- By Region
David Cameron on Monday insisted he had a “shared mission” with Nick Clegg and that the coalition would endure until the 2015 election, as he attempted to draw a line under weeks of feuding over House of Lords reform.
At a joint press conference in Birmingham, Mr Cameron also promised a “mid-term review” of the coalition’s progress so far; the document would also set out priorities for the second half of the parliament.
The prime minister said there was “huge momentum” in areas where the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats agreed, but the coalition was also running increasingly into areas where there is deadlock.
The stand-off over Lords reform is replicated by disagreement over the future airport needs of London and the south east and a simmering row over the level of subsidies needed to support onshore wind power.
The announcement of a mid-term review suggests Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg are determined to regalvanise the coalition in the autumn.
Downing Street refused to say whether the document would contain new policies, rather than just restating the priorities outlined in the coalition agreement that underpins the government.
The development of new policies – a coalition agreement Mark II – would be controversial with both parties, as they begin to look ahead to the next election and re-establishing their own identities.
The deputy prime minister conceded that working together was “never going to be a walk in the park – or the rose garden”, a reference to the sun-drenched joint press conference in the Downing Street garden that launched the coalition in 2010.
The joint press conference – held in a train shed in Smethwick – was intended to highlight a new round of rail investment, a reminder of the economic mission that originally tied the two parties together.
Later in the week George Osborne, chancellor, will set out plans to use the government’s balance sheet to underpin new infrastructure projects, notably in social housing.
Earlier in the day Justine Greening, the transport secretary, had attempted to deflect Labour criticisms that the rail projects not covered by the £4.2bn new spending would have to be paid for by customer fare rises. “There is obviously no money tree, so we have to get the money from somewhere. For the time being, passengers will pay,” Ms Greening said.
Key elements of the new rail plan include a £500m project to link Heathrow to the Great Western rail network. Ministers also announced a passenger and freight corridor linking the east and west Midlands and Yorkshire with the south of England, as well as electrification upgrades to the suburban train lines from Cardiff.