House of Commons and an elected prime minister’.

He said they remained ‘firmly of that view’ and had set out proposals to achieve that – ‘we have come here to hear the Liberal Democrat response’.

Lib Dem leader Clegg said talks had reached a ‘critical and final phase’ and his party would ‘do our bit to create a stable, good government’.

Opposition also emerged from within the Labour Party to a Lib-Lab coalition.

Yesterday morning, former home secretary David Blunkett spoke out in opposition to attempts at creating a Labour-Lib-Dem coalition, also declaring that it would be ‘a coalition of the defeated’.

Labour left backbencher Jon Cruddas put out a statement calling for the entire party and the trade unions to be consulted about any deal between Labour and the Lib Dems, suggesting he opposed a pact.

Labour’s ruling national executive committee also met yesterday to discuss the prospect of a coalition and the time it will take to replace Brown.

However, former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Nicol Stephen warned that a deal with the Tories would be ‘difficult’ for Lib Dems in parts of the UK.

Stephen said: ‘Many of us got into politics during the Conservative years in government, the Thatcher years, and we have deep-seated concerns about Conservative policies.’

He added: ‘It’s difficult for us. There’s probably about a third of the party that opposes working with the Conservatives, about a third of the party that opposes working with Labour and the final third doesn’t want to work with either of them.’

The Unite trade union leaders issued a statement yesterday revealing themselves as enthusiasts for a Lib-Lab coalition.

It said: ‘The leadership of the Unite union has today (Tuesday) written to all Labour MPs who are members of the Unite parliamentary group on talks between the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties on a possible coalition government.’

In a letter to the 100-plus Labour MPs who are members of the group, the joint general secretaries, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, wrote: ‘As you know Labour are now in formal talks with the Liberal Democrats to see if we can agree a stable government to secure the economic recovery and change our politics.

‘Together we can form a progressive coalition, a coalition that would reflect that over 60 per cent of the population rejected the Tories last week.

‘We believe that this represents the best option for the future of the country at this difficult time.

‘It is trade union members that would pay with their jobs for a Tory government that would cut immediately and strangle the economic recovery at birth.

‘An agreement between Labour and the Lib Dems would deliver the change that the electorate called for last week and would result in a progressive approach to securing our economic future and the political change that is needed.’