UK: One year on, coalition 'dharma' to the fore

It is one year since the David Cameron government came to office after the 2010 elections threw up a hung parliament.

Clegg's party, the Liberal Democrats, was the junior partner in the coalition, and has since struggled to explain agreeing to what are perceived as Conservative policies.

In a speech today, Clegg sought to explain that he could not implement his party's election promises simply because it did not win a majority, and in a coalition, compromises had to be made.

There is much criticism that Clegg and his party are being forced to acquiesce to Conservative policies.

Despite growing differences, both Cameron and Clegg have insisted that the coalition will last its full term until 2015.

Clegg said: "I lead a party of 57 MPs out of 650. Much though I might often wish to, I can't act as if I won a landslide. To deliver on all our policies, we need a Liberal Democrat majority government. That didn't happen. This is something the Liberal Democrats understand. It has in some ways been harder for our coalition partners, who are not, to put it politely, firm believers in plural politics".

Having receiving much of the flak for the Cameron government's funding cuts and other unpopular policies, Liberal Democrats suffered major losses during last week's local elections, when it lost nearly 750 councillors across Britain.

Responding to demands that Liberal Democrats assert more in government, Clegg said his party henceforth would demonstrate 'muscular liberalism' in government and "do a better job of blowing our own trumpet".

Clegg said: "In the next phase of the coalition, both partners will be able to be clearer in their identities, but equally clear about the need to support Government and government policy. We will stand together, but not so closely that we stand in each other's shadow. You will see a strong liberal identity in a strong coalition government".

Recalling that the Cameron government was a "coalition of necessity", Clegg said: "Of course the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives share strong convictions in many areas...But the driving force behind the formation of the coalition was necessity: the need to act together in the national interest to sort out Labour's toxic economic legacy. It is not a 'national' government, but it is a government formed in the national interest".

On his part, Cameron has been credited with being prime ministerial right from day 1 of the coalition, even attracting charges of being 'ruthless' about sticking to Conservative values.

Part of Cameron's success as prime minister is what is seen as ineffectual opposition presented by Ed Miliband, the Labour leader.

Writing in the pro-Conservative Daily Telegraph, Benedict Brogan said: "From the very moment he walked into No 10, the Prime Minister approached his new role with a presumption of permanence. To begin with, he displayed that 'born to rule' ease with his surroundings that comes from his privileged upbringing.

"In his dealings with the Civil Service, he showed a keen understanding of the permanence of institutions: officials led by the all-powerful Jeremy Heywood who had loyally served Gordon Brown were asked to stay on, while his predecessor's awkward open-plan office was scrapped and the conventions of study, den and private office were restored".

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