On the fifth day after the election, Conservative Party leader David Cameron ran out of patience. "So, it is now, I believe, decision time," he told reporters waiting outside his home on Tuesday morning. The Liberal Democrats, he made clear, must indicate which direction they were leaning. But on Tuesday, the Lib Dems had an appointment with Labour.
Cameron wasn't the only one whose nerves were frayed by the first coalition negotiations in Great Britain since World War II. Stock traders in the City found the waiting interminable, as did the media. How long would it take the three parties to come up with a government?
In the end, though, everything went quickly. On Tuesday evening at 7:18 p.m. local time, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah went before the cameras at 10 Downing Street and announced his resignation. Earlier in the day, it had become clear that Labour talks with the Lib Dems were going nowhere. The last possibility for Brown to stay in power had thus vanished.
His voice cracking, Brown thanked his wife Sarah and their two children John and Fraser, saying now that he was giving up "the second most important job I could ever hold," he had more time to devote to the most important -- that of being a husband and father. He said he was proud of the fact that Britain, under 13 years of Labour rule, had become "fairer, more tolerant, more green, more democratic, more prosperous, more just." Brown, whose relationship with the country's military has not always been the best, also paid tribute to the British armed forces.
It was a conciliatory departure following three difficult years at Downing Street. "Thank you and goodbye," he said at the end of his short speech, before being applauded by the gathered reporters, most of whom had sharply criticized Brown during his term in office.
The four Browns then walked hand-in-hand to a waiting Jaguar, which brought them to Buckingham Palace so that the outgoing prime minister could formally present his resignation to the queen.
Not long afterwards, his successor likewise made his way to the palace where the queen asked him to form a new government. The last round of talks between the Tories and the Lib Dems had taken five and a half hours; at the end, Britain had its first coalition government in 70 years. Together with his pregnant wife Samantha, Cameron then went directly to 10 Downing Street.
Cameron said that he and Nick Clegg, the head of the Liberal Democrats, had agreed to set aside the two parties' differences and address the "difficult decisions" that lie ahead. Britain's new prime minister did not immediately offer details of the coalition agreement between the two parties.
Later in the evening, the queen granted her approval to the naming of Clegg as deputy prime minister. Conservative Party member George Osborne is to become finance minister with the task of bringing Britain's hopelessly imbalanced budget under control. The former Tory head and well-known euroskeptic William Hague will take over as foreign secretary and Liam Fox will take charge of defense. The Lib Dems are likely to receive four cabinet positions.
At 43, Cameron is Britain's youngest prime minister in 198 years, the 12th to take the government's helm under Queen Elizabeth II. The first was Winston Churchill.