DAVID Cameron and Nick Clegg have insisted their coalition will continue, despite the humiliation handed out to Liberal Democrats in the elections and the referendum on voting reform.
Voters decisively rejected Lib Dem-backed proposals to change the way MPs are elected while the party lost around 700 councillors in England and haemorrhaged support to the Scottish National Party north of the border.
The Deputy Prime Minister admitted the results were “a bitter blow” for Lib Dems, but insisted his party would “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move on”.
Grassroots calls for Mr Clegg to be removed as leader were quickly slapped down by senior Lib Dem figures at Westminster, including his deputy Simon Hughes, who said he was “personally and politically as strong as when he joined the Government”.
Despite some calls from the Tory backbenches for the coalition to be brought to an early end, Mr Cameron made clear he intends it to run its full five-year term.
Speaking after the AV result became clear, the Prime Minister accepted the referendum campaign – which saw vitriolic exchanges between Cabinet ministers on opposing sides of the debate – had been “difficult” for the Government.
But he added: “The coalition agreement set out that we were going to ask the British people a very straightforward question and they have given the most clear and resounding answer.
“I believe that what the British people want us to do now is to provide a good, strong, decisive Government in the long-term national interest of this country.”
While 16,685 voters in Hartlepool voted “no” compared to the 4,998 in favour of AV, figures across County Durham revealed that 100,203 had voted against the reform in comparison to 40,435 in favour.
In Middlesbrough, 10,416 voted for AV. But again that was far outweighed by the 25,721 who were against any change.