LONDON — Britain watched in fascination Wednesday as perhaps the most momentous marriage since Charles and Diana unfolded before their eyes, a political union that will determine the country's direction for the next few years.
It wasn't a match either suitor had expected. But David Cameron, who became prime minister Tuesday, and Nick Clegg, his deputy, extolled their alliance as a new way of doing politics and set about putting together a team to run the nation.
The government that began to take shape is Britain's first attempt at coalition rule in 65 years, combining Cameron's dominant Conservatives and Clegg's smaller center-left party, the Liberal Democrats. Their partnership brings to an end the Labor Party's 13-year hold on power.
Never mind that Cameron, when once asked what his favorite political joke was, responded, "Nick Clegg."
On Wednesday at their first news conference, the two men said their common purpose was to make Britain a freer, fairer, more responsible country.
"We are announcing a new politics, a new politics where the national interest is more important than the party interest, where cooperation wins out over confrontation," Cameron said at 10 Downing Street. "It can be a historic and seismic shift in our political landscape."
The contours of that shift were evident in the composition of Cameron's Cabinet.
The plum posts went to his fellow Tories, but it also includes five Liberal Democrats, including Clegg.
Among the coalition's first orders of business is a Tory pledge to slash $9 billion from the budget this year. The Liberal Democrats agreed to back that plan, despite having campaigned for a go-slow approach.
Skeptics are already predicting that this marriage will dissolve long before the end of the five years Cameron and Clegg say they will stick together.
Meanwhile, Britain's former foreign minister, David Miliband, has announced his bid for the Labor Party leadership, after the party's electoral defeat and relegation to the opposition.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.