, LONDON, May 12 – Britain\’s new coalition government is a source of some bewilderment in a country used to one-party governments — but its two leaders seemed determined to see the funny side on Wednesday.
Sketchwriters said Prime Minister David Cameron of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrat chief Nick Clegg turned their first joint press conference into the "Dave and Nick" show, complete with a jovial, almost matey atmosphere.
After serious pledges on tackling the economy and earnest reassurances that their forced marriage could work, the two men seemed to let their hair down after the five days of tense negotiations since the indecisive election.
One questioner referred to the occasion when Cameron was asked what his favourite political joke was and replied "Nick Clegg".
"I\’m afraid I did once," Cameron laughed, his face visibly reddening, and mumbled something about people sometimes having to eat their words.
Clegg, the deputy prime minister, affected to walk away from the lectern, while Cameron jokingly cried out: "Come back!"
Cameron was also asked how the new arrangement would work in practice in the normally brutally adversarial weekly session of questions for the Prime Minister in the House of Commons.
Cameron said: "It\’ll be different because obviously I\’m not going to be answering Nick\’s questions, but he\’s going to be answering some of mine."
Turning to a puzzled-looking Clegg, Cameron explained to laughs from the audience: "Well, if I\’m not there you\’re going to be answering my questions… I\’m looking forward to a lot of foreign travel."
Cameron reassured journalists that for a by-election later this month sparked by the death of a candidate, both parties would still campaign separately, although he suggested the leaders could travel there together.
"Of course we are separate parties, we\’ve already talked about the Thirsk and Malton by-election, perhaps we\’ll share a car to save the petrol."
With impressive comic timing, Clegg added: "Get out on opposite sides."