New British PM defends coalition deal as dissent escalates

14th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's new Prime Minister David Cameron insisted Friday that his Conservatives had a "common agenda" with their coalition partners, as concerns mounted in the premier's own party.

Cameron, installed this week at the head of Britain's first power-sharing government since World War II, insisted the deal with the centrist Liberal Democrat party could work, in comments to the Sun newspaper.

"Of course there will be sceptics and doubters but I believe we can make this work. I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't," he said.

"The doubters won't be proved wrong by words, promises or signed documents but by the actual evidence of a government governing effectively.

"And that's what we're prepared to do."

Referring to a conversation between his Tory-Lib Dem economic team at the first cabinet meeting on Thursday, he said: "It was clear there is a common agenda we want to pursue."

But rumblings of discontent were beginning to surface Thursday among Conservative lawmakers, who until a few months before the election seemed assured of a landslide election win.

Critics have cast doubt on whether a deal could work between the parties, who are divided on a range of issues from Europe to Britain's nuclear deterrent.

"I have severe reservations about how long a coalition with the Lib Dems can last and about the consequences for our party in the long term," said Tory lawmaker Richard Drax, in comments cited in the Independent newspaper.

"This is not what the public voted for."

Another Tory lawmaker, Ian Liddell-Grainger, warned the Liberal Democrats' "awkward squad" could make running the coalition difficult.

"When the going gets tough, I think you will find that a lot of the Liberals will say: 'We don't like this, it's making us unpopular, we don't like being unpopular'."

"You have got to remember, you join the Liberal Democrats not to go into government."

Cameron puts the finishing touches to his line-up Friday, as his Foreign Secretary William Hague makes an early trip to Washington for talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The administration has been quick out of the blocks in its efforts to strengthen its relationship with the United States, often perceived as difficult during Gordon Brown's premiership.

The frenetic pace of the past few days continues, following the deal struck between the Tories and the Lib Dems, which ended five days of post-election deadlock following the inconclusive May 6 general elections.

The Conservatives won the polls but failed to secure enough seats in parliament to govern alone and oust ex-premier Brown's Labour party from power.

Cameron's centre-right group turned to the third-placed Lib Dems and joined the party in a full coalition.

The coalition includes party leader Nick Clegg as deputy premier and at a joint press conference Wednesday, Cameron and the Lib Dem chief appeared to get on so well the press hailed the event a "love-in."

© 2010 AFP

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