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Coalition marks first 100 days

Britain's first coalition Government in more than half a century will this week mark its first 100 days in office.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat alliance was forged in five days of frenetic negotiations in May after the general election failed to produce an overall majority for any one party.

Politicians, exhausted after weeks of relentless campaigning, somehow managed to find the energy to set aside their disappointments that they had not done better and put together a workable agreement.

Even so, when David Cameron went to Buckingham Palace on the evening of May 11 to accept the Queen's invitation to form a government, he was still not entirely clear what sort of administration he would be leading.

It was only late that night that Nick Clegg finally won the backing of his MPs for the deal which would ensure they entered government together in Britain's first formal coalition since the Second World War.

The two men sealed their agreement, amid much joshing, at a good-humoured press conference the following afternoon in the Downing Street rose garden. What followed was something of a roller-coaster ride as the new ministers got down to the business of government while still getting to know each other.

It has not always been easy going for the new Government, losing its first minister - Lib Dem Chief Treasury Secretary David Laws - to an expenses scandal less than three weeks after taking office.

And overhanging it all was the need to prepare for the most savage spending cuts since the Second World War as ministers grapple with the record £150 billion deficit in the public finances.

While Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg are clearly at ease working together - others in their parties are less so. Tory rightwingers referred disparagingly to the "Brokeback coalition" - a reference to the gay cowboy movie Brokeback Mountain - while on the Lib Dem side there are concerns about signing up to a programme of Conservative cuts.

For now, it all appears to be holding reasonably well, but all concerned are well aware that the toughest challenges lie ahead. The face of British politics may have changed, but only time will tell how long it will last.

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