UK Politics

Coalition government: The first 12 months

Nick Clegg and David Cameron after forming the coalition, students protesting against spending cuts and George Osborne ahead of his second Budget

On Wednesday it will be 12 months to the day since David Cameron and Nick Clegg strode out into sunshine of the Downing Street rose garden to face the media for the first time as a political couple.

These were unprecedented scenes in modern British politics.

The previous Thursday's general election had ended in stalemate - but instead of forming a minority government and risking another general election, Conservative leader Mr Cameron made a "big, open and comprehensive offer" to the Liberal Democrats.

Over the next five days - in the full glare of the media spotlight and with the markets watching nervously - the Lib Dems hammered out the terms of a coalition agreement with the Conservatives, while holding simultaneous talks with Gordon Brown's Labour Party.

On the Tuesday, with it becoming apparent that there would be no coalition deal with Labour - which would in any case have been short of an overall majority - Gordon Brown resigned as prime minister.

Newly anointed Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg were now free to embark on a journey into the political unknown.

Britain was not meant to do coalition governments and the Lib Dems and Tories were not seen as natural allies.

The early days proved more stable and harmonious than many had expected.

However turbulence and division were just around the corner, together with that enemy of all politicians attempting to exercise power - events.

Here is how the first 12 months unfolded.


All smiles in the garden of No 10 as David Cameron and Nick Clegg put the seal on the first coalition government since 1945 in front of the world's media.

They pledge to lead a "bold and reforming" government that will take the country in a "historic new direction".

As ministers begin their work, much attention is on George Osborne's deficit reduction strategy.

But the chancellor is dealt an early blow as his deputy, Lib Dem David Laws - seen as one of the coalition's biggest potential stars - steps down over allegations about his parliamentary expenses after just 17 days in the job.


David Cameron's first Prime Minister's Questions in government is overshadowed by a series of fatal shootings in Cumbria.

The month in politics is dominated by the coalition's first Budget - in which George Osborne sets out what he says are "unavoidable" steps to reduce the deficit.

The chancellor raises VAT from 17.5% to 20%, freezes child benefit and public sector pay, cuts housing benefit and helps the lowest-paid by raising their personal tax allowance.

Other measures include a £2.5bn levy on banks. Labour calls the package "reckless".


Image caption Education Secretary Michael Gove was forced to apologise to schools

Michael Gove is in the spotlight as MPs approve legislation granting more schools academy status and paving the way for parents and other groups to open "free schools".

But the education secretary is embarrassed after he admits errors in an announcement on school building cuts. A number of institutions are given the go-ahead, but their projects have been axed.

David Cameron's first steps on to the world stage are marred by controversy, when, on a visit to India, he warns Pakistan against facing "two ways" on terrorism.


Image caption David and Samatha Cameron's new baby is called Florence

The coalition marks its first 100 days in office - a period of frenetic policy activity by any standards - but announcements on the day are thin on the ground with Westminster taking a collective breather after recent events.

It is far from quiet in the Cameron household, however, as the prime minister's wife Samantha gives birth to a baby daughter at a hospital in Cornwall.

The Camerons, who lost their son Ivan in 2009, say they are "absolutely thrilled" with the arrival of their fourth child, whom they name Florence.


Image caption Nick Clegg told his party it must hold its nerve

With large spending cuts on the horizon, Nick Clegg is expected to get a rough ride at his party's autumn conference in Liverpool. Lib Dem activists give the leadership a bloody nose by opposing government plans for free schools.

But Mr Clegg avoids any major rows or splits, telling supporters that Lib Dems are already achieving "great things" in government and the party must "hold its nerve" and make the coalition work whatever criticism comes its way.

Meanwhile, MPs approve plans to scrap ID cards - a key Lib Dem and Conservative objective.


After months of speculation, George Osborne reveals the scale of the budget squeeze he said is needed as he announces £81bn of spending cuts between 2011 and 2015.

As a signal of things to come, he tells delegates at the Tory party conference that higher-rate taxpayers will no longer be able to claim child benefit from 2013.

In his Spending Review later in the month, Mr Osborne outlines £7bn in extra welfare cuts but pledges to protect health spending.

