First day in the job and Cameron orders pay cut
Published 14/05/2010 | 05:00
David Cameron yesterday stamped his authority on the first meeting of his new coalition cabinet ordering a 5pc pay cut for his ministerial team.
The British prime minister and his Liberal Democrat deputy Nick Clegg also issued a warning to ministers in the new Lib-Con alliance against airing their differences in public.
The two men will chair a Coalition Committee set up specifically to ensure any disputes that arise between ministers are swiftly resolved behind closed doors.
However, the first strains in the new coalition were appearing on the backbenches, with one Tory MP warning publicly that the Lib Dems lacked the discipline to sustain the government for a full five years.
There were also reports of unrest brewing in the Conservative ranks over plans to legislate for fixed-term parliaments, intended to reassure the Lib Dems that Mr Cameron will not call a snap election when they are at a disadvantage.
Ian Liddell-Grainger, the Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said the Lib Dems were subject to "incredible swings" from left to right, making them unreliable coalition partners.
"You will always have at least 50pc of the Liberals who will never agree with what's happened whereas in the Tories we will hold our noses much better to say: 'No, we have just got to do this,"' he told the BBC.
"You just know that their awkward squad is going to be really awkward. When the going gets tough, I think you will find that a lot of the Liberals will say: 'We don't like this, it's making us unpopular, we don't like being unpopular'.
"You have got to remember, you join the Liberal Democrats not to go into government."
Meanwhile, other Conservatives were said to be unhappy over the proposal for legislation requiring a vote of 55pc of MPs for parliament to be dissolved before the end of the five-year term.
The plan was angrily denounced by former Labour ministers as a "stitch-up". Former justice secretary Jack Straw said it was "completely undemocratic and totally unworkable".
Mr Cameron was yesterday doing his best to smooth over any tensions, heaping praise on Business Secretary Vince Cable, the new Lib Dem cabinet minister thought to be the most uncomfortable at the idea of working with the Tories.
"Vince Cable is an absolute star in terms of economic policy and economic thinking," he declared during a visit to meet staff at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The prime minister opened yesterday morning's cabinet meeting by telling his ministers that the first coalition government in 65 years offered an "extraordinary opportunity" to get to grips with the country's economic problems.
The meeting ended with agreement on a 5pc pay cut for ministers, followed by a pay freeze for the rest of the parliament -- a Conservative election campaign pledge.
For Mr Cameron, the cut means he will receive an annual salary of £142,500 -- £7,500 less than the £150,000 Gordon Brown was drawing when he left office.