Pre-2015 Tory-Lib Dem split proposal rejected

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A CONSERVATIVE minister has rejected calls from senior back-benchers at Westminster for the party to split from their Lib Dem coalition partners ahead of the 2015 general election.

The UK’s business minister Michael Fallon said the arrangement was for five years and people would expect the coalition to “finish that job”.

Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory back-benchers, and select committee chairman Bernard Jenkin have led calls for the parties to go their separate ways before May 2015.

But Mr Fallon said yesterday: “There is a national interest at stake here.

“We set out a five-year programme all the way through to May 2015. I think in the national interest people would expect us to finish that job.”

He added that the five-year fixed-term parliament meant “business and everybody else can see that we are in it for the five-year term”.

He added: “You’ve seen that with a tougher line on immigration, we’ve cut it, it’s falling now, the Liberal Democrats wouldn’t have done that, and you’ve seen it with benefit reform as well.”

Conservative MPs Mr Brady and Mr Jenkin had warned of disharmony if the partnership between the Conservatives and Lib Dems continued.

Mr Brady said: “It makes sense to plan an exit well in advance of a 2015 election. We need to convey a clear, separate identity and a separate set of aspirations from the Liberal Democrats.”

Mr Jenkin, chairman of the public administration select committee, said: “In the end, actions speak louder than words.” He added: “Unless we are campaigning for a coalition after the election we had better show that we mean what we say and that we want to stand as a separate party and stand for separate things.”

A Lib Dem coalition source said: “The Liberal Democrats joined a coalition with the Conservatives in the national interests. We are committed to a full five-year coalition and implementing our coalition agreement. That’s what voters expect us to do.”