Dawn of new political era
PUBLISHED: 11:18 12 May 2010 | UPDATED: 09:41 01 August 2010
BRITAIN'S new prime minister David Cameron arrived in Downing Street last night pledging to build a strong stable and responsible coalition government with the Liberal Democrats and to lead the country to "better times ahead".
BRITAIN'S new prime minister David Cameron arrived in Downing Street last night pledging to build a strong stable and responsible coalition government with the Liberal Democrats and to lead the country to “better times ahead”.
Mr Cameron will appoint the members of Britain's first coalition cabinet since the end of the second world war after agreeing a radical and comprehensive policy programme with the Liberal Democrats
Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, will be deputy prime minister, and the cabinet is expected to include up to five members of his party. There was speculation last night that as chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne will have Vince Cable, the Lib Dem deputy leader, as his number two minister at the treasury and that another Lib Dem frontbencher David Laws will be education secretary. William Hague will be foreign secretary.
Liam Fox became defence secretary, despite a rumour that the post had been give to former Lib Dem leader Lord (Paddy) Ashdown. There would be one Lib Dem minister in every department, it was also said.
The coalition agreement, which will surprise and challenge many members of Mr Cameron's party, is built on a commitment to work together for at least four years. This is designed to stop either of the parties pulling the rug quickly on the other when the going gets rough. It embraces a long-term commitment to reduce Britain's fiscal deficit, and there is also an undertaking to have a referendum on moving from the first-past-the-post electoral system to the Alternative Vote method. It further includes a commitment to fixed-term parliaments.
It was rumoured that Mr Cameron has given ground to the Lib Dems on some key aspects of economic policy. The Tory plan to extend the inheritance tax threshold to £1m was said to have been put on hold, and it was suggested that the new government will move towards the Lib Dem plan to exclude earnings of under £10,000 a year from income tax. The increase in national insurance next year proposed by the last government will be partially blocked, and cuts of £6bn in public spending this year wanted by the Conservatives have also been agreed.
The Lib Dem policy of an amnesty for illegal immigrants has been dropped, and the Tory one of an immigration cap stays. The agreement stipulates that Britain will not join the euro, and that Britain's independent nuclear deterrent will be maintained - though the Lib Dems will be able to look at alternatives to Trident. There will be a 'great freedom bill', scrapping plans for ID cards and repealing various Labour laws restricting civil liberties
On entering Downing Street as prime minister at about 8.45pm, the Tory leader immediately said he intended to form a “proper and full” coalition government with the Lib Dems.
Lib Dem MPs later backed the coalition following a meeting.
With his pregnant wife Samantha by his side, Mr Cameron - the youngest person to become prime minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812 - lost no time in stressing that he and his coalition partners “have some deep and pressing problems - a huge deficit, deep social problems, a political system in need of reform.
“For those reasons, I aim to form a proper and full coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. I believe that is the right way to provide this country with the strong, the stable, the good and decent government that I think we need so badly”, he continued. “Nick Clegg and I are both political leaders who want to put aside party differences and work hard for the common good and for the national interest. I believe that is the best way to get the strong government that we need, decisive government that we need today.”
"I came into politics because I love this country, I think its best days still lie ahead and I believe deeply in public service, and I think the service our country needs right now is to face up to our really big challenges, to confront our problems, to take difficult decisions, to lead people through those difficult decisions so that together we can reach better times ahead.”
The new prime minister also spoke of the need to rebuild trust in our political system: “Yes, that's about cleaning up expenses, yes, that's about reforming parliament, and yes, it's about making sure people are in control and that the politicians are always their servants and never their masters.
“But I believe it's also something else - it's about being honest about what government can achieve. Real change is not what government can do on its own, real change is when everyone pulls together, comes together, works together, when we all exercise our responsibilities to ourselves, our families, to our communities and to others.
“And I want to build a more responsible society here in Britain, one where we don't just ask what are my entitlements but what are my responsibilities, one where we don't ask what am I just owed but more what can I give, and a guide for that society that those that can should and those who can't we will always help.”
Gordon Brown's last-ditch attempt to set up an alternative Labour-Lib Dem coalition, and a 'rainbow alliance' to support it in government in the hung parliament, collapsed earlier in the day. That and strong indications that the Tories and Lib Dems would be able to reach agreement finally persuaded him to leave10 Downing Street with immediate effect. And accompanied by his wife Sarah and his sons John and Fraser, he formally took his leave of it at about 7.15pm with a short statement in which he struggled to maintain his composure.
He was driven to Buckingham Palace officially to hand in his resignation to the Queen. And an hour-and-a-half later - but five days after the election - David Cameron finally entered No 10 as prime minister.
Minutes after Mr Brown left Downing Street, talks between Liberal Democrat and Tory negotiators on a future government came to a successful conclusion a few hundred yards away.
In his final statement there he said that “I have been privileged to learn much about the very best in human nature and a fair amount too about its frailties - including my own”.
Mr Brown emphasised that he had “loved the job”, but “not for its prestige, its titles and its ceremony, which I do not love at all”.
“No, I loved the job for its potential to make this country I love fairer, more tolerant, more green, more democratic, more prosperous, more just - truly a greater Britain”, he continued.
He also paid tribute to the armed forces, saying: “Now that the political season is over, let me stress that having shaken their hands and looked into their eyes, our troops represent all that is best in our country and I will never forget all those who have died in honour and whose families today live in grief.'
He paid tribute to his wife's “unwavering support and her love” and to his sons “for the love they bring to our lives”.
Harriet Harman has become the acting leader of the Labour Party following Mr Brown's resignation from that post.