SOUTHAMPTON MP John Denham is today poised to help the Prime Minister in vital talks should a Tory and Lib Dem deal to run the country collapse.
Speaking to the Daily Echo last night Itchen’s Labour MP told how he had been in conversation with Gordon Brown over the weekend as the drama in Whitehall continued. The Communities Secretary, who was narrowly re-elected with a majority of just 192 votes after a tense recount in last week’s General Election, said he hoped to be involved in his party’s negotiations with kingmaker and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg.
Mr Denham, who has spent the weekend with his family in Southampton, told how he had been kept abreast of developments by the PM, who called him on Friday and again last night. He told the Daily Echo: “The truth is it has been quiet on the Labour side over the weekend. We have recognised that given the outcome of the election, the first conversation had to take place between the Tories and Lib Dems.
“Until we know where those talks have got to or the Lib Dems say they want to come to us, there is not going to be very much happening.
Obviously there have been some regular phone calls between the PM and members of the Cabinet, updating us on what is going on. But the main news was that not a lot has been going on.
“I spoke to the Prime Minister on Friday afternoon and also about half an hour ago. His general approach is that there is not a great deal that we can be doing or saying at this stage. We are constitutionally in place as ministers until the outcome is determined.
“He was ringing to say that things have not gone beyond that.”
Asked whether he hoped to be part of any negotiating team should talks between Conservatives and Lib Dems break down, he added: “I don’t want to overstate my role but I am quite sure that I am one of those that will be consulted.
“I have always been a champion of electoral reform.
“But as you would imagine, most of the negotiations will be conducted on our behalf by the Prime Minister and his most senior ministers.”
Meanwhile, speculation was mounting last night that a Hampshire MP may be handed a high profile cabinet role if the Tories managed to strike a deal to form a new government with their rival Lib Dems.
Reports over the weekend suggested Eastleigh’s re-elected MP Chris Huhne may be offered the position of Transport Secretary or even Home Secretary if the two parties settle over a power-sharing agreement.
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The Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, who increased his majority last Thursday, was a key part of behind the scenes negotiations in London throughout the weekend.
But with crunch talks continuing last night, he was unavailable to clarify whether he had been involved in discussions over the potential he could fill such a senior role.
The rumours started when Mr Huhne’s party leader Nick Clegg entered in to talks with Tory counterpart David Cameron after last week’s General Election resulted in a hung parliament.
It was widely reported yesterday that negotiations included drafting three senior Liberal Democrats into a Conservative Cabinet, with jobs including Home Secretary, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Transport Minister.
Talks were due to have recommenced this morning.
Meanwhile, Tory Desmond Swayne, a close aide of Cameron, last night said he had been summoned to a meeting of Conservative MPs in London this evening.
The New Forest West MP, who had spent the weekend at a shooting range with the Territorial Army, said he had not been involved in negotiations so far and had not spoken to his leader since the talks began.
The horse trading was set in motion by an election which produced the UK’s first hung Parliament since 1974. The Tories secured 307 MPs, 19 short of the threshold for an outright majority. Labour were on 258 and Liberal Democrats on 57.
The result thrust Mr Clegg into the role of kingmaker and he put the ball firmly in Mr Cameron’s court by declaring that, as the party with most seats and votes, the Conservatives had the “first right” to seek to form a government.