"It won’t be easy: there will be bumps and scrapes along the way.”
That’s what I said three years ago, in the joint press conference David Cameron and I gave on the first day of this coalition government. And as you’ll have noticed, some weeks are more bumpy and scrapy than others!
Some times we have fierce disagreements that leave people on both sides deeply frustrated. But given that this coalition is formed of two political parties with many widely differing beliefs and policies, that’s not exactly remarkable.
What I believe is remarkable is the resilience of this government, and the amount – bumps and scrapes notwithstanding – that we have achieved so far. We’ve shown that when it comes down to the real business of government, like creating jobs, balancing the budget and helping with the cost of living, we can act like grown ups and get things done.
From enabling people to earn a full £10,000 before they start paying income tax to helping create over a million new jobs, from investing billions in our schools to expanding apprenticeships on an unprecedented scale, this government has a record to be proud of.
Next week, Parliament is back in session, ready to start in earnest on this year's legislative agenda. Some critics have written it off already, accusing the government of paralysis. It's simply not true.
Yes: we have a few tense votes coming up on Europe and Equal Marriage. These are important and, for some, divisive issues. But though they may dominate the news for weeks, they will take up just a few hours or days of Parliamentary time. MPs and Peers will spend the vast majority of their year implementing big social and economic changes on which the coalition remains firmly united - changes that will make Britain stronger and fairer.
A high speed rail network. Fairer pensions. A cap on the costs of care for disabled and elderly people. Improved consumer rights and better protection for energy customers.
This is the major business of this government because our focus remains what it has been from day one: the economic and social repair job we know Britain needs, and which we set out in our coalition agreement. I won’t let the coalition be pulled off that course.
This government is the first peacetime coalition in Britain in 80 years. But the wait will not be so long again: I believe coalitions will become more and more frequent as people’s dissatisfaction with the old two-party politics deepens. Political parties of left and right are going to have to get used to not getting their own way all the time, putting aside their differences and working together in the national interest.
The bumps and scrapes will continue. But the achievements will, too, as this government works steadily on, building a stronger economy and a fairer society.