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David Cameron And Nick Clegg Defend Austerity Measures During Bid To Boost Coalition Ratings

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CAMERON CLEGG
David Cameron and Nick Clegg leave Downing Street on Tuesday before heading to Essex | PA

David Cameron and Nick Clegg have defended their moves to cut public spending and their decision to form a coalition in 2010 as they sought to inject new life into their coalition government.

Speaking from a factory in Essex, Cameron said the government would not back down from its austerity drive and said: "it's right to keep with the tough decisions we have made".

But the prime minster acknowledged that there needed to be growth in the economy.

"We want to rebalance our economy, when we came in the government was too big but the private sector was too small," he said.

Cameron added that there had been "lots of jobs in finance, but not enough in manufacturing".

He also told the audience of factory workers that the need for the coalition was "as necessary today as it was two years ago".

Clegg added that the coalition began its job in 2010 "with one simple mission in mind", which was to "rescue and repair" the countries finances.

The Lib Dem leader said the government had taken over from Labour just after economy had suffered a "socking great big heart attack" and had no choice but to cut public spending.

He said: "To those critics who say about us in this coalition we are doing this for ideological reasons, that we do it with any relish … nonsense, we're doing this not because we want to but because we have to."

"You can't create growth on the shifting sands of debt," he added.

The sombre and workmanlike choice of location for Tuesday's event stands in stark contrast to the infamous inaugural coalition press conference held almost two years ago to the day in the sun-drenched garden of Downing Street.

The press conference also came amid heightened tensions within the coalition following last week's drubbing in the local elections and concerns that the economy is not recovering fast enough.

The so-called renewal of their "marriage vows" on Tuesday marks the start of a crucial week for the government, with the announcement tomorrow in the Queen's Speech of the legislative programme for the new parliamentary session.

Cameron has come under intense pressure in recent days from some of his own backbenchers to abandon plans to reform the House of Lords and introduce gay marriage, two policies they believe are a distraction from fixing the economy.

Douglas Carswell, a frequent critic of the government, who had initially been a fan of the coalition, told the Huffington Post UK last week that the prime minster needed to forget "wind turbine toryism" and instead deliver on policies such as a referendum on membership of the EU.

Questioned during the Q&A about whether Lords reform should be a priority in the coming parliamentary session, Cameron said it was a "perfectly sensible" measure for parliament to consider.

While Clegg, who has been pressing for the introduction of an elected second chamber, said that while he cared more about jobs and social mobility that did not mean the government could not manage to do "other things" as well.

That will be followed by the appearance at the Leveson Inquiry on Thursday of former No 10 communications chief Andy Coulson, followed on Friday by ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, which once again threatens to throw an unwelcome spotlight on the Tories' relations with Rupert Murdoch.

Labour leader Ed Miliband also travelled to Essex today to push his message that he was better placed to lead the country out of the economic crisis.

Miliband said Cameron and Clegg needed to learn from the election results, in which the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats each lost hundreds of council seats, that "economic failure with unfairness piled on top is not the answer".

"They promised change, they promised an economy that would grow and things have got worse not better.

"And they promised fairness, they promised that we were all in it together, and things have got worse not better because they are standing up for the wrong people not the right people."

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