U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said his Conservative Party and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners must surmount their “profound areas of disagreement” and avoid descending into “division and navel-gazing.”
Writing in yesterday’s Sunday Times newspaper, Cameron said disputes between the parties, including over plans to overhaul the upper, unelected House of Lords, should not stop them from working together in the national interest to narrow the budget deficit and restore economic growth.
“Some people reacted to last week’s vote on the House of Lords by saying that the coalition could -- or should -- end soon,” the premier said. “I take completely the opposite view.”
Almost a third of Conservative lawmakers in the House of Commons voted last week against introducing elections for the Lords, a key Liberal Democrat demand. His coalition allies have threatened to block other parts of his program, including changes to electoral boundaries that may help the Conservatives, if Tories continue to oppose the Lords plan.
“What’s far more significant is that we are working together on so much else,” Cameron wrote. “We must rise to the challenge, recognizing the extraordinary and challenging nature of the times we live in, and serve the national interest by delivering a strong, decisive and united government.”
Cameron told Tory lawmakers last week he would make one more attempt to win their support for a Lords overhaul.
One of the Liberal Democrats’ Cabinet ministers, Energy Secretary Ed Davey, called on Cameron yesterday to ensure that backing for the Lords bill, noting that it formed part of the coalition deal the two parties signed in 2010.
“The coalition agreement isn’t a pick-and-mix agreement, you’ve got to deliver on all of it,” Davey told Sky News television. “We’re expecting the prime minister and the Conservative Party to deliver on the coalition agreement.”
Menzies Campbell, a former Liberal Democrat leader who still sits in the House of Commons, said he was “against tit- for-tat politics” in the form of retaliation by his party against the Tory revolt and warned that a coalition collapse would dent investor confidence in the U.K.
“If there are people around who say ‘well, we should break the coalition,’ I’d just ask them this: do they think that the British public would be impressed by the fact that a minority government which lasted for three months would inevitably fall? We’d be back in a general election, and the consequences for the markets, and for confidence in the financial system severely dented,” Campbell told BBC television’s “Andrew Marr Show” yesterday.
A YouGov Plc poll for the Sunday Times put support for the Conservatives at 34 percent and the Liberal Democrats at 9 percent, with backing for the opposition Labour Party at 43 percent. YouGov questioned 1,752 adults on July 12 and 13. It didn’t give a margin of error.
A Tory lawmaker who opposes Cameron on the Lords, Nadine Dorries, wrote in a blog post published yesterday that she expects both Liberal Democrat expectations for the overhaul of the upper house and Conservative plans for boundary changes to be dashed.
“The relationship between our two parties will be strained and a lesson may be about to begin in how coalition governments achieve very little and often end in tears,” Dorries wrote on the Conservative Home website. “The coalition will run until 2015 as neither parties have anywhere else to go, that and the fact that one important joint objective remains, deficit reduction. That will be the glue that binds us. Just.”
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