British PM Brown doomed whatever happens: experts

9th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is clinging to office after elections left Britain politically deadlocked, but his future as premier appears doomed three years after he succeeded Tony Blair, experts say.

The beleaguered Labour Party leader's hopes of retaining power were further called into question by a Sunday newspaper poll indicating nearly two thirds of Britons think Brown should already have stood down.

Brown offered to share power with the third-placed Liberal Democrats after last week's general election -- but Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has spurned him in favour of the main opposition Conservatives.

And even if the Lib Dem-Tory talks fail and Clegg turned to Labour, many doubt Brown would remain in office, with fevered speculation about who would succeed him as Labour leader.

"It really is a matter of time," said Professor Steven Fielding of Nottingham University, as talks continued between David Cameron's Conservatives and the Liberals, after polls produced Britain's first hung parliament for 36 years.

"If the talks between the Lib Dems and the Tories break down, and Nick Clegg goes back to the Labour Party, he's already said that he can't agree to anything if Gordon Brown remains leader," he told AFP.

He was referring to comments Clegg made last month which have fuelled talk of Brown handing the Labour reins to someone else -- Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Home Secretary Alan Johnson are among the most cited.

"Whichever scenario you look at, Gordon Brown will be tendering his resignation, either to make way for another Labour prime minister or just to make way for David Cameron," he said.

Brown, who succeeded Blair in June 2007, has remained in office despite his party coming second because, under Britain's idiosyncratic election conventions, he in theory gets first go at trying to form a viable government in a hung parliament.

But the Lib Dems chose to talk to the Conservatives first -- and even if those negotiations fail, Labour's hopes of producing a viable coalition seem slim.

The Conservatives have 306 seats -- 20 seats short of an absolute majority of 326 seats in the new 650-member House of Commons -- against 258 for Labour and 57 for the Lib Dems.

Labour and the Lib Dems together would still be 11 seats short, triggering speculation that they may seek a deal with smaller parties such as Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionists, plus the Scottish and Welsh nationalists.

However, "it would collapse under its own weight. it would be a nightmare," said Victoria Honeyman of Leeds University, describing it as a "coalition of the losers."

"Possibly in the short term he might be able to cobble something together. But I don't imagine it would last very long ... It depends how desperate he actually is," she told AFP.

Then there is Clegg's expected refusal to deal with Brown as Labour leader.

"I can't see Clegg agreeing to go into coalition with Labour with Brown at the head," said Professor Paul Whiteley of Essex University, citing Miliband as frontrunner to succeed Brown as Labour leader.

Brown could yet surprise everyone, he admitted. "But I rate his chances very low... He's a great survivor but I just don't see it this time, I think things have caught up with him," he added.

Public support for Brown is distinctly lacking: a new newspaper poll, published as the Conservatives and Liberals pressed ahead with weekend talks, indicated that almost two-thirds of voters think he should concede defeat.

Sixty-two percent of those asked thought Brown should have accepted defeat on Friday after it became clear that Labour was no longer the largest party, according to the YouGov survey for The Sunday Times.

In another blow, one Labour lawmaker called openly Saturday for Brown to go.

"Gordon Brown has had a good run, and whilst he was an excellent chancellor he has been seen as a poor prime minister who is out of touch and aloof," said John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw in England's east Midlands.

"He needs to go, and he needs to go fairly quickly," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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