Nick Clegg becomes his deputy in a power-sharing deal
LONDON: Britain's first post-war coalition government, with Conservative leader David Cameron as Prime Minister and his Liberal Democrat counterpart Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister, took office on Wednesday, promising to give the country a “historic new direction” as the sun set on the 13-year Labour rule with Gordon Brown's dramatic resignation on Tuesday.
There was relief in the markets that the political uncertainty, caused by an indecisive verdict in last week's general election, had finally ended.
William Hague, a right-wing Conservative with a hard line on Europe, is the new Foreign Secretary; George Osborne, a close ally of Mr. Cameron, the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and Liberal Democrat Vince Cable, who famously predicted the banking crisis, the Business Secretary.
Mr. Cable is among the five Lib Dem figures who have been given Cabinet posts, causing heartburn among the Conservatives.
The only female member of the Cabinet is Theresa May, a former Conservative party chairperson, who has been appointed Home Secretary.
At 43, Mr. Cameron is the youngest Prime Minister since 1812. His elitist background — having been the son of a stockbroker and educated at Eton and Oxford University — was sought to be made into an election issue by the Labour Party, which argued that he was not in touch with the ordinary people.
Like him, Mr. Clegg, also 43, has a whiff of class baggage. Son of a banker with an aristocratic Russian-German lineage, he was privately educated and then he went to Cambridge. Mr. Clegg, seen on the right of his party, was under pressure from his left-wing colleagues to form a “progressive” alliance with the Labour. But the talks collapsed in the face of opposition from those in the Labour. Calling each other by their first names, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Clegg pledged to usher in “new politics.” “We have a shared agenda and a shared resolve,” Mr. Cameron said. Both parties compromised on their election promises to make the deal possible, with the Conservatives dropping their proposal to raise the threshold of inheritance tax that would have helped mostly wealthy families and agreeing to a referendum on voting reforms — a key Lib Dem demand. Mr. Cameron also agreed to a fixed five-year term for the coalition to allay Lib Dem fears over its stability.
The Lib Dems, on their part, abandoned their plans for amnesty to illegal immigrants and a “mansion tax” on large property.