UK coalition pledges to cut deficit
The British prime minister David Cameron and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg pledged today to continue the coalition government’s programme of deficit reduction.
The Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders appeared together to launch a mid-term review setting out the coalition’s achievements so far and its plans for the remainder of this parliament.
Mr Cameron insisted the coalition had confounded expectations that it would not last.
“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,” he said.
“It is a serious five-year commitment to give our country strong, stable and determined leadership that we need for the long term.
“At the heart of that commitment is one simple fact — Britain is in a global race, and that means an hour of reckoning for countries like ours. Some countries will sink, others will swim.
“For Britain to be a success, we need to take the tough decisions that will enable us to compete and thrive. We need to fix the nation’s finances by dealing
with our debts. We need to rebalance and rebuild our economy and we need to back the aspiration of families and businesses that want to get on and do the right thing.
“The challenges are great and there is still a long way to go, but we are on the right track and we are making progress.”
Mr Clegg said that the “big purpose” of the coalition remained the building of “a stronger economy in a fairer society”.
He contrasted the willingness of the two parties to work together with the political divisions in the United States and parts of Europe.
“It is a source of immense pride to me — and I think everybody in the coalition — that we, by contrast, have put partisan differences aside to act in the national interest and have acted fast and have acted boldly to deal with the economic challenges that this country faces,” he said.
He said they had already delivered “big, bold, long-lasting reforms” that would stand the test of time and that it was the willingness to act in the long-term interests of the country which underpinned policy initiatives for the second half of the parliament.
He acknowledged that the Lib Dems had had to endure criticism from across the political spectrum for its role in the coalition.
“Pretty well from day one there were voices on the right saying the Liberal Democrats were too strong in the Government and voices on the left saying that the Liberal Democrats were too weak in the Government,” he said.
“I have always thought that if both sides make diametrically opposed criticisms you have probably got it about right.”
Two and a half years on from the famous press conference in the Rose Garden of 10 Downing Street which marked the formation of the coalition, the pair made a rare joint appearance before the media to unveil what was billed as a “stock-take” of the government’s progress.
The 46-page document, entitled The Coalition: Together In The National Interest, lists actions from reducing the budget deficit to introducing reforms to the public services.
It sets out plans — many of them previously announced — for further action in the period to the general election scheduled for May 2015.
Insisting that their actions to reduce the level of public borrowing were “necessary and right”, they committed to continuing to “pursue our deficit reduction plan while protecting vulnerable groups and key long-term investments”.
They confirmed that detailed plans will be published before the summer for public spending for the 2015/16 fiscal year, which are expected to extend the age of austerity beyond the general election and effectively commit Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to a degree of shared economic policy after 2015.