After 13 Years, Britain's Tories Are Back In Power
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LYNN NEARY, host:
And I'm Lynn Neary with Renee Montagne.
Great Britain has a new government and a new prime minister. He's Conservative David Cameron, the youngest prime minister in almost 200 years. This morning, he gave his first-ever press conference, but he wasn't alone in the rose garden of No. 10, Downing Street. Beside him was his new Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, with whom Cameron has entered into a coalition government.
NPR's Rob Gifford joins us now from London. Good morning, Rob.
ROB GIFFORD: Good morning, Lynn.
NEARY: Well, this joint press conference was certainly a very visible sign of Britain's first coalition government in 65 years. What did the new prime minister have to say?
GIFFORD: It certainly was. In fact, David Cameron was standing right alongside Nick Clegg. They stood - they're facing the assembled press in the rose garden. David Cameron spoke first. And very early on, he presented the coalition government, to the press and to the world, as something that he totally believes in and that he wants to see really making a change in British politics. This is what he said.
Prime Minister DAVID CAMERON (United Kingdom): Today, we're not just announcing a new government and new ministers, we are announcing a new politics - a new politics where the national interest is more important than the party interest; where cooperation wins out over confrontation.
GIFFORD: It was amazing, actually, to see the two of them there. David Cameron went on in that vein. And you really have to look - take a second look, do a double take, if you like, because these - bear in mind that two men - two of the three men who have been going at each other's throats over the last weeks in the election campaign. The election was indecisive, inconclusive, last Thursday. They've now joined a coalition government. And as one journalist put it during the news conference, this is really a bit of a love in, isn't it, Prime Minister - between you and Mr. Clegg.
NEARY: Well, does it seem like Nick Clegg is really an equal partner or he is clearly - did it feel like he's clearly number two in this partnership?
GIFFORD: Well, I think he clearly is number two. But David Cameron was very magnanimous and very generous, so they shared the stage together, very much. And in many ways, you got a little window into why it was that it was these two men who did the deal and it wasn't Gordon Brown with whom Nick Clegg chose to ally himself.
Yesterday, when David Cameron was finally confirmed - they're very similar, they're the same age, the same generation - both privately educated, they went to Oxbridge. There is a real personal chemistry there. And you did feel, and Nick Clegg said, he was very committed to making this last to the full term, not as many people have suggested, oh, it'll last for a few months or a year at the most. And here's what Nick Clegg said when addressing that question.
Deputy Prime Minister NICK CLEGG (United Kingdom): This is a government that will last despite those differences, because we are united by a common purpose for the job we wanted to do together in the next five years.
GIFFORD: That said, of course, there will need to be definition of Nick Clegg's role. He's the deputy prime minister, but what happens if you've got one of the other conservative ministers in the coalition? Is he going to listen to Nick Clegg if Nick Clegg is trying to exert his authority? There's a real possibility for tension. And of course, that is something that very much going to have be worked out in weeks and months to come.
NEARY: Well, did they spell any major policy initiatives?
GIFFORD: Well, that was the thing, really. They were so busy with what this journalist called the love in that they didn't really get to policies, very much. And I must just play you one more. Here's one question that one of journalists in the rose garden asked.
Unidentified Man: Prime Minister, do you now regret when once asked what your favorite joke was you replied Nick Clegg? And Deputy Prime Minister, what do you think of that?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Prime Minister CAMERON: We're all going to have - I'm afraid I did. Well -we're all - come back. We're all going to have things that we said thrown back at us.
GIFFORD: There you can tell - you could tell what the atmosphere was like there. It was very, very friendly. On policy, they didn't really talk a huge amount about policy. But what they have said, and in the document they released of their agreement, it's clear that both sides are going to compromise, and the main thing they're going to be focusing on is the economy and cutting the deficit.
NEARY: NPR's Rob Gifford in London. Thanks so much, Rob.
GIFFORD: Thank you, Lynn.