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PM Cameron Ends 13 Years of Labour Rule; First Coalition Government in 70 Years

Tuesday, May 11th 2010 - 21:48 UTC
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Difficult decisions ahead says Cameron in his first speech on the steps of Downing Street Difficult decisions ahead says Cameron in his first speech on the steps of Downing Street

Conservative leader David Cameron became on Tuesday the new UK prime minister after the resignation of Gordon Brown. Mr Cameron, 43, entered 10 Downing Street after travelling to Buckingham Palace to formally accept the Queen's request to form the next government.

He said he aimed to form a “proper and full coalition” with the Lib Dems to provide “strong, stable government”. His party won the most seats in the general election last week, but not an overall majority.

In a speech outside his new Downing Street home, David Cameron said he and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg would “put aside party differences and work hard for the common good and the national interest.” He paid tribute to outgoing Prime Minister Gordon Brown for his long years of public service and pledged to tackle Britain's “pressing problems”—the deficit, social problems and to “rebuild trust in our political system”.

Mr. Cameron's arrival in Downing Street marks the end of 13 years of Labour rule and sees the first coalition government in the UK in 70 years. It is also the first Liberal Democrat and Conservative power-sharing deal at Westminster in history. Mr. Cameron is the youngest prime minister since 1812—six months younger than Tony Blair when he entered Downing Street in 1997—and the first Old Etonian to hold the office since the early 1960s.

US President Barack Obama was the first foreign leader to congratulate Mr. Cameron in a brief telephone call.

Mr. Cameron has begun the work of appointing his first cabinet—with George Osborne confirmed as Chancellor and William Hague as Foreign Secretary. There are expected to be top jobs for Lib Dems in the new coalition, with speculation that their party leader, Nick Clegg, will be the Deputy Prime Minister.

In his speech on the steps of Downing Street, Mr. Cameron eschewed the high flown rhetoric or even poetry favoured by some of his predecessors. Instead he stressed there would be “difficult decisions” but said he wanted to take people through them to reach “better times ahead”.

He said he aimed to “help build a more responsible society here in Britain [...] Those who can, should and those who can't, we will always help. I want to make sure that my government always looks after the elderly, the frail, and the poorest in our country. We must take everyone through with us on some of the difficult decisions we have ahead. I came into politics because I love this country, I think it's best days still lie ahead and I believe deeply in public service.”

“I think the service our country needs right now is to face up to our big challenges, to confront our problems, take difficult decisions, lead people through those decisions, so that together we can reach better times ahead.”

The Conservatives have been in days of negotiations with the Lib Dems—who were also negotiating with Labour—after the UK election resulted in a hung parliament. Mr. Clegg must get the support of a majority of his MPs and his party's ruling body, the federal executive, before he can enter into a coalition.

Earlier, the Lib Dems said talks with Labour had failed because “the Labour Party never took seriously the prospects of forming a progressive, reforming government.” A spokesman said key members of the Labour team “gave every impression of wanting the process to fail” and the party had made “no attempt at all” to agree a common approach on issues like schools funding and tax reform.

“Certain key Labour cabinet ministers were determined to undermine any agreement by holding out on policy issues and suggesting that Labour would not deliver on proportional representation and might not marshal the votes to secure even the most modest form of electoral reform,” he said.

However, Labour's Lord Mandelson told the BBC they had been “up for” a deal, but the Lib Dems had “created so many barriers and obstacles that perhaps they thought their interests lay on the Tory side, on the Conservative side, rather than the progressive side.”

After it became clear the talks had failed, Mr. Brown tendered his resignation and said he wished the next prime minister well. In an emotional resignation statement in Downing Street, Mr. Brown thanked his staff, his wife Sarah and their children, who joined the couple as they left for Buckingham Palace.

Mr. Brown said it had been “a privilege to serve” adding: “I loved the job 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 and more just, truly a greater Britain.”

He also paid tribute to the courage of the armed forces, adding: “I will never forget all those who have died in honour and whose families today live in grief.” Later, he thanked Labour activists and MPs for all their efforts and told them Labour's general election performance was “my fault, and my fault alone.”

The Lib Dem and Conservative teams met for hours of negotiations at the Cabinet Office on Tuesday—four days after the UK general election resulted in a hung parliament. The talks resumed after Lib Dem negotiators met a Labour team, which followed Mr. Brown's announcement on Monday that he would step down as Labour leader by September. But there were signs throughout the afternoon that the two parties—who together would still not command an overall majority in the House of Commons—would not reach a deal.

Education and career

David Cameron was born in 1966 and educated at Eton College before studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, gaining a first class honors degree. Before becoming an MP for Witney since 2001, Mr. Cameron worked in business and government. He worked as a Special Adviser first to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and then to the Home Secretary. Afterwards he spent seven years at UK media company, Carlton Communications, and served on the management Board. David Cameron was elected Leader of the Conservative Party in December 2005.

Categories: Politics, International.

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