Thank you for all your patience over these past few days. I know that you must have found it frustrating not knowing exactly what was going on while negotiations continued. However, the great news is that after 13 years, our party is back in government.
So first, I want to thank you again for all your hard work and dedication, not just over the past few weeks but over the past few years. I literally could not have done this without you. We can be immensely proud of how far we have come from our defeat in 2005.
We have seen the election of nearly 100 extra MPs, we have gained more seats than in any election since 1931 and we are now the party of government once again. No-one should underestimate the scale of our achievement in such a short space of time, and it would not have been possible without your support and commitment to the cause.
Second, I want to tell you what I can about the agreement we have made with our new partners in government, the Liberal Democrats. As I said after the election last week, more than anything else Britain needs strong, stable and decisive government at this point in our history. And it was in the national interest that we achieved this on a secure basis.
This is why I made a big, open and comprehensive offer to the Liberal Democrats last Friday. I signalled, from the very start of the negotiations, that we had to respect the verdict of the electorate and work together to find solutions to the profound problems facing our nation: the debt crisis, our deep social problems and our broken political system.
Today, we have achieved this much-needed agreement, overcoming political differences to forge a new government in the national interest. Of course, we must recognise that all coalitions are about compromise. This one is no different. And I want to take this opportunity to reassure about what was agreed.
The agreement commits the next government to a significantly accelerated reduction in the budget deficit, to cut £6 billion of government waste this financial year and to stop the jobs tax. The agreement also allows us to carry out key elements of the reform agenda we outlined in our manifesto – an agenda vital to turning our country round – including welfare and school reform. Moreover, we have protected our nuclear deterrent. And there will be no amnesty for illegal immigrants, nor the handover of any additional powers to the EU.
Of course, the agreement also reflects the key priorities and objectives of the Liberal Democrats. This includes fairer funding in education, a fairer tax system and political reform – including a referendum on changing the voting system to the alternative vote.
But the past few days have not just been about compromise. What was clear as talks progressed is the common ground between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. And that is displayed in this agreement, with our commitment to building a green economy, decentralising power and protecting civil liberties – including scrapping ID cards.
We campaigned on the belief that we’re all in this together – and can only solve our problems together to build a stronger, more responsible society. I am confident that the coming together of two political parties to form one strong government marks a new era for Britain and for British politics. Now, let’s get down to work.