May 12th, 2010
09:40 AM ET

Cameron to push for fixed-term parliaments

[Updated at 9:54 a.m.] New British Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday he supports the idea of fixed-term parliaments.

"Now is the moment to do that," he said at his first joint news conference with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Currently, parliaments can last as long as five years, but the sitting prime minister may call new elections at any point.

[Updated at 9:38 a.m.] The new British coalition government "is a five-year government," new British Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday with new Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg standing at his side, assuring the public that new elections will not need to be called soon.[Updated at 9:10 a.m.] British Prime Minister David Cameron started his first full day of work Wednesday, walking through the black lacquered door of his office at No. 10 Downing Street and into a raft of decision-making.

High on the agenda was appointing ministers to as many as 20 Cabinet positions. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, whose party entered a coalition with Cameron's Conservatives on Tuesday, was named deputy prime minister.

Clegg arrived at Downing Street later in the morning, where Cameron greeted him at the door. The two waved to reporters and patted each other briefly on the back before disappearing inside.

They planned to hold their first joint news conference Tuesday afternoon, Downing Street said.

The names of several Cabinet ministers were confirmed by their respective departments Wednesday, including William Hague as foreign secretary; George Osborne as chancellor of the exchequer, which is equivalent to treasury secretary; and Liam Fox as defense secretary. All are from the Conservative Party.

Other Conservative appointments included Theresa May as home secretary, Kenneth Clarke as justice secretary, Andrew Lansley as health secretary, and Michael Gove as education secretary, Downing Street said.

In addition to Clegg as deputy prime minister, four other Liberal Democrats will also be named to Cabinet posts, Downing Street and the party said.

Downing Street named two of them as Vince Cable, who is now the business secretary, and David Laws, who was made the chief secretary to the treasury.

The decision by Cameron and Clegg to enter a coalition capped five days of uncertainty that followed last Thursday's election, in which no party received a majority.

Days of negotiations between the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, and the Labour Party of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown resulted in the announcement of a coalition between the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

"I'm absolutely delighted that we do have a new government," Gove told CNN on Wednesday.

"I think the really important thing is that the policies that we were arguing for during the course of the election, and the policies of the Liberal Democrats, have now been brought together on a platform which will give the country exactly the type of government that it needs at this time - strong and stable."

Cable, of the Liberal Democrats, said he realized the challenges of working with Osborne, of the Conservatives, in his new role. Financial analyst David Buik of London-based BGC Partners said he was "skeptical" of the pairing, however.

"What concerns me is the missing chemistry, the possible missing chemistry, that may be from the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, particularly in areas such as finance," Buik told CNN. "The Conservatives were very keen to deal with the budget deficit PDQ, and Vince Cable was adamant until a few weeks ago in waiting until the new year."

At the Foreign Office, the new national security council planned to meet Wednesday. Cameron established the council to oversee all aspects of Britain's security, and appointed longtime civil servant Peter Ricketts to be his national security advisor, the Foreign Office said.

Cameron will chair the council, whose members will include several top cabinet members. Its inaugural meeting Wednesday afternoon was focusing on Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Foreign Office said.

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. time2wakeup

    Congratulations to Prime Minister David Cameron! Also, if you come to Washington, please return Obama's dopey gift that he gave to the Queen (it's called re-gifting). Maybe fill that iPod up with "A History of Failed Socialist Dictators". Obama's already on that iPod, so no need to add him.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  2. Robert

    For American commentators, I need to remind you that "Conservatives" in Britain are to the left of Democrats in the U.S. David Cameron supports free health-care, wants more aid flow to developing countries, and wants aggressive action on climate change. It is true that David Cameron wants to cut the deficit (the UK is almost as bad as the US on a per-capita basis) and reduce the size of government, but keep in mind the relative: the UK's top tax rate was recently raised to 50% on income over GBP150,000 under Gordon Brown. Britain's VAT (their Sales tax) is 17.5%. And the Median House Price to Median Income Ratio in the UK is 5.1 years versus 2.9 in the US.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. Pete

    Oh Robert that is absolutely untrue. Just because certain traditional policy items associated with socialism are not on the US agenda doesn't mean the conservatives are to the democratic left. David Cameron wants free health care because removing the National Health Service would be political suicide for any UK government. You should recall that the Tories inclination under major and thatcher was to privatize everything that moved, and cut back social programs to the bone to fuel tax cuts for their middle class voters. While US politics is certainly right shifted, and McCarthyism equated socialism with communism in the American consciousness, modern democrats certainly strive for a more "socialist" agenda than the Conservatives ever have. In short while the political spectra are different conservatism certainly is closer to Republicanisn now and in the past.

    May 12, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jerry S

    Good luck and Godspeed to the new Prime Minister.

    May 12, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |