David Cameron and Nick Clegg vowed yesterday that the Coalition would last until polling day 2015, as they emphatically committed themselves to a full five-year deal for the first time.
The Prime Minister and his deputy put on a show of unity as they published a mid-term review of the Coalition's work since 2010 and flagged up imminent policy announcements on care for the elderly and childcare. Mr Cameron said: "To me it's not a marriage, it's a Ronseal deal, it does what it says on the tin."
But the relaunch was marred by the surprise resignation of Lord Strathclyde, the Leader of the Lords.
And the 46-page review was criticised for being thin on new detail. Michael Dugher, Labour's vice-chairman, said the "Ronseal" label breached the Trades Description Act. "It's now clear there is nothing in the tin," he said. Despite the convincing united front shown by Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg at a rare joint press conference, it emerged that there are still differences between the Coalition parties on at least two of the six new policies they signalled yesterday.
On childcare, Mr Clegg is battling for an extension of the current system under which the state provides 15 hours of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds during school terms. He is arguing that it would give more help to low-income families than allowing families to write off childcare bills against tax, which is preferred by the Chancellor, George Osborne.
The Liberal Democrats are also cautious about Conservative plans for new motorways and trunk roads and improvements to existing ones to be funded by tolls. Mr Clegg's party fears a backlash from motorists but Mr Osborne is keen to press ahead. Their dispute means a public consultation exercise will be held that is likely to delay any toll roads until after the 2015 election.
The other four areas on which new policies are promised are: a cap, possibly £75,000, on what people must pay for long-term care; a new minimum basic state pension, likely to be at least £140 a week; more help for families who cannot raise the deposit for a mortgage; and measures to limit state powers and extend personal freedoms.
However, the cap on care costs and the minimum pension might not take effect until after the next election.