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Can Brown's sacrifice save LibLab deal?


Analysis by Ian Kirby, Political Editor

Gordon Brown's decision to throw himself on his sword this afternoon will be seen as an act of self-sacrifice - putting his party ahead of his own ambitions.

Despite scheming to become Prime Minister for the best part of a decade, Gordon Brown always appreciated that the job was bigger than him, and knew several weeks ago he could not hope to stay on as leader of the Labour Party if, as expected, they sustained massive losses.

But today's decision is also a carefully timed act of political calculation. It is becoming increasingly clear that the talks between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are nowhere near to a deal.

And Mr Brown's decision ramps up the pressure on Nick Clegg to walk out of the talks with David Cameron.

His own party members are strongly opposed to him doing a deal with the Conservatives. The prospect of sitting in government with David Miliband, who is most likely to win the Labour leadership contest, is far more attractive to them.

Although it would mean Britain has another unelected Prime Minister.

In his resignation speech, Mr Brown also laid out a promise to give the Lib Dems to give them electoral reform and a major role in government - these are things the Tories are finding hard to swallow.

And it will also give the Labour Party a rapid chance to renew itself. The leadership contenders will spend the summer travelling the country, holding public meetings and debates in front of members, just as the Tories did in 2007.

It means the anonymous briefings and personal attacks will be limited, although it would be impossible for them to disappear entirely.

The timetable for a leadership race, which will last for almost four months, and the offer to the Lib Dems were first revealed in the News of the World at the weekend.

The new leader will not be installed until the start of October, which means it will be very difficult for Peter Mandelson or anyone else to rush through a winner behind closed doors.

Although that timetable is best-suited for the future prospects of the Labour Party, it could prove a barrier to a Lib / Lab pact.

Nick Clegg will not know who he is going to be working with - it could even be Harriet Harman - so he may choose to stick with what he knows in David Cameron.

Whatever happens in October, it is clear that we are set for even more high drama over the next 72 hours.



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