Cameron 'committed' to coalition

The coalition Government "is as good today as it was a year ago", Prime Minister David Cameron insisted today as the Liberal Democrats suffered heavy defeats in the local elections.

With a victory for the No campaign in the alternative vote (AV) referendum looming later tonight, Mr Cameron sought to play down divisions in the coalition as some Liberal Democrat activists openly questioned Nick Clegg's leadership.

In an attempt to ease tensions between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, the Prime Minister warned against any self-congratulatory back-slapping should the No to AV campaign seal victory as expected tonight.

He said that while the Tories and their coalition partners had "different histories and traditions and sometimes quite different views", the parties were working together to sort out the long-term problems the country faced.

"That is what we are committed to do and I am absolutely committed to make this coalition Government, which I believe is good for Britain, work for the full five years of this term," Mr Cameron said.

"It is then that I believe the coalition and its parties will be judged by the electorate.

"But I would pay tribute to the work that Liberal Democrats have done, and are doing, in this coalition and will go on doing because we are absolutely committed to make sure it works hard for the people of Britain."

Asked how much trust had been lost between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives in the run-up to the AV referendum, Mr Cameron said: "We always knew the referendum would mean the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats disagreeing and being on opposite sides of the campaign, with one campaigning for Yes and the other campaigning for No.

"I hope there will be a clear result this evening, and whether it is a yes or a no, there will be no celebrating, there will be no congratulations.

"The issue will be settled, we will then get on with the vital work we are doing as a coalition Government, governing in the national interest.

"That is what I am absolutely committed to doing and it will be a coalition Government that is for the whole of the country. This is not about trading one policy for another, it is about doing the right thing for Britain.

"That is what I believe, that is what Nick Clegg believes, and that is what we will do for our country."

For the Tory party, the results from yesterday's election were not as bad as feared.

Mr Cameron said the Tory vote had "held up" despite the Government having to take "difficult decisions in the national interest".

He said the Conservative Party had "done well" as he hailed Tory councils and councillors for "doing a good job up and down the country".

Speaking during a visit to Conservative HQ in Westminster to congratulate party workers following the local elections, Mr Cameron added: "Of course, the Government has had to take difficult long-term decisions in the national interest and that always makes local elections difficult.

"But what I would say about these results is actually the Conservative Party has done well and I have been thanking my campaigning team here.

"The Conservative vote share has held up and I think the Conservative councils and councillors have done a good job up and down the country providing quality services but keeping their costs and tax bills under control.

"I also think we fought a strong campaign explaining why we took difficult decisions to sort out the mess we inherited from Labour."

The Prime Minister also sought to play down the prospect of any potential referendum on Scottish independence after significant gains for the nationalists north of the border.

He congratulated SNP leader Alex Salmond on the party's emphatic win but added that as Prime Minister he "passionately believed" in the union.

"I will do everything, obviously, as British Prime Minister to work with the First Minister of Scotland, as I will always do, and to treat the Scottish people and the Scottish Government with the respect they deserve.

"But on the issue of the United Kingdom, if they want to hold a referendum, I will campaign to keep our United Kingdom together with every single fibre I have."

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