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Cameron eats 'humble pie' over Clegg joke

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • UK PM David Cameron laughs about having slammed his deputy on campaign trail
  • Meanwhile Cameron sets to work on naming new government
  • Cameron's Conservatives have formed coalition with Liberal Democrats
  • Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg named deputy prime minister

London, England (CNN) -- The new British prime minister and his deputy appeared relaxed with each other as they took questions from the media Wednesday after burying the hatchet and forming the country's first coalition government since World War II.

David Cameron, the prime minister, and Nick Clegg, his deputy from coalition partner the Liberal Democrats, even got laughs about the Conservative leader having slammed Clegg on the campaign trail.

A journalist asked Cameron if he regretted the fact that he once answered "Nick Clegg" when asked what was his favorite joke.

"Did you really say that?" Clegg asked.

"I'm afraid I did," Cameron responded, somewhat sheepishly.

"I'm off, I'm off," Clegg answered, starting to walk away from his lectern.

"Come back!" Cameron shouted, to the laughter of journalists in the garden behind 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's residence.

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"We're all going to have things thrown back at us," Cameron said. "We're looking at the bigger picture. ... And if it means swallowing some humble pie, and if it means eating some of your words, I cannot think of a more excellent diet."

The casual mood between the two men seemed genuine, but also may have been designed to answer the question hanging over the Conservative-Liberal Democrat pact: Can it last?

Both men repeatedly insisted it would, referring to the deal as a "five-year government."

"This is a government that will last," Cameron said.

As in many parliamentary systems, British governments can theoretically fall at any time if a majority of members of parliament vote against the prime minister on a key policy. That can lead to another party's taking power or to brand new elections.

Cameron promised one major change to that system in the news conference, fixed five-year parliaments -- taking away the prime minister's power to call an election at any time within five years of the last one.

He also promised a referendum on the alternative vote system favored by the Liberal Democrats as a replacement for the current "first-past-the-post" system.

The Liberal Democrats, Britain's smallest major party, demanded electoral reform as the price is joining the coalition, after no one party gained enough seats in last week's elections to govern on its own.

Clegg has been put in charge of that reform, Cameron said.

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