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Britain's New Prime Minister Puts Together Coalition Government


New Prime Minister David Cameron (left), a Conservative, speaks with new Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, outside 10 Downing Street in London on May 12.

New Prime Minister David Cameron (left), a Conservative, speaks with new Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, outside 10 Downing Street in London on May 12.

David Cameron is putting together Britain's first coalition government in 70 years, a day after he became prime minister following the resignation of Gordon Brown.

Cameron's center-right Conservative Party won the most seats in last week's election, but fell short of a majority.

On May 11, after days of negotiations, the Conservatives struck a deal with the party that came in third, the centrist Liberal Democrats, to form a majority coalition.

Cameron was named prime minister shortly after Brown resigned, ending 13 years of Labour Party rule.

At 43, Cameron is the youngest prime minister in almost 200 years and head of Britain's first coalition government since World War II.

In his first speech as prime minister, he acknowledged the difficulties ahead.

"This is going to be hard and difficult work. A coalition will throw up all sorts of challenges," Cameron said.

"But I believe together we can provide that strong and stable government that our country needs, based on those values -- rebuilding family, rebuilding community, above all rebuilding responsibility in our country."

Coalition Compromises

Key members of Cameron's team have since been named. Former Conservative leader William Hague is to be foreign secretary, and the party's financial spokesman, George Osborne, is to be chancellor of the exchequer.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg will be deputy prime minister, one of five Liberal Democrats in the cabinet.

Putting together a coalition has meant compromise and concessions on both sides.

The Conservatives, for example, are said to have agreed to a Liberal Democrat demand for a referendum on changing the voting system, which currently favors the Conservative and Labour parties.

They agreed to fixed-term Parliaments -- a first for Britain, where the prime minister has the power to set the election date. Under the plan, the next election will be held in May 2015.

In return, the Liberal Democrats are reported to have agreed to a Conservative-proposed cap on immigration from non-European Union countries.

Many Liberal Democrats are closer to center-left Labour than the Conservatives, and Clegg acknowledged that some in his party might have "questions, maybe even doubts" about the arrangement.

But he told his supporters, "I want to assure you that I wouldn't have entered into this agreement unless I was genuinely convinced that it offers a unique opportunity to deliver the kind of changes that you and I believe in."

With the parties far apart on many issues, already there are questions about whether that marriage will last.

In particular, there is the possibility of dissent among those on the left of the Liberal Democrats, and on the right of the Conservatives.

But new Foreign Secretary Hague said today the deal combined the best of both parties' manifestos and that the "omens were good" that the deal would produce a strong government.

compiled from agency reports
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