Meanwhile, David Cameron faces a new opponent across the dispatch box with Ed Miliband elected Labour leader.


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Media captionTory headquarters were targeted during student protests

Europe's economic problems take a turn for the worse as Ireland asks for a bailout to clear its debts and the UK offers Dublin a multi-billion pound loan.

Closer to home, opposition to coalition plans to raise the cap on student tuition fees to £9,000 gather pace. Protests in central London turn violent as Conservative Party headquarters are attacked by demonstrators.

The Lib Dem leadership, which has broken its pre-election pledge not to raise fees, also comes under sustained criticism - with Nick Clegg burned in effigy by protesters as he increasingly becomes the focus of anti-coalition anger.


Image caption Vince Cable 'declared war' on Rupert Murdoch

MPs agree to raise the cap on university fees but only after more than 20 Lib Dem MPs vote against the policy.

Nick Clegg dismisses talk of a split but a bad month for the party gets worse after Vince Cable is recorded telling an undercover reporter he has "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch.

The business secretary is stripped of responsibility for determining the media tycoon's bid for BSkyB.

Elsewhere, the coalition backs down on plans to overhaul school sports and England fails in its bid - fronted by David Cameron - to host the World Cup.


Image caption Andy Coulson stepped down as Mr Cameron's press secretary

Andy Coulson, one of David Cameron's closest advisers, steps down as No 10 director of communications.

Continuing coverage of phone hacking allegations at the News of the World, where he used to be editor and which he has always denied knowledge of, means he is unable to give "110% to the role", he says.

All eyes are on Oldham East and Saddleworth as Labour sees off the challenge of the Lib Dems to win the first by-election of the Parliament.


Image caption Caroline Spelman apologised to fellow MPs

After David Cameron says he is "not happy" with plans to sell-off swathes of woodland in England, it is only a matter of time before they are dropped.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman apologises to MPs for the policy, in a show of humility she says others could learn from. The coalition's opponents claim it is looking increasingly weak and prone to policy U-turns.

Meanwhile, Parliament backs plans for a referendum on the UK voting system - a key concession to the Lib Dems in May's coalition negotiations - after a lengthy fight between the Commons and the Lords.


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Media captionDavid Cameron: military action is "necessary, legal and right"

The world has been watching for months as peaceful protests sweep across North Africa and the Middle East but the uprising in Libya and its regime's violent response brings the crisis to a head.

Mr Cameron is on a trade mission to the Middle East, with arms dealers among his guests, when the news breaks. The PM mobilises support for a UN resolution authorising military action to protect civilians.

MPs vote to support the government's action by a majority of 544.

Domestically, Chancellor George Osborne cuts fuel duty and corporation tax in a Budget he says will put "fuel in the tank" of the UK economy. But Labour says the coalition's economic plan is failing as growth forecasts are downgraded.


Image caption Health Secretary Andrew Lansley (right) was forced to consult further on NHS reform

Ministers announce a pause for further consultation over its controversial shake-up of the NHS. The "listening exercise", involving meetings with the public and medical professionals, is seen as a slap down for health secretary Andrew Lansley.

After nurses passed a motion of no confidence in him, he apologises for any shortcomings in how the changes have been explained.

But he and David Cameron insist the principles behind the plan are correct and the NHS can not stand still. Labour say he has no mandate for the changes, which were not in the coalition deal.

The battle between opposing sides on the referendum to change the voting system descends into a bitter slanging match, with Lib Dem ministers claiming Nick Clegg has been unfairly targeted by both the No campaign and senior Conservatives.


The Lib Dems have been braced for a bad night at the polls for English local elections and national elections in Scotland and Wales - and that is precisely what they get.

But what really rankles with them is that the Conservative vote holds up well.

Nick Clegg claims his party is bearing the brunt of public anger over coalition policies.

But to make matters worse, the Lib Dem leader sees his dream of ditching first-past-the-post for Westminster elections shattered when the alternative vote is resoundingly rejected in a referendum.

The coalition partners insist they are still committed to seeing their agreement through to its conclusion, but it is clear the dynamics of the partnership will never be the same again.

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