David Cameron swept into Downing Street as leader of an historic coalition for change last night as 13 years of Labour rule came crashing to an end.
The new Prime Minister, who arrived at No10 with his pregnant wife Samantha, echoed John F Kennedy as he urged voters no longer to ask ‘just what you are owed, but what can I give’.
Mr Cameron warned the country faced ‘deep and pressing problems’, but vowed a ‘proper and full coalition’ government with the Liberal Democrats would focus on ‘rebuilding family, rebuilding community and above all rebuilding responsibility in our country’.
He said he and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg would ‘put aside party differences and work hard for the common good and the national interest’.
After telephoning his predecessor Tony Blair, Mr Brown resigned with immediate effect as Labour leader and Prime Minister, leaving Harriet Harman as acting leader of the opposition.
Last night he and his family flew to Scotland after departing from Number Ten for the last time.
A plot orchestrated by an unelected cabal around Mr Brown to try to prop up Labour despite its election defeat was crushed by a revolt led by senior Cabinet ministers, who argued it would be undemocratic.
Lord Mandelson and Tony Blair’s former spin chief Alastair Campbell were facing a fierce backlash from colleagues for persuading Mr Brown to make an ‘undignified’ offer on Monday to stay on until the autumn before quitting in an attempt to lure the Lib Dems into a power-sharing pact with Labour.
Instead, after the five most dramatic days in modern political history, Mr Cameron agreed a stunning deal that will mean Britain being governed by its first coalition administration since the 1930s.
The Tory leader paid an extraordinary price to bring Mr Clegg into the fold and now faces a battle to persuade his shell-shocked party that it is not too high.
Mr Cameron handed a clutch of seats around the Cabinet table to the Lib Dems and, despite the deep reservations of many of his MPs, agreed to a referendum on reform of Britain’s voting system.
The Lib Dems, who will sit around the Cabinet table, will be the first to do so since Sir Archibald Sinclair, Minister for Air in the wartime Cabinet, who gave the order to bomb Dresden.
Mr Clegg agreed that under the new Chancellor George Osborne, public spending cuts must begin at once to start to rebuild confidence in Britain’s ability to repay its massive debts.
He also accepted Tory ‘red lines’ on the EU, immigration and Trident.
But Mr Cameron is expected to have to shelve a flagship Tory pledge on inheritance tax and instead move towards the Lib Dem policy of raising the income tax threshold to £10,000.
Last night, he was summoned to Buckingham Palace with wife Samantha to be asked by the Queen to form the next government.
At 43, Mr Cameron becomes Britain’s youngest Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812.
After entering Downing Street just before 9pm last night, he took a telephone call of congratulations from U.S. President Barack Obama.
After five days of paralysis following the first hung Parliament for 36 years, crowds had begun to gather in Parliament Square yesterday to demand that the Lib Dems make up their minds over who they wanted to support.
Mr Clegg was accused of behaving like a ‘harlot’ after it emerged that he had been conducting secret talks with Labour while on the brink of a deal with the Conservatives.
Yesterday morning, Lib Dem negotiations with Labour were underway, and a small circle around Mr Brown believed a ‘rainbow’ coalition – roping in Scottish and Welsh nationalists, Northern Irish MPs and the single Green Party MP – could still be assembled to keep the Tories out of power.
DAVID CAMERON’S FIRST SPEECH AS PRIME MINISTER
Her Majesty the Queen has asked me to form a new Government and I have accepted. Before I talk about that new Government, let me say something about the one that has just passed.
Compared with a decade ago, this country is more open at home and more compassionate abroad and that is something we should all be grateful for and on behalf of the whole country I’d like to pay tribute to the outgoing prime minister for his long record of dedicated public service.
In terms of the future, our country has a hung parliament where no party has an overall majority and we have some deep and pressing problems – a huge deficit, deep social problems, a political system in need of reform.
For those reasons I aim to form a proper and full coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.
I believe that is the right way to provide this country with the strong, the stable, the good and decent Government that I think we need so badly.
Nick Clegg and I are both political leaders that want to put aside party differences and work hard for the common good and for the national interest.
I believe that is the best way to get the strong Government that we need, decisive Government that we need today.
I came into politics because I love this country. I think its best days still lie ahead and I believe deeply in public service.
And I think the service our country needs right now is to face up to our really big challenges, to confront our problems, to take difficult decisions, to lead people through those difficult decisions, so that together we can reach better times ahead.
One of the tasks that we clearly have is to rebuild trust in our political system.
Yes that’s about cleaning up expenses, yes that is about reforming parliament, and yes it is about making sure people are in control – and that the politicians are always their servant and never their masters.
But I believe it is also something else. It is about being honest about what Government can achieve.
Real change is not what government can do on its own – real change is when everyone pulls together, comes together, works together, where we all exercise our responsibilities to ourselves, to our families, to our communities and to others.
And I want to help try and build a more responsible society here in Britain. One where we don’t just ask what are my entitlements, but what are my responsibilities.
