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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-05-07

After wowing voters and the media on the campaign trail, Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats suffered a battering in the polls. But Britain's third party is still king-maker in a hung parliament.

In the end, the pre-election hype came to nothing for Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.

On April 15, the 43-year-old Liberal leader surpassed expectations with his spectacular performance in the country’s first-ever televised debate, prompting analysts and ordinary Britons to speculate about the start of the end of two-party domination in British politics.

But following a lack-lustre performance on Election Night, Clegg conceded that he was disheartened by the official results. "This has obviously been a disappointing night for the Liberal Democrats,” he told party supporters in his home constituency of Sheffield Hallam Friday morning. “We simply haven't achieved what we had hoped.”

Clegg managed to hold on to his seat, winning a comfortable 53.4 percent of the vote in the Sheffield Hallam constituency. In his speech before a cheering home crowd which included his Spanish wife Miriam, Clegg said it was "the greatest privilege" to be voted in once again.

A home victory was a sure win for the charismatic politician who was contesting his first general election as party chief. But on a national level, the official results did not mirror the pre-election opinion polls which, at one point during the campaign, lifted the Liberal Democrats into second place ahead of the ruling Labour Party.

With 615 of the 650 seats confirmed for Thursday’s general election, David Cameron’s Conservatives had secured 290 seats, while the Liberal Democrats grabbed just 51 seats, down from the 57 seats the party had in the sitting House of Commons.

Time for horse-trading and backroom deals

The short-lived “rise” of Britain’s third party is bound to dominate political chatter in the days to come as British politicians prepare for a period of frantic backroom negotiations and horse-trading.

But despite its poor showing the Liberal Democrats remains one of the key king-makers in the new parliament as the Conservatives and Labour must now deal out to smaller parties if they want to form a government.

The two main parties will be assisted by civil servants who have prepared briefing documents outlining key elements of party proposals and their costs.

Speaking to reporters in London Friday, shortly after official results showed a hung parliament, Clegg said he believed the Conservatives should try to form the next government.

"It seems this morning that it is the Conservative party that has more votes and more seats though not an absolute majority and that is why I think it is now for the Conservative party to prove that it is capable of seeking to govern in the national interest," he said.

He added no details on whether his party would join hands with the Conservatives. But expect to hear more on this front in the days to come.

"I don't think anyone should rush into making claims or taking decisions which don't stand the test of time," he said. "I think it would be best if everybody were just to take a little time so that people get the good government that they deserve in these very difficult and uncertain times."

Guarded words from a once highflying candidate, now cut down to size.

Date created : 2010-05-07


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