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Europe
Profile: David Cameron
A look at the British prime minister, leading a historic coalition government.
Last Modified: 12 May 2010 12:46 GMT
Cameron joined parliament in 2001 and became leader of his party just four years later [Reuters]

David Cameron, leader of the Conservative party, has ended 13 years of Labour rule, becoming Britain's youngest prime minister for 200 years.

The 43-year-old has enjoyed a rapid and seemingly effortless rise to the top, from his election as an MP in 2001, to party leader in 2005, and finally prime minister in 2010.

But the appointment as prime minister did not come easily, with his Conservative party failing to win a clear parliamentary majority in the May 6 election.

Cameron was only able to form government after a deal was brokered between his party and the Liberal Democrats, seeing the country's first ruling coalition since 1945.

The leader, credited with making the Conservatives - once labelled the "nasty party" - a viable alternative to Labour, must now convince voters that the party's reinvention is more than skin deep.

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Cameron has attempted to model the party in his own image - as an eco-friendly, down-to-earth man of the people who rides his bike to work

But some critics accuse Cameron, who was educated at Eton, Britain's most exclusive school, of being too privileged to understand the problems of ordinary citizens.

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Others say he lacks substance, experience and a clear ideology.

Born in October 1966, Cameron studied at Oxford University, where he joined the elitist Bullingdon dining club and gained a first-class degree in politics, philosophy and economics.

After graduating he went straight into a job with the Conservative party, where he rose to become an adviser to Norman Lamont, the-then finance minister.

Cameron was by Lamont's side when he announced Britain was leaving the European Exchange Rate Mechanism on "Black Wednesday" in 1992, one of the most damaging moments in recent Conservative history.

He later worked as a public relations executive at the Carlton television company for seven years, before being elected to parliament in 2001, when he won the safe rural seat of Witney, near Oxford, in southern England.

'Detoxifying the party'

Once a member of parliament, Cameron quickly rose to the top, joining the shadow cabinet in 2004 and becoming party leader in 2005.

His first task was to "detoxify" the image of the Conservative party, which had been known for its strong views on issues such as controlling immigration and was perceived as unwelcoming to ethnic minorities.

Cameron was determined to make the party more centrist and populist, coining the phrase "compassionate Conservatism" to describe his outlook.

His emphasis on environmentalism and fixing social problems in what he called "broken Britain" were among apparent clear breaks with his party's past.

But Labour and other critics accused his tactics of being nothing more than gimmicks.

However, the Conservatives' emphasis changed after Britain's recession hit in early 2009, changing support for public services into an acknowledgement that quick cuts are needed to reduce record state borrowing.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats had said such measures were a return to the policies of Margaret Thatcher, the former Conservative prime minister, but Cameron  argued they represent a pragmatic response to the country's financial problems.

European tensions

As part of his campaign to become party leader in 2005, Cameron vowed that if elected he would leave the European People's Party group, the main Conservative grouping in the European parliament.

 Cameron and his wife Samantha are expecting a baby in September [EPA]

After being elected leader, he began discussions with right-wing and eurosceptic parties in other European nations, particularly in eastern Europe, eventually leading to the formation of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in 2009.

Currently comprising 54 members, the ECR stands on a eurosceptic and anti-federalist platform.

Cameron and his wife Samantha have two children and are expecting a baby in September 2010.

A third child, Ivan, who suffered from cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy, died aged six last year.

Source:
Agencies
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