Cameron finally becomes new British PM as Brown quits

11th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

David Cameron became Britain's new prime minister Tuesday, breaking five days of deadlock after last week's inconclusive general election and becoming the first Conservative premier for 13 years.

Cameron was invited to form a government by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace after Gordon Brown resigned amid expectation that the Conservatives will forge a power-sharing deal with the Liberal Democrats.

Brown announced his decision in a statement delivered to a scrum of journalists outside Downing Street, his voice cracking with emotion.

"I've informed the Queen's private secretary that it is my intention to tender my resignation to the Queen," Brown said.

"In the event that the Queen accepts I shall advise her to invite the leader of the opposition (Cameron) to seek to form a government. I wish the next prime minister well as he makes the important choices for the future."

Immediately afterwards, he and his wife Sarah were driven from Downing Street to Buckingham Palace for Brown to offer his resignation to the Queen, which was accepted in a 15-minute meeting.

Some 40 minutes later, Cameron -- at 43 Britain's youngest prime minister for around two centuries -- arrived at the palace with his pregnant wife Samantha for a ceremony with the Queen known as the kissing of hands.

They left for Downing Street after 25 minutes, their chauffeur-driven Jaguar car, attracting toots and waves from passing vehicles.

In last Thursday's general election, the Conservatives won 306 seats in the 650-member House of Commons -- 20 short of a clear majority of 326 -- followed by Labour on 258 and the Lib Dems on 57.

After five days of talks between Nick Clegg's Lib Dems and Tories -- and briefly between the Lib Dems and Labour -- there was no immediate announcement of a deal, although it could come within hours.

But several Labour lawmakers have effectively conceded to Cameron and the BBC cited a senior Lib Dem official as saying the power-sharing offer from David Cameron's Conservatives was now "the only deal in town."

The party declined to comment formally. Tory and Liberal Democrat negotiators emerged after hours of talks late Tuesday and said they were now going to consult their parties.

Brown wished Cameron well as he departed from top-level politics, while acknowledging the personal weaknesses -- such as poor presentational skills and impatience -- which hampered his three-year premiership.

"Only those who have held the office of prime minister can understand the full weight of its responsibilities and its great capacity for good," Brown said.

"I have been privileged to learn much about the very best in human nature and a fair amount too about its frailties -- including my own."

Brown then walked down Downing Street holding hands with his wife Sarah and their two young sons John and Fraser, who were making an extremely rare public appearance.

Brown has spoken to his predecessor Tony Blair by phone, media reports said. Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman will act as caretaker while a leadership campaign takes place which is expected to conclude by September.

In the hours before he quit, Brown faced increasing signs that hopes for a Labour deal with the Lib Dems had faded and that his job was coming to a rapid end.

He had said he would resign as Labour leader Monday but could have stayed on for several months as a caretaker had Labour struck a deal with the Lib Dems.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham said Labour had to accept that it "didn't win" the election while senior Labour lawmaker Stuart Bell had even congratulated Cameron.

Earlier Tuesday, Cameron had piled pressure on Clegg's party to decide which way to jump after he offered a referendum on their touchstone issue of electoral reform.

"It's now I believe decision time, decision time for the Liberal Democrats," said Cameron.

A deal between the centre-right Conservatives and centrist Lib Dems would be seen as an unlikely alliance.

They have strongly differing views on issues like Europe, defence and immigration but between them have enough to secure a majority in the House of Commons which Labour and the Lib Dems, seen as more natural bedfellows, did not.

© 2010 AFP

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