Coalition ready for votes fightback
Senior coalition figures are set to begin their fightback following dismal election results that have heaped pressure on the already-straining partnership.
Tensions are mounting as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats come under attack from their own ranks over the growing public disenchantment with the Government.
Prime Minister David Cameron and deputy Nick Clegg are expected to carry out a joint visit in the coming days as the two-year anniversary of the formation of the coalition, symbolised by the infamous No 10 rose garden press conference, approaches.
They will use that to attempt to drive home the message that the Government is focusing on "jobs, growth and the economy", and restate the basic principles underpinning why the two parties joined forces.
Meanwhile, Chancellor George Osborne has been put forward as the Tory "big beast" to face broadcasters and defend the party in the wake of its election drubbing.Mr Osborne conceded the elections had delivered a "tough result" for the Government and insisted he understood why voters had shown their anger at the ballot box.
Labour exceeded expectations in England, Scotland and Wales, by gaining 824 seats and winning control over an additional 32 authorities, while 403 Tories and 330 Liberal Democrats fell victim to a cull of coalition councillors.
The PM has attempted to shift the focus on to Boris Johnson's victory at London's City Hall, which saw him returned with 1,054,811 votes to Ken Livingstone's 992,273. Expressing his "delight" over the re-election of his colleague, and some say future rival for his job, Mr Cameron vowed the pair would "work together" for the good of London.
But despite success in the English capital, Mr Cameron will find it difficult to shake off criticism following demands from a string of Tory right-wingers, who want him to rein in his coalition partners, refocus on Conservative priorities and drop "barmy" proposals on gay marriage and reform of the House of Lords.
The Liberal Democrats, however, will push themselves as a centrist party and dismiss the "siren voices" of the Tory right. Mr Clegg is facing his own internal party battle as heavy losses sparked furious criticism, including from the party's former Scottish leader Tavish Scott. He criticised Mr Clegg for failing to make the most of the "gift" of Tory links to Rupert Murdoch's media empire.
But Conservative Nadine Dorries, a vocal critic of the Chancellor and Mr Cameron, warned the leadership they could be ousted by Christmas. She told the Mail on Sunday: "According to the rules of the backbench 1922 Committee, in order for David Cameron's position as leader to be challenged, the chairman of the committee needs to receive 46 signatures from Conservative MPs to signal a vote of no confidence. I would guess that those signatures are already coming in and will reach 46 by Christmas."