One where we don’t ask what am I just owed, but more what can I give.
And a guide for that society – that those that can should, and those who cant we will always help.
I want to make sure that my Government always looks after the elderly, the frail the poorest in our country. We must take everyone through with us on some of the difficult decisions we have ahead.
Above all it will be a Government that is built on some clear values. Values of freedom, values of fairness, and values of responsibility.
I want us to build an economy that rewards work. I want us to build a society with stronger families and stronger communities. And I want a political system that people can trust and look up to once again.
This is going to be hard and difficult work. A coalition will throw up all sorts of challenges.
But I believe together we can provide that strong and stable government that our country needs based on those values – rebuilding family, rebuilding community, above all, rebuilding responsibility in our country.
Those are the things I care about. Those are the things that this government will now start work on doing.
Thank you very much.
But as the day unfolded, a string of senior Labour figures emerged to denounce the idea of a ‘coalition of losers’ as desperate and counterproductive.
There was mounting fury on the Labour benches at the plot that had been cooked up by three unelected figures – Lord Mandelson, Mr Campbell and Lord Adonis, a defector from the Lib Dems to Labour.
Several senior Labour MPs said they suspected the Business Secretary had authorised discussions with the Lib Dems ahead of polling day and without Mr Brown’s knowledge.
Health Secretary Andy Burnham – tipped as a dark horse contender in the forthcoming Labour leadership contest – broke ranks to publicly oppose a Lib-Lab coalition.
‘I think we have got to respect the results of the General Election and we can’t get away from the fact that Labour didn’t win,’ he said.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne are all also understood to have spoken out against the plan in a stormy meeting of the Cabinet.
Mr Straw told friends that most of the Cabinet was ‘utterly bewildered’ that Mr Brown had ever been persuaded to try to keep the party in government, despite it worst election defeat since 1983.
Former Labour home secretary David Blunkett accused the Lib Dems of acting like ‘every harlot in history’ and warned that a ‘coalition of the defeated’ would spell electoral disaster for Labour.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls, who also hopes to replace Mr Brown as Labour leader, is being accused by Lord Mandelson of deliberately scuppering the talks with the Lib Dems, according to party sources.
The notoriously aggressive Mr Balls is said to have told his Lib Dem counterparts he was determined to ‘defend’ the entirety of the Labour manifesto.
Climate Secretary Ed Miliband, who is also expected to enter the leadership race alongside his brother, David, favourite to succeed Mr Brown, was also said to have adopted a ‘half-hearted’ approach to the talks.
The Lib Dems said several ministers had openly undermined Mr Brown’s claim that he could deliver immediate reform of the electoral system, without holding a referendum first.
Mr Blair last night hailed his successor’s ‘extraordinary service to social justice’. And Labour’s former deputy prime minister John Prescott claimed Mr Brown had been ‘hounded out’ having ‘nearly won a fourth term’.
Mr Clegg, who found himself in the role of ‘kingmaker’ despite losing seats at last Thursday’s election, is facing a battle to take his party with him into coalition with the Conservatives.
The majority of his MPs and activists are left-leaning and see Labour as their natural political bedfellows.
Last night, Mr Clegg was locked in talks with his Parliamentary party and ruling body seeking final approval for the coalition deal.
The Lib Dem leader is likely to face pressure from the grassroots to convene an emergency conference of members to back the power-sharing pact.
In a sign of the mutual mistrust that will mark the new coalition administration, former Tory foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind hit out at Mr Clegg for ‘two-timing’ the Conservative party, and said he was ‘saddened, depressed and very angry’ that he had conducted secret talks with Labour.
The maths that add up to instability
The Tory-Lib Dem Government could still be scuppered if David Cameron tries to get contentious issues through the Commons.
Controversial measures could be held to ransom by those on the left of the Lib Dem party, and by the dozens of backbench Tories who veer strongly to the right.
This will make stable government and policy compromises difficult.
The parliamentary arithmetic works like this.
Following the election, the Tories came out with 306 seats – 20 short of an overall majority.
With the Lib Dems 57 seats, this adds up to a majority of 38.
If the Democratic Unionists also come on board – a distinct possibility – this would become a majority of 46.
In reality the majority will be higher, as Sinn Feins five MPs do not sit at Westminster, and Speaker John Bercow does not vote.
The problems will be amplified in a coalition. The Cameron-Clegg tally is higher than the 21-seat majority won by John Major in 1992.
By-elections eventually whittled down the majority, and nine backbenchers resigned the Tory whip over Europe.
By the end of his time in office, Mr Major was leading a minority government – albeit propped up by the Ulster Unionists.
In 2005, Tony Blair achieved a 66-seat majority. But backbench rebels caused problems after Gordon Brown took over two years later.
He was forced to water down proposals to detain terrorist suspects without trial, and to make concessions on his 10p tax rate policy.
If today’s coalition falls apart, Mr Cameron could be forced to limp on with a minority government, or call a fresh election.
By this time, Labour may have elected a leader more likely than Mr Brown to achieve victory.