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Britain's New Leaders Say National Interest Eclipses Politics

Tom Rivers | London 12 May 2010

During their first news conference, Britain's new leaders, Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, pledged to work together to solve the formidable challenges facing the country.

The setting for the first post-election Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government news conference was the garden at 10 Downing Street. Rarely are such events held there, but the times are very different and the problems facing Britain are enormous.

The Conservatives needed the Liberal Democrats to join in a coalition to garner a parliamentary majority and it has taken five days of intense discussions between the two camps to reach this governing agreement.

It also represents the first time since the end of World War II that the Liberal Democrats will be playing an active role in a government of the day. Five of its members will be in the Conservative-led government. That represents roughly a quarter of the Cabinet minister positions.

With his deputy Nick Clegg by his side, Prime Minister David Cameron stated the problems facing Britain, such as its massive debt, are huge and he underscored the need for this unique center-right and center-left coalition not to fail.

"We understand that we are not going to beat these problems overnight and in particular no government in modern times has ever been left with such a terrible economic inheritance. So we know there will be difficult decisions ahead, but working together I know we can take the country through those difficult times to the better times that I believe lie ahead," he said.

The partnership, Mr. Cameron said, represents a new form of politics where the national interest is more important than the interest of individual political parties. The hope of the participants is that this government will last for a full term. Clegg said a long period of governance is essential for the strength and stability of the country.

"This is government that will last. Not because of a list of policies, important though they are, not because it will be easy, there will be bumps and scrapes along the way," said Clegg. "We are different parties and we have different ideas. 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," he added.

Asked just how the different parties can stick together in the government, Prime Minister Cameron put it this way:

"This will succeed through its success. If we can demonstrate that this is a good government, a long-term government, taking difficult decisions in the national interest, that we are working well together, that it has this common purpose that Nick has spoken about, if it does that then people as you are right in saying that, people - whatever wing of whatever party - will see a good government will respect that," said Cameron.

But the honeymoon period for the new government may be short, and the country will be watching for that first difference of opinion between the two governing parties and just how that will be managed.



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