Toodles, Gordon: UK's Brown to Step Down in September

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered to resign as the head of the Labour Party today, sweetening Labour's offer to the Liberal Democrats of a forging a "progressive coalition." Both Labour and the Tories are courting the third-party kingmakers, since none of the top three parties earned enough votes in last week's elections to govern on its own.

In his speech, Brown said he decided to resign in the interest of "stable and principled government," which he believes can be best furthered by a Lib-Lab marriage. "The reason that we have a hung parliament is that no single party and no single leader was able to win the full support of the country. As leader of my party, I must accept that that is a judgment on me," he said, adding that he will play no role in selecting the party's next leader. Brown wants out by September, in time for the Labour party conference. Full text of his statement is here.

Brown's announcement throws the ball back to Nick Clegg, who heads up the Lib Dems. The FT's Gideon Rachman breaks down the options now open to him:

Labour seem to be offering the Lib Dems a much better deal than is on offer from the Tories, in two crucial respects. First, they will offer the real possibility of electoral reform and a move to a system based on proportional representation - this is the Holy Grail for the Lib Dems. Second, the Lib Dems would definitely get seats in the cabinet. That must look very tempting.

Clegg and his cohorts are now opening formal talks with Labour. But, of course, that could just be a gambit to try to force a better offer out of the Tories. David Cameron must have been visualising himself in Downing Street within days. Now he has to face the prospect that it might never happen.

All eyes are now on Cameron. To win Clegg back, Cameron might be pressured to up his offer to the Lib Dems. But hardliners in his party might block any such moves, banking that any Lib-Lab union will be painful and short-lived. The BBC's Nick Robinson is one such skeptic of Lib-Lab political bliss:

I foresee three problems for the Lib Dems. One, form a coalition with Labour and you still get Gordon Brown, albeit temporarily. Two, after that you get an unelected prime minister, which the public may not like. And three, critics will inevitably call this "a losers' coalition.

Still, Rachman, for one, is putting his money on a Lib-Lab government, with David Miliband as prime minister. The row of pundits over at the Guardian seem to be leaning that way, too.

Stateside, the analysis is more detached. Folks over at The Nation are simply gloating that not one, but two likely UK leaders have done intern time at their publication:

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