News24

UK's coalition 'may be doomed'

2010-05-12 23:34

London - British newspapers heaved a sigh of relief on Wednesday that the country's post-election deadlock had come to an end but warned that the new coalition government may have a brief life.

After five days of frenetic haggling, Conservative leader David Cameron was installed as prime minister on Tuesday after his party struck a power-sharing deal with the Liberal Democrats.

The Conservatives won the most seats in the May 6 general election, but not enough to govern alone and were forced to reach an agreement with the third-placed Lib Dems to give them an overall majority in the House of Commons.

The press was united in welcoming the end of the chaotic process, which saw negotiating teams from the main parties crisscrossing London in a desperate attempt to find a solution.

Many papers featured flattering pictures of the youthful Cameron - at 43 he is Britain's youngest premier for some two centuries - at the front door of 10 Downing Street alongside his pregnant wife, Samantha.

"The forging of a governing coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has ended one of the most unsettling episodes in modern political history," said the Telegraph daily.

The Financial Times added: "The political uncertainty is drawing to a close... This is the right result for the country."

But the sense of elation was brief for many commentators, who issued dire warnings that the new coalition was headed for imminent collapse under the weight of some of the toughest challenges ever handed to a new government.

Britain is seeking to cement a fragile economic recovery after pulling itself from its worst recession since the 1930s, and the three main parties have acknowledged they will have to make deep cuts to public spending.

Toughest political inheritance

The Telegraph, which backed the Tories at the election, warned that Cameron faced "the toughest political inheritance in recent times."

"The country faces an age of austerity which will throw up the most testing challenges," said the paper.

It concluded that "a coalition government will be unsatisfactory and short-lived".

"It is hard to see how an election can be postponed much beyond this time next year."

The hard work faced by the incoming administration was recognised in every paper, with the Conservative-supporting Sun saying the Tory leader faced a "huge task".

"The world is watching to see if Britain is serious about slashing its £163bn budget deficit. It is a test the government dare not fail," said the paper.

The Financial Times fretted the power-sharing agreement did not focus on tackling the most pressing problems, noting it lacked "a credible strategy to repair public finances".

And it added that members of both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were already casting doubt on the political union.

"Even as they applauded the statesmanship of their leaders, there were voices in both parties predicting the marriage would not last," it said.