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Britain's New Coalition Government Gets to Work

Sonja Pace | London 12 May 2010

Britain has a new coalition government with Conservative Party leader David Cameron as prime minister and his coalition partner, Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats as deputy. After days of political negotiations, the task of governing begins.

It is not the normal political arrangement in Britain. But an inconclusive election outcome last week led to days of tough negotiations and a coalition government - the first in 65 years.

David Cameron took over the reins of power and set out plans for his new coalition administration.

"It will be an administration united behind three key principles - freedom, fairness and responsibility," said David Cameron. "And it will be an administration united behind one key purpose, and that is to give our country strong and stable, and determined leadership."

It was a triumph for the 43-year-old Mr. Cameron after ousting his main rival, Gordon Brown and his Labor Party. Now, he was speaking at his first joint news conference with his deputy and coalition partner, Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats, who struck a similar tone.

"At a time of such enormous difficulties our country needed a strong and stable government, it needed an ambitious government, determined to work relentlessly for a better future and that is what we have come together in this coalition to provide," said Nick Clegg.

Just a week ago the two men were bitter rivals and their two parties do have major policy differences, but that should not keep them from governing, says political analyst Tony Travers of the London School of Economics.

"There is no reason why it should not work, both parties have a lot invested in it now, they have set up the agreements and they do not want it to be seen to fall to bits," said Tony Travers.

Both parties agree that change is needed, but they have differences on issues, such as taxation, ties to the European Union, defense spending, and electoral reform. But political analyst Mark Wickham-Jones of the University of Bristol predicts success in the short term.

"All these issues suggest, goodness, real tensions here," said Mark Wickham-Jones. "What argues against that is that both sides seem to have shown a real willingness to compromise, a real willingness to negotiate to accept that changes have to be made if this government is going to work."

And Britain's new leaders moved quickly to emphasize that - Mr. Cameron stressing cooperation over differences.

"It can be a historic and seismic shift in our political landscape," he said. "It can demonstrate in government a new progressive partnership."

Clegg was adamant the new five-year coalition arrangement will work.

"We are different parties and we have different ideas," he said "This is a government that will last, despite those differences, because we are united by a common purpose for the job we want to do together in the next five years."

The leaders projected a sense of euphoria at having a government, ministers named, a Cabinet formed. But then, it is on to the difficult task of actually governing.



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