Coalition will go the distance, say Cameron and Clegg

Nick Clegg: "This coalition has been remarkably radical, it still has work to do"

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David Cameron has sought to reassert his authority after a weeks of damaging rows by insisting the coalition will stay together until the 2015 election.

But he said the government would focus exclusively on "big picture" issues such as the economy from now on.

His message was echoed by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who said he "could not envisage any circumstances" in which there would be an early election.

Mr Cameron has faced revolts from his own MPs on Europe and gay marriage.

The prime minister and his deputy have never set out details of how the coalition will formally come to an end, enabling the Lib Dems and Conservatives to mount separate general election campaigns.

'Sense of mission'

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said some Conservatives were questioning whether Mr Clegg could survive as Lib Dem leader, if, after potentially difficult European and local elections in 2014, others within his party insisted on splitting the coalition early.

Mr Cameron has also been the subject of leadership speculation after revolts from his own backbenchers over Europe and same-sex marriage.

Analysis

The message from Messrs Cameron and Clegg is the same: The Coalition goes on. And so do we.

It was a defence not just of coalition government but of both men's leadership.

Indeed Mr Clegg - perhaps a bit presumptuously - told journalists he intended to continue as Lib Dem leader "up, to through and beyond" the next election.

And Mr Cameron in turn insisted he was "fired up," not going to be pushed around on Europe and determined to carry on with "big, bold reforms.....turning the country round."

But what is as interesting as their bold declarations of intent - is the fact both men felt it necessary to make them.

And that tells us just how difficult life has become in coalition and how much pressure both men are under.

The rows over gay marriage and Europe; the spats between the Tories and Lib Dems over childcare, drugs policy and lords reform.

The desire of some right wingers to pull down the coalition.

These are the factors that drove Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg to speak out.

What's not clear is whether the pleas of the PM and deputy PM will restore order and purpose to the coalition; or prove just a temporary lull before the next bout of infighting.

Mr Cameron told BBC Radio 4's Today programme his task now was to deliver a "sense of mission" that the government was focused on issues "squarely in the national interest".

He admitted same-sex marriage, opposed by some of his MPs and activists, was divisive but said he was proud the new law had been passed by MPs.

The Conservative Party was a "broad church" which, on Europe, had managed to have "a disagreement... about an issue we actually agree about" - the need for reform and an in-out EU referendum.

Mr Cameron's interview with Total Politics magazine raised questions about the longevity of the coalition.

In it, he said maintaining the coalition remained the best course of action over the next two years, but added that "if that wasn't the case then we'd have to face the new circumstances in whatever way we should".

But asked about whether the coalition would survive until the 2015 general election, he told the BBC: "That is absolutely my intention and has always been. This is a government that has an enormous programme of work...

"To anyone who doubts the life the life left in the coalition, I would argue there is more to come, very bold reforming and strong government and that is what we'll be right up until polling day."

And in a speech at Westminster, Mr Clegg criticised "rather creative coverage" by the media, saying he and Mr Cameron remained "absolutely committed" to maintaining their partnership.

He said: "This coalition has been remarkably radical. It still has work to do and the best way for us to serve and improve Britain is by finishing what we started.

"To those voices who say that it would be in either or both parties' interests to prematurely pull the plug, I couldn't disagree more."

Voters would "not forgive either party if we call time ahead of the election that has been legislated for in 2015 - destabilising the nation in the vague hope of short-term political gain".

Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman said the coalition was "breaking its promises and failing badly" to improve the economy.

She added: "With the slowest recovery in a hundred years, millions of families feeling squeezed, while millionaires get a tax cut and with a crisis in accident and emergency departments.

"Yet the prime minister and deputy prime minister have no answers and no new ideas - just the same failed plan."

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