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Coalition in UK after 65 years

world Updated: May 13, 2010 01:53 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar

Britain's new prime minister David Cameron set about the urgent task of mending the nation's damaged economy on Wednesday, after naming coalition partner Nick Clegg as his deputy in government.

Cameron of the Conservative party and Clegg, who heads the Liberal Democrats, formed Britain's first coalition government since 1945 on Tuesday.

"This is going to be hard and difficult work," said Cameron, at 43 Britain's youngest prime minister since 1812. "A coalition will throw up all sorts of challenges. But I believe together we can provide a strong and stable government."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up Cameron on Wednesday for a 10-minute chat.

A spokesman for the British premier described the talks as "very warm and friendly," underscoring the Conservative leader's election manifesto pledge to "establish a new special relationship with India, the world's largest democracy."

The Conservatives were returned as the largest party in the May 6 election but fell 20 seats short of the 650 needed for majority in parliament.

With the Liberal Democrats returning 52 lawmakers, the coalition has 363 seats.

In addition, Cameron and Clegg, also 43, committed themselves to seeing the coalition through a full parliament, normally four to five years.

Cameron, Britain's 52nd premier, told supporters in an email that the deal with the Liberal Democrats includes "significantly accelerated" reduction in a budget deficit of around £163 billion and stopping a proposed hike in a
state welfare insurance tax that working Britons pay.

Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) promised to undertake "long-term structural reforms of the banking system," while the Liberal Democrats were reportedly promised at least four more Cabinet posts Labour prime minister Gordon Brown quit after two years and 10 months — Labour's shortest premiership — blaming himself for Labour's poor show in the election, where it took second spot with 258 MPs.

Former foreign secretary David Miliband is favourite to succeed him after Labour's first leadership contest in 16 years this summer.