By Matthew Barrett
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The re-launch (or renewal of vows) of the Coalition in a factory in Essex this afternoon focused on a triple-pronged mission for the government: "We’ve got to sort out our debts…get real growth…and change this country so that once again it rewards people who work hard, want to get on and play by the rules."
It was an event meant to reassure people, in the wake of last week's elections, that the Lib Dems and Conservatives still have a purpose and a duty to carry on the Coalition. David Cameron said:
"I would argue that despite the differences we sometimes have and in spite of the arguments we sometimes have, we have put those differences aside and taken pretty tough action on the deficit, on welfare, on education. I think this coalition government is delivering, but I accept it is a tough time in our country, it is a difficult time in our country and we have got more work to do."
Cameron also laid the foundation for continued austerity (currently set to last until 2017), explaining that the economic situation is worse than expected:
"I don’t hide from the scale of that challenge – or from the message sent by voters in many places in last week’s elections. I’m listening. I’m leading. I get it. There are no closed minds, no closed doors in Downing Street. So here is the unvarnished truth. The damage done by the crisis was greater than anyone thought. The first quarter growth figures have shown a tough task getting even tougher."
The event was as positive as possible, but a number of factors conspired to remove any feel-good factor from what was supposed to be the relaunch of the Coaliton. Firstly, Cameron and Clegg look uneasy together. PoliticsHome has collected some of the images of them from television – they are trying to stand as far away from each other as possible. Secondly, Paul Waugh has flagged up Cameron's usage of the phrase "What you call austerity, I might call efficiency" – which, Waugh says, could play straight into Labour's out-of-touch charges.
Finally, there's the underlying fact that Cameron and Clegg are giving the public (and the electorate), James Kirkup writes, a "fairly grim offer". As Kirkup concludes:
"[T]here weren't many smiles visible on the faces of the audience: many of the questions put to the two men boiled down to saying: when are you going to stop talking and actually do something to sort this mess out? If Britain was ever charmed by the Coalition's leading couple, the loving feeling is now long gone."