BBC News: Election 2010 BBC News

Page last updated at 18:18 GMT, Wednesday, 12 May 2010 19:18 UK

David Cameron and Nick Clegg pledge 'united' coalition

Cameron: "We can act for the long term and make big decisions for the future"

New Prime Minister David Cameron has said his "historic" Conservative-led coalition government will be united and provide "strong and stable" leadership.

In a good-humoured press conference with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who is now deputy PM, he said they would "take Britain in a historic new direction".

Their agenda was to cut the deficit, support troops, clean up politics and build a "stronger society".

Mr Clegg acknowledged "big risks" but pledged a "bold, reforming government".

He is among five Liberal Democrats appointed to Cabinet posts, something Mr Cameron said showed "the strength and depth of the coalition and our sincere determination to work together constructively".

The coalition is the first time the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have had a power-sharing deal at Westminster and the first coalition in the UK since the Second World War.

Youngest PM

Mr Cameron's arrival in Downing Street marks the end of 13 years of Labour rule. The Conservative leader, who is six months younger than Tony Blair was when he won power in 1997, is the youngest prime minister since 1812 and the first Old Etonian to hold the office since the early 1960s.

The Conservatives won the most seats in last week's general election, but not enough to secure an overall Commons majority, resulting in a hung Parliament.

PM: David Cameron
Deputy PM: Nick Clegg
Foreign Sec: William Hague
Chancellor: George Osborne
Business/banking: Vince Cable
Defence: Liam Fox
Health: Andrew Lansley
Energy/Climate: Chris Huhne
Justice Sec: Ken Clarke
Chief Sec to Treasury: David Laws
Scottish Sec: Danny Alexander
Communities Sec: Eric Pickles
Culture/Olympics: Jeremy Hunt
Work and Pensions: Iain Duncan Smith

After days of talks with the Lib Dems - the UK's third biggest party - a deal was reached on Tuesday that resulted in Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown resigning.

In a joint press conference in the Downing Street garden, Mr Cameron said the coalition government could mark a "historic and seismic shift" in British politics.

He said they had discussed having a minority Conservative government, supported by the Lib Dems on key votes but had concluded that was "uninspiring".

Instead the two parties had decided to go for a full coalition to be "an administration united behind three key principles - freedom, fairness and responsibility.

"And it will be an administration united behind one key purpose and that is to give our country the strong and stable and determined leadership that we need for the long-term."

He said the government would "take Britain in a historic new direction, a direction of hope and unity, conviction and common purpose".

'Great uncertainty'

Rising unemployment figures were another sign "of the economic mistakes of the past decade" and said no government in modern times had been left with "such a terrible economic inheritance".

Mr Clegg admitted both party leaders were taking "big risks" but said it would be a "new politics": "It's a new kind of government, a radical, reforming government where it needs to be and a source of reassurance and stability at a time of great uncertainty in our country too."

David and Samantha Cameron at No 10

Both laughed off differences between the parties and animosity in the past - Mr Cameron apologising after a past description of Mr Clegg as a joke was brought up by a reporter.

He said they wanted to make it work adding: "If it means swallowing some humble pie, and it means eating some of your words, I can't think of a more excellent diet."

Mr Cameron has now completed appointing his first cabinet, with Lib Dem Vince Cable becoming Business Secretary, George Osborne Chancellor, William Hague Foreign Secretary and Theresa May Home Secretary.

Other appointments include Ken Clarke as Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Liam Fox as Defence Secretary and Andrew Lansley as Health Secretary.

Mr Clegg's chief of staff, Danny Alexander, who was part of the party's negotiating team, is to be Scottish Secretary. Lib Dem David Laws will be Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

There are expected to be about 20 Lib Dems - more than a third of their MPs - in government jobs in total.

Meanwhile, details of the policy agreement between the parties have been published, including:

  • Trident: Lib Dems will drop opposition to replacing nuclear missile system but will be able to "make the case for alternatives" and funding will be scrutinised
  • Heathrow: Plans for third runway, opposed by both parties, will be scrapped
  • Nuclear: Lib Dem spokesman will be able to speak in opposition to new power stations - and Lib Dem MPs will abstain from vote
  • Higher education funding: Lib Dems allowed to abstain on votes - reflecting party's promise to abolish tuition fees in the long term
  • Spending cuts: Tory plans for £6bn cuts this financial year will go ahead
  • Tax: Tories sign up to Lib Dem plan to raise income tax threshold to £10,000 in the long term, which will "take priority" over Conservative inheritance tax cuts .
  • There will also be a "substantial increase" in personal tax allowances for lower and middle-income people from April 2011 - rather than the Conservative plan to raise employees' NI thresholds
  • But a plan to raise NI thresholds for employers will go ahead
  • Voting system: Bill will be brought forward for referendum on changing to AV but parties will be able to campaign on opposite sides of argument
  • Marriage/civil partnership tax breaks: Lib Dems will be allowed to abstain from votes
  • Europe: Both sides agreed there would be no transfer of powers to the EU over the course of the Parliament and Britain would not join the Euro during that period
  • Immigration cap: Lib Dems accept Tory plan for limit on non-EU economic migrants
  • House of Lords: Both parties to back plans for wholly/mainly elected chamber elected by proportional representation. MPs will not be able to throw out the government unless 55% vote to do so - a higher threshold than currently
  • 'Pupil premium': More funding for poorer children from outside schools budget, as demanded by Lib Dems

The Lib Dem parliamentary party and its federal executive endorsed the coalition agreement by the required three-quarters majority shortly after midnight.

Mr Clegg acknowledged some Lib Dem voters would have doubts but told them: "I wouldn't have entered into this agreement unless I was genuinely convinced that it offers a unique opportunity to deliver the kind of changes you and I believe in."

Gordon Brown

Mr Hague told BBC Radio 4's Today programme a five-year fixed-term parliament had been introduced to help guarantee stability.

The only way to remove a government before the five years was up would be in a vote of confidence backed by 55% of MPs. Current rules are that the votes of 50% of MPs, plus one, can remove a government. The Conservatives currently have 47% of MPs.

US President Barack Obama was the first foreign leader to congratulate Mr Cameron in a brief telephone call. Others include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian PM Manmohan Singh, Australian PM Kevin Rudd, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao.

After it became clear Labour could not reach an agreement with the Lib Dems that would have allowed them to remain in power, Mr Brown tendered his resignation, saying it had been a privilege to serve "this country I love".

He stepped down as Labour leader with immediate effect - deputy leader Harriet Harman will take over until a leadership contest is held.

Former home secretary Alan Johnson has already ruled himself out in favour of former foreign secretary David Miliband, who has announced he will be a leadership candidate.

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