Coalition to go the distance, Cameron and Clegg insist

 

David Cameron: "It's not a marriage. It does what it says on the tin"

David Cameron and Nick Clegg have said their coalition will last a full five years, giving Britain "strong, stable and determined leadership".

Mr Cameron promised help on childcare costs, care costs for the elderly and investment in roads as they marked the halfway point of their government.

The PM and deputy PM described their agreement as a "Ronseal deal" which "does what it says on the tin".

Ed Miliband accused the government of making "empty promises".

Nick Clegg said the coalition had brought about "big, bold reforms" that would stand the test of time.

Before the Budget

Described by Downing Street as a "stock take", the 46-page Mid-Term Review lists what the government says it has achieved in meeting its coalition agreement and outlines further reforms to come.

The full document was presented to the cabinet for the first time on Monday morning.

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The coalition was, the official line goes, always a business partnership forced on both sides by events. ”

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During a joint press conference with his deputy, Mr Cameron said: "Some people thought our coalition wouldn't make it through our first Christmas, but this government is now well into its third year, because this coalition was not and is not some short-term arrangement."

Asked if their coalition was like a marriage, Mr Cameron said: "To me it's not a marriage, it's a Ronseal deal, it does what it says on the tin - we said we would come together, we said we would form a government, we said we would tackle these problems, we said we would get on with it in a mature and sensible way, and that is exactly what we've done."

Mr Clegg added: "Ronseal deal, you could call it the unvarnished truth."

A number of future plans which had been expected to be included in the Mid-Term Review document after being trailed in the media, are mentioned only briefly in the foreword.

But Mr Cameron said that before the Budget in March the government would set out details, including:

  • New investment to help working families cut the cost of childcare.
  • More help for families who cannot raise a deposit for a mortgage.
  • Measures to limit state powers and extend personal freedoms.
  • "Big new steps" on issues including pensions and "capping the potentially huge cost" of social care.
  • Consulting on how to get private investment into motorways and trunk roads.
  • Extending the HS2 high-speed rail line from Birmingham to the north of England.

He promised the coalition would continue to go "full steam ahead" in reforming the economy and tackling the deficit.

Mr Clegg said it was right that the coalition parties had set aside their differences in the national interest and insisted the government was making the right reforms to help the economy continue to heal.

'Full tank'

"We are dealing with the deficit, rebuilding the economy, reforming welfare and education and supporting hard-working families through tough times. And on all of these key aims, our parties, after 32 months of coalition, remain steadfast and united," Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg write in a joint foreword to the review.

"Of course there have been some issues on which we have not seen eye to eye, and no doubt there will be more. That is the nature of coalition.

Analysis

Each standing in front of a lectern sporting the slogan "Coalition Government: Mid Term Review," David Cameron and Nick Clegg published their 46 page document.

It amounts to the Westminster equivalent of a domestic 'to do' list: some items ticked off, others not.

The half time score card is actually longer than the Coalition Agreement itself.

It trots through the staples of government: the economy, schools, the NHS, defence, etc.

But there is very, very, little detail.

Those in Downing Street had emphasised in advance that today wasn't meant to be about the nuts and bolts of specific policy detail, but instead about illustrating drive and direction.

The challenge now will be translating that rhetoric into policies both Conservative and Liberal Democrat backbenchers can support.

"But on the things that matter most - the big structural reforms needed to secure our country's long-term future - our resolve and sense of shared purpose have, if anything, grown over time.

"Our mission is clear: to get Britain living within its means and earning its way in the world once again."

Mr Cameron highlighted education reform, the changes to university funding, transport modernisation, public sector pensions and banking regulation as examples of the coalition's achievements.

The deputy prime minister championed changes to the tax allowance, closing tax loopholes and the pupil premium, which provides additional money for the poorest children.

In the review's foreword they add: "Two-and-a-half years ago, our parties came together in the national interest and formed a coalition at a time of real economic danger.

"This government's most urgent job was to restore stability in our public finances and confidence in the British economy. In just two years we have cut the deficit by a quarter and have set out a credible path towards our goal to balance the current budget over the economic cycle."

But the Labour leader attacked the government's economic record, adding that the review had "no real substance and no real detail".

"All the promises they made to us about what they would achieve about economic growth haven't come true. They are struggling to reduce the deficit this year, the central promise that they made to the country," Mr Miliband said.

The SNP's Angus Robertson said: "Since David Cameron and Nick Clegg's infamous rose garden media appearance, the Westminster government's promises on issue after issue lie in tatters.

"Pledges on meeting borrowing reduction targets, on reversing years of decline to Scotland's defence footprint and on reforming the House of Lords - to name but a few - have all been abandoned."

Ed Miliband says the coalition's plans have "no real substance and no real detail"

John Cridland, director general of the Confederation for British Industry, said: "The coalition deserves high marks for its commitment to tackle the deficit and its plan for growth.

"But... growth-boosting measures like house, road and rail building are getting too bogged down in the planning and procurement process. We don't need a flurry of new announcements, but we do need to see the coalition's ideas translated into action now."

Unlock Democracy, which campaigns for democratic reform, criticised the government's record on political reform and said the review did little to take forward earlier commitments on regulating lobbyists, recalling MPs and reforming the funding of political parties.

"Overall, this is a far cry from Nick Clegg's early promise of the 'biggest shake-up of our democracy' since 1832," the group said.

On plans to increase private investment in roads, the Campaign for Better Transport - which supports sustainable transport - said the lack of detail on the plans showed the policy was "unworkable".

 

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  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 1372.

    I once believed the lie that we have the best democratic system of government in the world. It has become apparent that whichever political party is in power they are only remembered for their ineptitude, the Coalition will be no different. Party Politics has been the downfall of this nation, the system is bankrupt and the political class has no credibility. When will we say enough is enough?

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 1359.

    As much as I consider myself a fan of Labour, a coalition seems to be a practical way of dealing with addressing peoples different needs. Dare I say it, but the libdems are learning to stand their ground on social matters, while the torys are doing their best to fix the economy. There are no ideals in this tough climate, but I'd rather we had a balanced coalition than an unfocused majority party.

  • rate this
    +79

    Comment number 716.

    Surely the very fact they made this announcement is because they are, and are perceived to be, an unsteady and disunited coalition. They might have done better not to mention it at all. The coalition will certainly not survive the next election, when the Libdems are going to enter political obscurity.

  • rate this
    -29

    Comment number 700.

    I actually think that the coelition is the right thing for UK plc right now and anticipate one after the next election.

    Having the right and left debate in public is good for us all - sure that they'll never please everybody all the time.

    This is far better than a single party riding roughshod over the electorate which we've had for the previous 31 years

  • rate this
    +88

    Comment number 420.

    Don't they realise that this kind of self aggrandising PR stuff is exactly what puts the electorate off politicians. Would be better if they just came out and told us by when they think they will have really made a difference and how we, the electorate will be able to tell.

 

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